Throughout the spring The Jewish Press and other media have repeatedly covered various missteps by what had been an esteemed New York Jewish institution, the 92nd St Y.
But it was recently revealed that the man who was supposed to be running the show was instead running around with his assistant; that the assistant’s son-in-law was not only an ex-con but that he had been put in charge of procurement for the Y’s facilities; and that he has recently been accused of demanding kickbacks from Y vendors.
The Y’s board hired a law firm to investigate the allegations. The probe found strong evidence of wrongdoing, according to the New York Daily News.
But perhaps the Y can now not only cleanse itself from the tawdriness of the current scandal, but recommit to pro-Israel as well as to Jewish values. While the Board of the Y is engaged in the hiring process for a new executive director, it would be a welcome relief to many if it were also to commit itself to ensuring that Jewish communal dollars are not spent providing a platform to Israel’s most vociferous haters.
Because for some reason, even if only relatively recently, under the previous executive director’s (failure of) leadership, the Y has let down many former supporters. Its scheduling included some people who are not only not supportive of Israel, but who rank among Israel’s biggest celebrity enemies.
First there was the disastrous dalliance with Roger Waters, one of celebritydom’s most outspoken anti-Israel defamers. The former Pink Floyd rocker’s many acts of hatred towards Israel were chronicled in several articles in The Jewish Press. Those articles ran when Waters was scheduled to appear in April. At the last minute, and in a shamelessly stealthy move, a last minute scheduling conflict on Waters’ part allowed the Y to slide out of its commitment.
And then, just a month later, Waters’ sidekick in the effort to bar the Israeli Philharmonic from performing at Carnegie Hall, Alice Walker, was invited into the Y to help promote her new book. Walker is such an overt fountain spewing Israel hatred that even the mainstream Anti-Defamation League has labeled her comparisons of Israelis with Nazis and justifying suicide bombers as shocking and anti-Semitic.
Throughout these episodes, all the efforts to contact the Y’s executive director, Sol Adler, were met with no response.
Now we know why.
The emergent pattern at the Y of booking not only opponents of Israel, but also the absolute stonewalling by the executive director as well as the communications director, led to the creation of a recurring protest outside of the 92nd Street Y.
The protest is known as “Close Your Wallets,” and it calls upon members of the Jewish community to make their views known by, literally, “Closing their Wallets” to Jewish communal organizations which allow money raised from the Jewish community to be spent supporting haters of Israel. They call that “donor fraud.”
Every second Thursday of every month – the next one is scheduled for August 8 – pro-Israel members of the larger New York City Jewish community stand outside the 92nd Street Y and distribute literature and educate passersby about the donor fraud problem.
And while no one likes to kick a dog when it’s down, perhaps the revelation about such extreme wrong doing as has just been disclosed will set the stage for some widespread housecleaning at the Y. Therein lies the silver lining to the dark cloud currently hanging over the Y.
“This is a great opportunity for the Y’s board of directors to take control and stop the promotion of speakers who favor the boycott of Israel,” Richard Allen who heads JCC Watch, the driving force in the efforts to prevent, and then to educate about the problem of donor fraud, told The Jewish Press.
“They need guidelines, so they know what should not be crossed,” Allen continued. “The former leadership was not open to having them, but now, when putting in place other guidelines, those responsible for the Y’s future should also make it clear that Jewish communal dollars must not be used to fund anti-Israel activities.”
Allen told The Jewish Press that the Close Your Wallets protests will continue on the second Thursday of every month, until the Jewish communal organizations set those guidelines.
The Y is currently being run by the deputy executive director Deputy Executive Director Henry Timms, until a new executive director is selected.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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