Well… I am not a member. But if I had a seat at the table of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, I would drop out. Seriously, is the Conference actually representative of American Jews when fewer and fewer are affiliated with classical Jewish groups, defense organization, synagogues and community centers? Isn’t it just a kosher sausage fest (sorry Hadassah) of Presidents who think their opinions actually matter? I personally would rather listen to the Vice Presidents Conference since they probably do more of the actual policy work.
Why am I concerned? Because the majority of the Conference members decided to exclude J Street from membership.
I guess it makes sense. J Street probably represents fewer American Jews than A E Pi and Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Right?
I am conflicted. Should J Street really join a group that already has progressive Zionist member voices and a group that is relevant to very few in American life and politics? Yet if they try to join to make a point and they get rejected by the majority of members, should we speak out?
To me, it appears that many in the Conference are bullies with a ball who don’t want to let the popular new kid into the game. They are buggy whip manufacturers who are turning a blind eye to the popularity of automobiles. Ostracizing the new kid should have ended in elementary school.
The conference is led by Attorney Robert G. Sugarman, a former national Chairperson of the Anti-Defamation League and a past President of Hillel of New York; Malcolm I. Hoenlein, the former founding Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New York; and Carolyn Greene, a fromer Director of Operations for Eshed International, and Director of Programming and Operations for the Greater New York Conference on Soviet Jewry. Members of the Conference include Alpha Epsilon Pi (a Jewish frat also known as A. E. Pi with 9000 alumni); a progressive Zionist group Ameinu; American Friends of Likud; American Gathering/ Federation of Jewish Holocaust Survivors; AIPAC: American Israel Public Affairs Committee; American Jewish Committee; American Jewish Congress; American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee – JDC; American Sephardi Federation; American Zionist Movement; American-Israel Friendship League; Americans for Peace Now; AMIT; Anti-Defamation League; Association of Reform Zionists of America; Bnai Zion; B’nai B’rith International; Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform); CAMERA: Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America; Development Corporation for Israel / State of Israel Bonds; Emunah of America; Friends of Israel Defense Forces; Hadassah, Women’s Zionist Organization of America; HIAS: Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society; JCC’s: Jewish Community Centers Association; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; JFNA: Jewish Federations of North America; Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs; Jewish Labor Committee (the voice of Jewish labor); JNF: Jewish National Fund; Jewish Women International; MERCAZ USA, Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement; National Council of Jewish Women; National Council of Young Israel; NA’AMAT USA; NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia; ORT America; Rabbinical Assembly; Rabbinical Council of America; Religious Zionists of America; Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem; Union for Reform Judaism; Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism; Women of Reform Judaism; Women’s International Zionist Organization; Women’s League for Conservative Judaism; Workmen’s Circle; World ORT; and the Zionist Organization of America. Adjunct members are the Cantors Assembly (they don’t rate as high as the rabbinical groups, I suppose); Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life; Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly (don’t they rate up there with the other branches?); and Maccabi USA.
Stuart Appelbaum of the Jewish Labor Committe might have said it best. He wrote, “The Jewish Labor Committee voted in favor of J Street’s application for membership in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Wednesday evening, and we are disappointed that J Street was not approved for membership… The Conference of Presidents has a diverse membership that holds a variety of views representing those in the wider Jewish community in the United States. That should allow for healthy discussion within the Presidents’ Conference of the range of issues that the group addresses. The admission of J Street to that membership would have added to that discussion in significant ways. At the same time, it would have demonstrated that the Conference member agencies were not afraid of a healthy level of diversity of opinion on the key issues that the Conference addresses, and that it truly wanted to represent the sentiment of the majority of American Jews.”