As a co-chair of the 800-member Rabbinic Cabinet of J Street, I am disappointed by the Conference of President’s decision yesterday to reject J Street as a member organization of this umbrella group of American Jewish organizations. This rejection, clearly made on political/ideological grounds (not membership requirement rules that J Street met), is a sad day for the organized American Jewish community that should serve as a big tent for Jewish organizations that care deeply about the American Jewish community and the viability and security of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and a democracy.
Clearly, organized American Jewish intolerance for divergent opinion won the day, but this short-sighted decision, regardless of whether one agrees with any particular position that J Street has taken over the six years since it was formed to fill an important gap of opinion in the American Jewish community vis a vis Israel, will be to the detriment of the American Jewish community going forward.
I was happy, however, that all the major organizations of the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist religious movements in America, as well as all the Progressive Zionist organizations, and the Anti-Defamation League of Bnai Brith voted in favor of J Street sitting at the Conference of Presidents table.
My own sense is that this vote will not so much hurt J Street as it will hurt the American Jewish community. I expect that more and more young Jews (who have been flocking in large numbers to J Street) and those older American Jews above the age of 35 who resent the anti-democratic dictates and tendencies in the organized American Jewish community will become engaged in J Street advocacy and continue to work for that which J Street stands, a peaceful negotiated two-states for two peoples solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite current breakdown in negotiations.
The following are a few of the articles that appeared this morning in the national and international Jewish press about this decision.
J Street said it was disappointed that its bid for membership to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations has been rejected. This is a sad day for us, but also for the American Jewish community and for a venerable institution that has chosen to bar the door to the communal tent to an organization that represents a substantial segment of Jewish opinion on Israel. http://jstreet.org/blog/post/j-street-disappointed-by-conference-of-presidents-exclusion_1
Jewish Coalition Rejects Lobbying Group’s Bid to Join, The New York Times
“Ben-Ami said the vote sent a ‘terrible message’ to those who have concerns about aspects of Israeli policy. ‘This is what has been wrong with the conversation in the Jewish community,’ he said. ‘People whose views don’t fit with those running longtime organizations are not welcome, and this is sad proof of that,’ he added. ‘It sends the worst possible signal to young Jews who want to be connected to the Jewish community, but also want to have freedom of thought and expression.’” http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/05/01/us/jewish-coalition-rejects-lobbying-groups-bid-to-join.html?_r=0&referrer=
According to Chemi Shalev, “The emphatic repudiation of J Street will be widely perceived… as a milestone in the growing polarization and fragmentation of the organized American Jewish community, as a vivid manifestation of its escalating right-wing intolerance and possibly as a harbinger of a fateful schism to come.” http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/west-of-eden/.premium-1.588326
“J Street lined up support from several big mainstream Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Committee on Public Affairs.” http://forward.com/articles/197424/j-street-fails-badly-in-bid-for-admission-to-presi/?
“Another major organization that backed J Street is the Union for Reform Judaism, which represents the largest Jewish denomination in America, and Americans for Peace Now, already a member, supports its admission as well and shares its mission of promoting US involvement to push both Israel and the Palestinians towards a two-state solution.” http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.588276
“The group, which has spawned many college chapters, chose to focus on the gains it has made: ‘After only six years, we have the third largest annual gathering of any American Jewish organization, over 800 rabbis have joined our Rabbinic Cabinet, and we have chapters in 40 cities and states.’” http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4515287,00.html