In June 1982, in the pages of Ms. magazine, Letty Cottin Pogrebin earned her reputation as a Jewish feminist by writing about anti-Semitism among feminists. She did so by standing on the shoulders of other Jewish feminists who had been wrestling with this “problem without a name” since the early 1970’s and whose cries Pogrebin finally heard.

Pogrebin’s article was brave and she was, at the time, both attacked and disbelieved. But she was also respected for writing the piece. In 1991 Pogrebin expanded her article about Jew-hatred among feminists into a book about Judaism and feminism, Deborah, Golda and Me. The book’s index contains at least 30 references to anti-Semitism/anti-Zionism and the women’s movement. There is also a chapter titled “Special Jewish Sorrows: Women and Anti-Semitism.”


Since Pogrebin published her book, Israel’s enemies have made it into a pariah nation in the eyes of much of the world. And it’s precisely at this historical moment that Pogrebin has chosen to attack the American Jewish Congress for its campaign to place a pro-Israel ad in the pages of Ms. magazine. She does so in her latest column in Moment magazine.

Pogrebin, a founding editor of the original Ms. and a friend and ally of Gloria Steinem, feels she has been “forced” to choose between her feminism and her Zionism, between the preservation of her own feminist legacy and her pro-Israel and pro-Jewish principles.

The AJCongress is a liberal Jewish organization that – finally feeling desperate enough about all the defamatory anti-Israel propaganda – was willing to pay Ms. to run a neo-feminist pro-Israel ad featuring three powerful Israeli women over the headline: “This is Israel.” Ms. decided not to run it, at which point the AJCongress held a press conference that challenged Ms.’s decision.

(Full disclosure: I was one of the speakers and letter-writers whose words and ideas Pogrebin characterizes in her column as “hysterical rants.” The others include Blu Greenberg, Susannah Heschel, Francine Klagsbrun and Cynthia Ozick.)

Subsequently, The Nation – a far-left, relentlessly anti-Zionist publication – accepted the ad.

In her new Moment column, “The Ad War: American Jewish Congress vs. Ms. Magazine,” Pogrebin concludes that “Ms. was right to reject the ad not just because it was nationalistic but because it violated truth in advertising.”

It seems Pogrebin has personally suffered at the hands of the AJCongress. In her column, she describes having worked hard for the organization to create an international Jewish feminist conference in Jerusalem – only to discover that once the headlines had died down, the AJCongress had no serious interest in continuing the work.

I happen to agree with Pogrebin that the AJCongress is not a feminist organization and that it has not supported certain feminist projects for which it has nonetheless claimed credit and solicited funds. But many feminists over the years have made the same type of charge against Ms. magazine.

Why would Pogrebin attack the AJCongress for trying to take a principled stand? What does Pogrebin gain by defending Ms.’s decision and by quoting only left-feminists (Katha Pollitt, Claire Kinberg, etc.) to support her view? Indeed, for many years now (and with very few exceptions) the Israel that Ms. has profiled is the Israel according to Israeli left-feminist critics of Israel.

In his 2006 book The Wicked Son, playwright David Mamet analyzed not only the opportunism and cowardice but the religious hunger gone awry that may account for the ways in which many progressive secular Jewish men savagely critique – or at least spurn – too close an association with Israel or with religious Judaism. He likened this syndrome to that of the “wicked son” at the Passover seder who does not think that the story of Jewish slavery and redemption has anything to do with him.

Pogrebin does not fit that mold. She is far from being a self-hating Jew. Her leftward shift, both in general and in her column, is therefore even more troubling – it is certainly more heartbreaking to me. Pogrebin may not believe that her current ideological point of view has deadened her to certain “Jewish Sorrows.” But based on her column, one can fairly conclude that Israel’s life-and-death struggle has little resonance with her. She magnifies serious social inequalities in Israel (which exist everywhere, even more so in Muslim countries) and minimizes Israel’s unique existential struggle for survival.


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Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a professor emerita of psychology, a Middle East Forum fellow, and the author of sixteen books including “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003, 2014), “Living History: On the Front Lines for Israel and the Jews, 2003-2015 (2015), and “An American Bride in Kabul” (2013), for which she won the National Jewish Book Award in the category of memoirs. Her articles are archived at A version of this piece appeared on