While the Episcopal Church voted against the measure and the Mennonite Church voted to table it for two years, it seems highly likely that the measures will be debated in both of those institutions again. It’s a good guess that JVP and its rabbis will be there to support BDS at those future debates.
JVP also actively supports BDS activities on college campuses with an Academic Advisory Council of faculty, and by running student leadership training courses for students who promote BDS. Campus BDS campaigns have been linked to increasing numbers of anti-Semitic incidents on university campuses. The verbal attack on UCLA student Rachel Beyda was the most prominent, but not the only, example of this phenomenon. With increasing frequency, campus campaigns to divest from Israel are accompanied by swastikas or even physical attacks on Jewish students.
JVP is a doubly dangerous organization, because it not only promotes discriminatory divestment measures using false propaganda, it also allows those who vote in favor of such measures to maintain the self-delusion that their votes are something other than expressions of bigotry. After last year’s PC(USA) vote, the moderator of its General Assembly, Heath Rada, stressed the importance of Jewish proponents of divestment. Jewish support, and especially “rabbinic” support, is crucial to the BDS movement.
The Rabbis Who Provide the Jewish Cover to BDS
JVP claims to be an organization made up of “Jews and allies.” It is ultimately, however, the so-called “Rabbinical Council” that gives JVP credibility. Without a rabbinic stamp of approval, JVP’s statements and actions would carry far less weight. The ADL asserts that JVP’s Rabbinical Council exploits Jewish tradition in order to “give JVP an added perception of legitimacy and establishe it as not just a culturally Jewish organization but a religiously Jewish one as well.”
Upon researching the 47 individuals listed as of July* as members of JVP’s Rabbinical Council, it becomes apparent at first that virtually anybody who claims to be a rabbi is welcome. Seven of these individuals appear to be rabbinical students, and not actual rabbis. One individual, Edward Klein, holds an ordination from a secular humanist institution, and another, Alan LaPayover, studied at the Christian Union Theological Seminary (in addition to the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College). David Mivasair, according to his Linked-in profile, has worked as a Chaplain and “pastoral presence” in a Church, and Brant Rosen works for the Quaker American Friends Service Committee. Many hold “ordinations” from an organization called Aleph, or hold Reconstructionist ordinations.
Disturbingly, however, at least five of these individuals reportedly hold ordinations from the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College. They are Lev Baesh, Haim Beliak, Michael Davis (ordained as a Cantor), Art Donsky, and Margaret Holub. Three others — Jeremy Milgrom, Paula Reimers, and Joey Wolf — claim to hold ordinations from the Conservative Jewish Theological Seminary.** These eight individuals are using degrees and titles granted to them by well-respected institutions that are central to American Jewish life, not to teach or lead or help American Jews, but to endorse lies and to inflict harm on other Jews.
The Title “Rabbi” as a Weapon Against the Jewish People
The title of “rabbi” should never be permitted to be used as a weapon to cause harm to either the Jewish people or the Jewish state. The Reform and Conservative rabbinical associations and ordination-granting institutions must make it known that such behavior is unacceptable. They can do this by revoking the ordinations of these eight individuals, expelling them from the rabbinic associations, and issuing statements condemning their actions.