(photo credit: REUTERS/Brian Snyder)
Just as J Street detractors declared it finished years ago after it was discovered that George Soros made what he had intended to be an anonymous gift to help J Street get started. Just as those same folks did when they helped Charles Jacobs raise millions of dollars to make the J Street-bashing movie which uses lies, distortions, out of context quotes and scholarly commentaries from known J Street critics, including Alan Dershowitz.
Just as many legacy Jewish organizations with huge donors did when J Street was blackballed from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
And yet look at what has happened to those who have prematurely danced on J Street’s grave, and look at what has happened to J Street.
Shortly after Jacobs premiered his movie, interest in and donations to J Street really began to spike, and it has continued to grow dramatically.
Just a few years ago, very few member of Congress would seek J Street’s endorsement and most Israeli politicians viewed us as the third rail.
But now, J Street has grown to more than 200,000 members, including 5,000 students on 60 college campuses.
Donations continue to skyrocket.
And now we have more than 100 congressional candidates seeking our endorsement – even though to do so in some districts will alienate other Jewish donors aligned with AIPAC and other groups.
When the next death knell for J Street was sounded following the Conference’s decision to deny one of the largest and fastest growing Jewish pro-Israel organizations a seat at the table, a torrent of criticism rained down on the Conference for shutting out an important Jewish voice and kowtowing again to the wishes of the big donors on the Right. The top leaders of the Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist movements along with Abe Foxman at the ADL and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs all blasted the Conference for its decision.
And perhaps most telling was the fact that on the day after the vote, J Street had its biggest sign-up day in recent history for the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet with almost 20 new rabbis calling to have their names added to the list in just a 24-hour period.
That brought the total of rabbis on record as supporting J Street publicly (sometimes at great professional risk) to more than 800.
So perhaps it is a good sign for J Street that Dershowitz is at it again and once more sounding the death knell for J Street and barely able to hide his enormous frustration and, like Ferris Bueller’s sister, seemingly unable to control his outrage that the world and the Jewish community are so naive and stupid.
There is a death knell being sounded, all right. But Dershowitz and those who continue to promote a binary and simple narrative about the situation in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank where Israel and the Jews are the only good guys and the real victims and all the Palestinians and Muslims are wallowing in a culture of death and terror and are responsible for everything bad that happens both to Israelis and their own people are the ones who are losing their traction and audience.
That is not because American and Israel Jews do not love and care about Israel or because those same Jews do not believe that Hamas is a murderous group of terrorists who should be destroyed or because those same Jews don’t grieve and pray for Israelis who are under attack and giving their lives for their country.
It is because the young and objective Jewish community demands a forum where truth and facts and balance matter and the only conversations that should be taking place are fair and balanced conversations that reflect the nuance and complexities of the dynamic situation in the region. Not just pep rallies where only cheers and biased narratives about Israel and the Palestinians are allowed and where scoreboards or video replays that show a full view of the playing field are banned.
J Street is growing in popularity not because it wants to criticize the State of Israel. It is because it has filled the huge void that has emerged in the American Jewish conversation where honest and civil and respectful discussions and disagreements can take place. Not everyone wants to support Israel by only joining a booster club and attending pep rallies. Many of us want to both attend those rallies and cheer for our team and have a call-in talk show where we can express our honest opinions about the decisions that the coaches are making based on the facts on the ground and the scoreboard and our Jewish values in addition to – not instead of – our strong commitment to Israel’s safety and security.
Not because we hate Team Israel and want it to lose but precisely because we love the team and want it to win.The author is a financial adviser who has held major leadership positions in Federations, Israel Bonds, AIPAC and J Street. He is a graduate of the Wexner Heritage program and has lectured in Israel and around the world on Judaism and business ethics.