Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bitty Tent

This is disgraceful. Certainly, I don't agree with J Street on every issue. I have a lot of problems with them. But if the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations was only comprised of groups I agreed with in their entirety, it'd only have one member -- myself. And while that would be pretty cool, actually, it's no way to run a communal "big tent." There is nothing about J Street that puts it outside the mainstream of Jewish politics -- indeed, it is in many ways far more in tune with the American Jewish populace than, for example, ZOA is.

Honestly, it's an open question whether Jewish organizations can continue, in good faith, to remain members of the Conference. With this rejection, it is entirely unclear what purpose the Conference serves other than to calcify the power of an increasingly-irrelevant branch of Jewish society.

Update: Apparently Rabbi Rick Jacobs (head of the Union of Reform Judaism) reads this blog:
[M]any of us argued before and at the meeting, yesterday's debate was actually a referendum not on J Street but on the Conference of Presidents itself. As of yesterday, it is clear that the Conference of Presidents, as currently constituted and governed, no longer serves its vital purpose of providing a collective voice for the entire American Jewish pro-Israel community.

In the days ahead, Reform Movement leaders will be consulting with our partners within the Conference of Presidents to decide what our next steps will be. We may choose to advocate for a significant overhaul of the Conference of Presidents' processes. We may choose to simply leave the Conference of Presidents. But this much is certain: 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.
When I wrote my post I wasn't actually expecting any major group to seriously threaten to leave the Conference. In other words, this is much ballsier than I expected. But now that this possibility is seriously on the table, I'm not backing off from it. The Conference's main function is to serve as a meeting ground wherein the totality of the organized institutional Jewish community can meet. Having voluntarily ceded that role with yesterday's vote, it's unclear what utility the Conference retains.


Roy said...


I think you are a little misinformed about the groups who are in the Conference of Presidents, which includes also organizations whose politics are very similar to J Street (for example, "Americans for Peace Now").
So it seems to me that J Street was not rejected due to their politics, but due to their uncollegial, aggressive and subversive behavior towards other Jewish groups.
Frankly I think they got what they deserved (and I say this regardless of politics), and in any case, I think they thrive with the image of the "black sheep", so it's probably only going to help them with the radical left.

Rebecca said...

So the ZOA, another member of the Conference of Presidents, is collegial and works well with other Jewish groups? No, they aren't. Yet, they stay in and are able to keep JStreet out.