Der Füror

One bad Hitler analogy turned the Maricopa County YWCA into a war zone

(Attempts to contact Roy Dawson prior to publication were unsuccessful.)

Robinson has been on the City of Phoenix's Equal Opportunity Commission. She's written essays stressing the importance of sensitivity training. And, at the time, she was president of a group devoted to eliminating racism.

But she didn't attempt to educate her brother-in-law. Instead, she agreed.

In some circles, ignoring comparisons to Hitler will always come back to bite you eventually.
Mark Poutenis
In some circles, ignoring comparisons to Hitler will always come back to bite you eventually.
Barbara Lewkowitz wanted her local board to condemn the report -- or even just discuss it.
courtesy of Barbara Lewkowitz
Barbara Lewkowitz wanted her local board to condemn the report -- or even just discuss it.

"Hey Roy," Robinson wrote. "This is quite informative and quite timely." She mentioned her call from the Jewish News and noted that she had responded, per Carter's instruction, that the YWCA would not be used as a "platform."

"By reading attached, I was right on!" she wrote.

Dawson e-mailed back.

"You need to call Farakahn [sic] and let him take care of them for you," he wrote. "It is easy to see why they have had so much trouble over the centuries isn't it."

When questioned about the e-mail in July, Robinson said, "How did you get that?" Then she said she was late for a trip, and quickly got off the phone.

In July, the Maricopa County YWCA hired a new executive director. Kathy Ryan, who won the job after two and a half years on the board, is a petite blonde with an explosive laugh and a background in both public relations and fund-raising. On the board, she was seen as Connie Robinson's supporter.

Ryan insists she doesn't want to talk about the past. "If just a portion of this energy focused on divisiveness could be channeled into a positive approach and working towards unity . . . ," she says. "That's how I choose to move this organization forward."

Still, she can't seem to help herself.

Initially, Ryan says she sees the Israel flap as a great example of diversity: People have different opinions.

But then she adds, "It is inappropriate for this organization to become the platform for one group at the expense of another." Making nice with the Jewish leaders, she implies, would be a way of disenfranchising people who support Palestine.

Would she meet with the Jewish community? Instead of answering the question, she seizes on the phrase "community": "People are individuals, and I don't lump people together that way."

More than anything, Ryan and her supporters can't seem to understand how a report written by a woman in Minnesota, distributed through an e-newsletter on the East Coast, about a situation in the Middle East, has become a major issue in Phoenix and nowhere else.

For that, she blames the Jewish leaders.

"All this energy from people seeking the media spotlight," she sighs at one point. "Trying to make an issue of whether or not people have feelings about a dispute between two nations across the world!"

But if she's angry, she didn't show it in a formal interview at the YWCA on August 1. She even gave a tour of the YWCA's homeless shelter. She said repeatedly that she believes the people upset about the issue are good people with good intentions.

Days later, Ryan's attorney, Dick Treon, contacted New Times and promised to sue if the story contains one defamatory word against Ryan or the YWCA. Treon's letter says Ryan believes the story will be "an attack piece on her and her organization."

Treon doesn't get into specifics. Instead, he repeatedly refers to Barbara Lewkowitz, her "cronies" and her "fellow travelers." He's been told, he writes, of their "viperous lies."

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