Dear OU Advocacy, Meeting with Sessions Was a Symptom, Now Let’s Address the Underlying Problem

Below is a message I emailed to the leaders of the Orthodox Union. If you agree with the sentiments I expressed here, please send this message to OU leadership as well with your name signed.

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Dear Mr. Bane, Mr. Diament, and Mr. Fagin,

Like many others, I feel deeply hurt by OU Advocacy’s meeting with attorney general Jeff Sessions. But the reason why I feel so personally betrayed by your meeting with Mr. Sessions is not just that you partnered with a man who is responsible for so much suffering, but that you claimed to be acting on my behalf without including my voice in the process of how OU Advocacy decisions are made. It is not just that you made a decision I disagree with, it’s that the entire process used for making that decision is fundamentally flawed and not transparent. I understand that the Orthodox community is not politically homogeneous, and that nearly any action taken in the political arena will be met with dissent. But my issue is not just with your decision to meet with Mr. Sessions, rather it is with the non-transparent process by which you reached that decision. When you claim to act on my behalf but do not include my voice in your decision making process you violate my political autonomy and disenfranchise my voice in the Orthodox community. And my voice is not yours to take. If OU Advocacy is going to continue to claim its status as a representative body of the Orthodox Jewish community then systematic changes must be made. There must be a mechanism built into the structure of OU Advocacy to solicit feedback from the community before policy positions are finalized and advocacy missions take place. Further, there must be transparency throughout the process.

I offer three proposals that can be enacted fully or independently of one another for the reorganization of OU Advocacy so that all substantive outcomes are reached through a transparent process that fully represents the Orthodox community.

First, OU advocacy should be comprised of one member from each OU affiliated synagogue, without restrictions based upon gender, age, wealth, or rabbinic ordination. This representative can be voted upon by members of the synagogue or be appointed by the synagogue board. There must be term limits as well for each representative.

Second, OU Advocacy’s policy positions should be voted on by these representatives at a national conference once a year, and that policy proposals should be distributed to OU affiliated synagogues so that community members can raise concerns with their representatives before any advocacy mission takes place.

Third, the leaders of OU Advocacy missions should be comprised of people that are fully representative of the Orthodox community, including women, younger people, people without wealth or status, and those without rabbinic ordination.

Meeting with Mr. Sessions is a symptom of a larger problem within OU Advocacy — that you use the voice of the entire community to advocate without including the community in the decision making process on what to advocate for or with whom to partner with. That is what is so personally offensive about this entire ordeal. Dissenting voices should not be marginalized and only heard after the fact because they are shouting loudly from the outside. There should not be a need to organize social media campaigns, protest outside the OU office, or helplessly hope that OU Advocacy will advance a policy that I agree with. Even if every single policy position of OU Advocacy was one that I agreed with, the lack of transparency and representativeness within OU Advocacy would still be problems that I am concerned about. I want to be represented in the process. I want transparency. I want the voice of OU Advocacy to echo the voice of the entire Orthodox community, not just a powerful few.

Sincerely,

Aharon Schrieber

 

About the Author
Second year law student at NYU School of Law.
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