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December 21, 2014 / 29 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Conference of Presidents’

Rejection of J Street Best Possible Outcome…for J Street

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

A backlash has been growing in the aftermath of the failed bid by J Street for admission to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The group that represents the largest denomination of American Jewry, the Union of Reform Judaism, is demanding that the Conference change its one group, one vote policy while also openly threatening to leave the umbrella group. An official of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly is also demanding changes.

Meanwhile liberal commentators are blasting the Conference for its 22-17 vote to deny entry the left-wing lobby and making extravagant claims about this vote symbolizing the growing alienation of the Jewish establishment from the wishes of most of those it purports to represent.

Which means that, all things considered, the defeat at the Conference was the best possible outcome for the left-wing organization that came into existence not to fit in and cooperate with existing Jewish groups and coalitions but to blow them up. The negative vote enables J Street and its various left-wing sympathizers to play the victim and boosts their agenda to first delegitimize groups like the Conference and AIPAC and then to replace them.

But while it is understandable that the Reform and Conservative movements would join the lament about J Street’s defeat in order to assuage some of their liberal constituents who support the left-wing lobby, they should be careful about advancing any agenda that could undermine umbrella groups like the Conference.

While such organizations can seem at times to be irrelevant to the day-to-day business of American Jewry, they still serve a vital purpose. If the non-Orthodox denominations help J Street destroy them, they will soon learn that not only will it be difficult to replace them but also they and their constituents will not be well served by the politicized chaos that follows.

Only hours after its defeat, J Street was already attempting to make hay from the vote with a fundraising e-mail sent out to their list. It read, in part:

 

Thank you, Malcolm Hoenlein and the Conference of Presidents.

Yesterday’s rejection of our bid to join the Conference validates the reason for J Street: those claiming to speak for the entire Jewish community don’t in fact represent the full diversity of pro-Israel views in our community – or even its prevailing views.

 

Thus despite J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami’s public expression of disappointment about the vote, the group was clearly prepared all along to exploit a rejection to further its campaign to brand both AIPAC and the Conference as out of touch. J Street came into existence hoping to do just that, but over the course of the last five years failed miserably to do so.

Though J Street’s raison d’être was to serve as a Jewish cheerleader for Obama administration pressure on Israel, it has little influence on Capitol Hill and has even, to its dismay, sometimes been repudiated by a president it supports unconditionally. Thus it hopes to use this incident to gain more traction against mainstream groups.

But those, like Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev, who are using this vote to bash pro-Israel groups should be asking themselves why so many members of the Conference, which already includes left-wing organizations like Americans for Peace Now and Ameinu, would vote against adding one more to its ranks. The reason is that many centrist groups clearly resented J Street’s unwarranted pretensions to speak for American Jewry and to undermine the broad-based AIPAC.

The Conference was created to provide a way for a diverse and cantankerous Jewish community a single structure with which it could deal with the U.S. government. And though its members have often disagreed, and true consensus between left and right is often impossible, the Conference still provides Congress and the executive branch an address through which they can reach a broad and diverse coalition of Jewish organizations.

The Vote Heard ‘Round the World

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

To the chagrin of supporters who confidently predicted otherwise, J Street failed to receive the votes it needed for admission into the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. So now, they have a new spin.

Had J Street won the vote, of course, its supporters would have claimed the vote was a victory for a “wider range of views on Israel” and, of course, democracy. But having failed in their efforts, supporters have responded with unbecoming condemnation of that same democratic process. The Conference of Presidents followed its by-laws which require a new applicant to receive the support of two-thirds of the members present, with at least three-quarters of the total membership in attendance.

“An analysis of the vote,” argues the Forward, “indicates that J Street enjoyed the support of liberal groups, Reform and Conservative organizations and several major players, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The majority voting against it were right-wing and Orthodox organizations, as well as smaller groups with no clear ideological leaning.”

The Conference has 49 voting members, of which 17 supported the admission of J Street, 3 abstained, 22 voted against, and the others didn’t care to attend. To claim that the majority of the members, 34 organizations, are right-wing, Orthodox, or have no clear ideology, is untrue and ridiculous.

In this case, perhaps more than most, the vote represented the consensus of the American Jewish community, which regards J Street and its policies to lie beyond the pale. Even the Anti-Defamation League President Abraham Foxman, in announcing that he would vote in favor, said he did so, not because the ADL supports J Street’s views, but to define American Jewish advocacy more broadly.

Nonetheless, Reform leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs has responded to the vote by announcing that the Union of Reform Judaism may consider dropping out of the Conference of Presidents entirely. Similarly, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, has claimed the vote was unrepresentative, and called on the Conference of Presidents to examine their structure – claiming that J Street would have won the popular vote of the organizations’ memberships.

It is interesting to note, the Reform and Conservative movements each have 4 votes in the Conference: Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American (Reform) Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism and ARZA, Association of Reform Zionists of America, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbinical Assemly (of Conservative Rabbis), Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and Mercaz, the Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement. They constituted almost half of the positive votes that J Street received, and they claim the system was unfair; it was, in their favor, and they still lost the vote.

In addition, the Conference by-laws were last updated under the committee chairmanship of Rabbi Joel Meyers, then, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism. This reminds me of the kid in the school-yard who makes the rules, in his favor, but when he loses the game, claims it was unfair.

In making these declarations, Rabbis Jacobs and Schonfeld presume to speak for the aggregate membership of the Reform and Conservative synagogues nationwide. Is the majority of the membership of AIPAC not comprised of Reform or Conservative Jews? Needless to say, they don’t support J Street. Many Reform and Conservative Jews that I have spoken to in the last few weeks have told me, that they believe that J Street is not healthy for Israel. I wonder what the individual members of these movements really think.

Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements like to say that they represent the majority of American Jews. The recent findings of the Pew report debunk that myth. Today, unfortunately, the “Jews of no religion” are the fastest-growing Jewish group; they care little, if anything, about Judaism or Israel. How many families in these movements joined congregations because membership (and Hebrew school) were prerequisites for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and not because they endorse the positions or policies advocated by the Rabbis?

Thank You J Street (You Too, Reform Movement)

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

In the aftermath of being denied entry to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, J Street has fulfilled the predictions and warnings of those who foresaw divisiveness and petulance within the ranks had  J Street been admitted.

Rather than taking the vote as a sign that the organization had not yet become sufficiently established for the mainstream organizations to feel confident it would play nicely in the sandbox with others, J Street began a letter-writing campaign ridiculing the long-serving and highly respected executive vice president Malcolm Hoenlein. That campaign also attacked the manner in which the vote had been taken – a vote in accordance with the bylaws of the organization.

J Street lashed out at those who dared to apply the same rules to it as the Conference has applied to every other new member.

The sophomoric message J Street posted on its website sought to rebuke the Conference of Presidents, and to claim that the fact it was rejected proves its conceit:  its positions are bold, brave and absent from the Conference and the fact it was rejected proves its voice is needed.

J Street suggests that without its voice as an essential and robust part of the conversation, the Palestinian Arabs will continue to be victims of the Israeli aggressors and deprived of their rights to at least half of the sliver of land to which Israel is currently in control, either due to a global licence or as the result of a defensive war.

The emptiness of those claims is revealed when one actually looks at the membership of the Conference of Presidents.

Of the 49 voting members, well more than half are easily classifiable as either center, center left or simply left, when it comes to support for Israel.  And J Street’s claim and dominant focus is Israel and Israeli security.

Americans for Peace Now, the Jewish Labor Committee, the four or five organizations which represent the Reform movement, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the four or five organizations which represent the Conservative movement, and Ameinu all represent the leftist end of the spectrum of American Judaism.

The core center is well-represented by at least a dozen other organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, Hadassah, B’Nai Brith International, the Jewish National Fund, American Jewish Congress, American Gathering/ Federation of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Zionist Movement, Amit, the Anti-Defamation League, B’Nai Zion, Israel Bonds, Hadassah,  NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, ORT America, Alpha Epsilon Pi,  and the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

So J Street claims that its rejection from the club is because the Conference of Presidents rigged the system to exclude J Street, or that without its voice at the table American Jewry is deprived of a desperately needed view, or that J Street is entitled to an admission process different than the one  applied to every other application is yet more affirmation that the organization and not the Conference needs to change.

This is J Street’s message to its supporters:

THANK YOU, CONFERENCE OF PRESIDENTS!

Yesterday’s rejection of J Street’s bid to join the Conference validates the reason for J Street: those claiming to speak for the entire Jewish community don’t in fact represent the full diversity of pro-Israel views in our community.

The Conference of President claims to be the “the proven and effective voice of organized American Jewry.” Last night’s vote removed that pretense.

So join us in thanking Malcolm Hoenlein for for clarifying this situation and revealing to all what we’ve long known: a new voice is needed to represent the true majority of American Jews–and non-Jewish supporters of an Israel at peace.

J Street Seeking a Seat at the Conference

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

In a move that will surprise nobody, for its effort to become a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, J Street has the backing of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The JCPA has long been clamoring to include J Street as part of its “big tent” approach to Jewish communal life. And no wonder, the two organizations are closely aligned on most issues, domestic and foreign.

What should also come as no surprise to anyone, those American pro-Israel organizations which see their major focus as global security, including Jewish communities worldwide generally and the Jewish state in particular, such as the Zionist Organization of America, are opposed to ushering in yet another organization into the 50 strong member group which they see as engaging in moral equivalency between Israel and her Arab neighbors.

The issue comes to a vote April 30. And members on both sides of the vote are busily lobbying people to make their voices heard by those who will be voting.

The Conference of Presidents includes most of the major Jewish organizations with which most people are familiar, but there are others who are members that would probably surprise most people.

For example, everyone expects such groups as the ZOA and the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League to be members, the same goes for the offices of the major branches of Judaism. But what Workman’s Circle (a blend of “workers’ rights” mit a bissel Yiddish?) Not to mention the Jewish Labor Committee(“The Jewish voice in the labor movement, and the voice of the labor movement in the Jewish community.”)  Then there’s the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society which is still very much involved in the needs of immigrants, but not too many of whom are Hebrews.

Other organizations such as CAMERA (which deals with media bias against Israel) and Hadassah and Americans for Peace Now and the Jewish Federations and the National Council of Young Israel all also have seats at the Conference of Presidents.

Early word was that the J Street leadership came in for heavy grilling by members, especially with respect to their support for and frequent partnering with organizations which advocate for various forms of economic and legal warfare against Israel, known as the BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from and Sanctions against Israel) movement.

An article in the Forward earlier this month revealed that J Street failed to garner the approval of a critical committee which would have smoothed the way to membership. That article explained that in order for J Street to gain admission there would have to be a 75 percent quorum present, and a two thirds vote.

According to the mission statement of the Conference of Presidents, at least one of the two primary issues on which the Conference focuses should signal a serious battle regarding the admission of J Street, the other one, only slightly less so: “The Conference is at the forefront mobilizing support to halt Iran’s nuclear program and to counter the global campaign to delegitimize Israel and the Jewish people.”

J Street was an early and consistent opponent of sanctions against Iran and when it ultimately was flanked to the right by the U.S. administration, it only slowly and very begrudgingly accepted the need for sanctions. J Street was once again a major cheerleader against enacting legislation that would provide for the immediate resumption of sanctions should Iran fail to comply with the obligations the U.S. understood it to have undertaken in the agreement between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1.

There also continues to be a matter of say one thing, do another, with respect to the BDS movement. Although J Street consistently publicly claims to oppose the use of BDS, the J Street U members have been amongst the biggest cheerleaders of divestment resolutions on U.S. campuses (with Cornell University being a notable exception.)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/j-street-seeking-a-seat-at-the-conference/2014/04/24/

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