None of our core values seem to matter any longer

If a visitor from another planet came down to Earth and, for some reason, wanted to find out about the American Jewish community and so said, "take me to your leader," he would truly be amazed at who that is about to be.

One Mortimer Zuckerman.

Zuckerman is about to be our leader because he is about to be elected the next chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The Conference includes virtually every national Jewish organization, all across the religious and political spectrum. Which is why it is recognized by the American government as our community's spokesman, making its head the leader of us all in the eyes of the White House, State Department and Washington in general.

That head is about to be Zuckerman.

I know I keep saying that, but it's only because I can't believe it.

The choice of Zuckerman is the ultimate confirmation of what's been going on for awhile now. Namely, that we have lost our way, have abandoned Jewish values as we've come to value money above all else. That those who are leading us are not at all qualified to do so, do not at all have what those who used to lead us did, or what those who would lead us should.

The last few months have brought proof after proof of just how lost we are, just how much what used to matter to us doesn't any more, just how much what Judaism is supposed to cherish, has been pushed aside.

We saw that in the large number of prominent and powerful Jews who advocated the pardon of Marc Rich, a master gonif and major creep. But a big contributor, and so the likes of Abe Foxman and Yitz Greenberg and Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert and on and on sold their Jewish souls on his behalf.

We saw it when Michael Steinhardt, the unofficial leader of the Jewish community for the sole reason that he is worth more than a billion dollars, hired Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman to help run an organization to get kids to care about Israel, even though he had been suspended from the rabbinate because of sexual misconduct.

And now comes the topping on the shanda cake.

Zuckerman is about to be elected to the position that makes him our leader, our spokesman. Why? Two words. Money and power.

Zuckerman has got a lot of money. He is a major real estate developer, with vast holdings. Besides that, he is publisher of the New York Daily News and U.S. News and World Report, giving him notoriety and power.

And money and power are what count.

For clearly that is all Zuckerman brings to the table. Consider: To become chairman of the Conference, one, logically enough, has to be head of one of its member organizations.

Zuckerman is, get this, honorary president of the American-Israel Friendship League. Meaning he's not even the actual head, only the honorary one, of an organization no one has ever heard of and that does nothing of substance for the Jewish community.

Some experience. The fact is that Zuckerman has not been involved in the Conference, in Jewish life or in the Jewish organizational world. Not at all.

More amazing still is that he's going to be our leader even though he writes a column in U.S. News, in which he frequently writes about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Meaning he gives his views of what's going on there, what should be going on there.

Which is absolutely fine for a journalist to do. But which is absolutely not right for the guy who's supposed to represent the entire Jewish community.

Our leader should be, must be leader of all the Jews, meaning he takes no sides, favors no one perspective.

That is, indeed, why the Conference was begun in the first place. To be the one organization representing all of American Jewry to the American government and to world governments. That was the vision of and the genius of the man who founded it, Philip Klutznick.

If you want to see what a true Jewish leader is, look at Klutznick, a truly great man, a truly great Jew, a truly great Jewish leader. He devoted his life to the Jewish community, to Israel. He worked for and headed literally dozens of organizations, serving as international president of B'nai B'rith, as president of the World Jewish Congress and in many other major roles.

That Zuckerman will hold the same title as Klutznick did, shows how far we have fallen in choosing leaders and how far the Conference has fallen from what it was and what it is supposed to be.

No small part of the reason for that is Malcolm Hoenlein, the man who runs the Conference day to day, the man who engineered Zuckerman's victory and the man who has bastardized what the Conference is all about.

Hoenlein is a very partisan right-winger, which is his business, but he has imposed his partisan views on the Conference, which is our business.

He had the organization participate in a political rally on Jerusalem opposed to Ehud Barak while Barak was prime minister and while peace negotiations were taking place.

He has tried to get left-wing organizations thrown out of the Conference; at this very moment, he is working behind the scenes to make Benjamin Netanyahu prime minister of Israel once again.

For the guy who runs the Conference that is to speak for us all to do that, is a desecration.

There was a time when to be chosen as chairman of the Conference one had to be a true leader, an involved Jew, a knowledgeable Jew with Jewish experience who cherished Jewish values and respected Jewish ways. Some of its other distinguished leaders include Rabbi Alexander Schindler, Julius Berman, Morris Abram and Shoshana Cardin.

But look at Hoenlein's picks. Look at outgoing chairman Ronald Lauder, an unabashed right-wing Netanyahu supporter, whose only credentials are that he's Estee's boy, as in Estee Lauder cosmetics, and that he's very rich.

And now, even worse, comes Zuckerman.

How little attachment to that community's values Zuckerman has is very clearly shown by the fact that his wife is a non-Jew. While intermarriage is decimating the Jewish world, the man chosen to lead it, speak for it, cares so little for one of our core principles, for something that has bound us and sustained us, that he, in fact, intermarried. The fact that he and his wife are now separated doesn't change that fact or what it says about him.

To have as our supreme leader someone who intermarried sends a very powerful message, especially to young Jews. Yet another nail in the coffin of Jewish values.

Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman engages in sexual misconduct, totally at odds with Jewish values. And yet, we give him a big new job, have the most powerful Jew praise him. And now, Mort Zuckerman intermarries, totally at odds with Jewish values. And yet, we make him our leader, have him represent the Jewish community to the world.

Nothing that used to matter to us, seems to matter anymore.