Pro-Israel New Yorkers continue to seek ways to prevent Jewish charitable dollars from supporting anti-Israel activities and speakers.
Because the UJA-Federation is the source of funding for so many Jewish organizations, an organized effort is about to get underway to ensure that this funding source – all of which comes from Jewish donors – is being used to fund programming that is infused with Jewish values and which is supportive of Israel. This effort is in response to several years during which UJA-Federation-supported entities use some of those donors’ dollars to support efforts to cripple the Jewish state.
One of the most active efforts to stop this suicidal movement is led by Richard Allen who began JCC Watch several years ago when he was no longer able to abide the many anti-Israel events taking place at New York City’s Jewish Community Center.
Allen decided that one way to fight the battle was to inform as many people as possible about the problem. He created a huge database of email addresses and periodically sends out emails with detailed information about anti-Israel events and suggestions for action. He is judicious about the frequency of his mailings and is careful to include accurate information. And he just keeps adding to the roll of email addresses.
Allen and his colleagues found that the NYC JCC was partnering with groups that blatantly promote economic and political warfare against Israel known as the BDS movement (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel).
In March 2011, JCC Watch held a protest outside the JCC and issued a call for the JCC to “establish public and transparent guidelines that make clear that the JCC will not partner with nor link to other organizations that support or fund the BDS movement.”
While the JCC has not stopped its anti-Israel programming completely, Allen and others have said that there has been an improvement in the kinds of activities and events it has hosted over the past two years.
Most recently, JCC Watch has been closely following the hosting by the 92nd Street Y of several virulently anti-Israel BDS advocates.
Two of the most ardent “celebrity” promoters of BDS were recently scheduled to appear at the Y. Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame was supposed to appear at the 92nd Street Y in April, and only didn’t because he encountered scheduling problems. And just a few weeks ago, the rabidly anti-Israel novelist Alice Walker spoke at the Y. Both endorse BDS and both actively attempt to get other artists to boycott and otherwise harm the Jewish State.
The National Council of Young Israel issued a call to the Y’s leadership on Wednesday, June 12.
“While we admire your longstanding effort to promote Jewish culture,” the NCYI leadership wrote, “we are deeply concerned over your ill-considered programmatic decisions that run counter to the interests of your own constituency. Extending an invitation to noted anti-Israel personalities is counterproductive and runs afoul of your desire to affirm a commitment to the State of Israel and world Jewry. Individuals who denigrate the Jewish State should not be welcomed with open arms at any venue that is associated with a Jewish group or organization.”
NCYI went on to ask that the leadership of the 92nd Street Y give greater care “in the future to the selection of featured speakers at the 92nd Street Y and ask that you invite those who stand for and with Israel instead of those who call for boycotting Israel.”
JCC Watch was thrilled that other Jewish organizations are responding to the need to prevent Jewish donors’ dollars from being used to fund anti-Israel activity. It and several supporters tried repeatedly to reach administration personnel at the Y in order to discuss the matter, but their efforts were stymied by bureaucratic roadblocks.
Now JCC Watch is taking the issue to the UJA-Federation, because the 92nd St Y receives funding from UJA-Federation.
“Those are Jewish charitable dollars, given by Jewish residents of New York who want their dollars to go towards funding Jewish Values. Trying to destroy the Jewish State is not a Jewish value and is not something donors had any reason to believe they would be funding,” said Allen.
On Wednesday, June 12, JCC Watch gave Jerry W. Levin, president of the UJA-Federation, a heads up regarding the next stage of activity for JCC Watch and its allies.
Levin was advised that unless assurances are given that anti-Israel programming such as Walker and Waters will not be supported with Jewish Communal charity money, there will be a monthly protest in front of
the 92St Y.
These monthly protests will include what is being called the “Close Your Wallets” campaign. This campaign will ask people to stop supporting charities which support, through funding, these anti-Israel events.
The ongoing “Close Your Wallets” campaign will be called: The Sons & Daughters of Zion in Blue & White. Blue & White Ribbons will be given to the public each protest day and protesters will be urged to wear Blue & White. The educational component of this campaign will begin this week, and the protests are expected to begin in early July.
“Just like the mothers of the disappeared in Argentina,” Allen wrote, “we will build the pressure until they have to respond.”
Allen envisions the campaign to include emails, direct mailings, direct phone campaigns and synagogue organizing throughout the greater New York area. He said the JCC Watch “Jewish Community Alert” will be used, and that goes directly to the inbox of every rabbi, synagogue and organizational leadership, student leadership, charitable and educational leadership throughout the organized Jewish world.”
JCC Watch urged UJA-Federation’s head Levin to review financial support to institutions that provide a venue to anti-Israel programming. Levin was informed that Allen will “personally fund this effort to insure a complete national saturation within the Jewish Community of our activities.”
Americans for a Safe Israel’s executive director, Helen Freedman, wrote in an email to The Jewish Press, that “rather than try to plug every leak, it is important to get to the leadership of Jewish institutions like the 92nd Street Y and the JCC in NYC and discuss the issues with them. If the scheduling of BDS and anti-Israel speakers is inadvertent, then more careful attention must be paid. If it is deliberate, it is inexcusable and the Jewish community should withdraw its financial and participatory support.”
“The goal of the New York Lawyers Committee to Stop BDS is to make sure that Jewish organizations immediately implement programs that educate and inform our community about the dangers to world Jewry in general and Israel in particular of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel,” its chairman, Robert Sidi, told The Jewish Press. “The 92 Street Y must stop hosting supporters of BDS; our own Jewish leadership must stop denouncing, denigrating and delegitimizing Israel.”
“If the leadership of the Y and JCC refuse to meet with us in order to clarify and rectify the situation, AFSI will have no choice but to join with the organizations picketing against them,” AFSI’s Freedman wrote.
Lori Lowenthal Marcus