NEW YORK – Following J Street’s defeat last week in its attempt to join the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the National Council of Jewish Women and the Union of Reform Judaism have spoken publicly against the referendum, with URJ saying it is considering leaving the conference.
“We will no longer acquiesce to simply maintaining the facade that the Conference of Presidents represents or reflects the views of all of American Jewry,” said URJ president Rabbi Rick Jacobs in a statement last week. NCJW CEO Nancy K. Kaufman echoed Jacobs’s words but did not go so far as to threaten to leave the conference.
“This is a sad day for pluralism in the American Jewish community,” she said in a statement. “NCJW believes that if you are pro-Israel, then you should be included among those in the ‘big tent.’ J Street is unequivocally pro-Israel.... The Conference of Presidents has been seized by a group of organizations who represent but a tiny fraction of the American Jewish community.
“Are we so insecure as a Jewish community that we cannot allow the presence of different opinions? And if so, how are we to truly accomplish positive change as a community?” She added that NCJW would be consulting with other groups in the conference who also voted for J Street’s inclusion, and “discussing options for further action.”
Those who believe it was right to exclude J Street have also been outspoken. Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, wrote in an op-ed that there “were very good reasons to exclude J Street,” which he described as “an extremist group whose activities are hostile to Israel,” and pointed out that even Prof. Alan Dershowitz, an outspoken leftwing commentator, has made statements against J Street.
In addition to accusing Israel of killing Palestinian prisoners, “J-Street,” Klein wrote, “persistently defames and delegitimizes Israel on college campuses and in its conferences.”
The J Street Political Action Committee has also raised money to defeat members of the US Congress who are “Israel’s staunchest supporters,” Klein wrote, “further damaging the Conference of Presidents’ efforts to mobilize support to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons.”