Anti-Israel group invited to leader’s conference at UW Hillel

 JVPJconnect

BDS SUPPORTING JEWISH VOICE FOR PEACE INCLUDED IN  YOUNG LEADERSHIP MEETING.

The call was sent out by UW Hillel Director Rabbi Oren Hayon in early June. “Jconnect Seattle invites your organization to nominate two young adult leaders for a unique, community-wide event discussing the future of Jewish Seattle.”  JConnect is the young adult arm of Hillel at the University of Washington.

The invitation  to the June 23rd confab was sent out to a wide swath of the Seattle area’s Jewish organizations.  Explained the invitation “This group will represent the diversity of our entire community, and we encourage you to choose representatives that will be able to express the vision and mission of your organization as we navigate the landscape and discuss opportunities ahead.

We encourage you to choose representatives that will be able to express the vision and mission of your organization.

JVP actively supports the BDS movement.

JVP actively supports the BDS movement.

The gravitas of the event to be held at UW HIllel was illustrated by the high ranking Jewish leadership selected to lead the discussion.  “The evening will be facilitated by Keith Dvorchik, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and Elise Peizner, Jconnect Associate Director.

The invitation emphasized that “a voice from your organization will ensure that other young leaders are able to serve as ambassadors to the wonderful work that is being done. Our hope is to develop a sense of communal spirit and to confront issues knowing that we have thought partners representing the full spectrum of our community.

But as some attendees informed The Mike Report, the spectrum was a little fuller than they expected.  Sitting among this elite by invitation only group were Eitan Isaacson and Naomi Goldenson representing Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).  

NGO Monitor reports that JVP has “actively promoted the central dimensions of the political warfare strategy against Israel”. Yitzhak Santis of NGO Monitor told Jewish Weekly News that “the organization supports or has partnered with groups such as Sabeel, Electronic Intifada, Al-Awda, International ANSWER Coalition, the International Solidarity Movement and Students for Justice in Palestine, all of which label Israel a racist apartheid state, support BDS and, in some cases, support violence against Israelis.”

Just this week Reform Movement leader, Rabbi Eric Yoffie asserted that JVP was pivotal in providing the needed “Jewish cover” to allow the Presbyterian Church USA to approve divestment from Israel.  Says Rabbi Yoffie regarding  JVP, “As anyone who has read its mission statement and literature knows, it supports BDS, does not endorse a two-state solution, and while it does not call for Israel’s destruction, does not affirm her right to exist either.”

Jewish Voice for Peace is on the Anti Defamation League’s list of the top ten anti-Israel organizations in the United States.

Here in Seattle, JVP has wreaked havoc within our community.  The group played an integral supporting role in the recent failed divestment motion at the University of Washington. They helped sabotage a meeting between an Israeli delegation and city officials and have been pivotal in promoting the BDS movement locally.  Only three days before the  Jconnect young leaders meeting JVP sponsored a pro-BDS conference in Seattle which featured Hamas apologist Richard Silverstein and Academic Boycott leaders Nada Elia ,  David Palumbo-Liu  and Joel Beinin. Notably, no pro-Israel voices were invited to speak at  JVP’s pro-BDS event.

Helping to facilitate the Jconnect young leaders meeting in addition to Federation president Keith Dvorchik and JConnect’s Elise Peizner was UW Hillel’s Director of Programs, Josh Furman.

A young leader who was at the meeting this past Monday shared that Federation President “Keith Dvorchik gave us all an inspirational talk, mentioned that this was for us to get to know each other so we could work together, cosponsor events, etc. Also so that JConnect and the Federation could better tailor their outreach and events to people’s needs.”   

According to one participant “Most of the folks were interested in completely non-Israel related things, including but not limited to cooking classes, yoga, and a Jewish arts festival.”  Not so for JVP’s Eitan Isaacson and Naomi Goldenson who throughout the event were pressing for items high on the JVP agenda such as more conversations around BDS and for Hillel to embrace the “Open Hillel” model. Open Hillel is a movement calling for the inclusion of anti-Israel programming under the Hillel umbrella.

Said one attendee referring to the JVP representatives “I’d say their agenda was getting BDS “discussed” getting “allowed back in” to the “mainstream community” and especially the Open Hillel deal.”

This is not the first time that Hillel has included Jewish Voice for Peace activists in an event under their roof. In 2008 Jewish Voice for Peace leaders Ronni Tarlet and Jacqui Hermer led a three part course at UW Hillel titled ” How did you learn about Israel and Palestine?”  Other events at Hillel said to be unfair to Israel included the  screening of the film “A Two Sided Story” which artfully equates Israeli self defense with Arab terror.  In  2006 Jconnect at UW Hillel  hosted  “Breaking the Silence” an organization that disseminate the harshest aspersions against Israel.

The Mike Report expressed our surprise to Jewish Federation President Keith Dvorchik regarding JVP’s inclusion in this community sponsored event.

Keith Dvorchik, President and CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle

Keith Dvorchik, President and CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle

Mr. Dvorchik responded that “The Town Hall was held by J-Connect.  They did the invites.  I was invited to be the speaker and gladly accepted.”  Mr. Dvorchik explained that  “The goal of the Town Hall was to find out what young people in our community want and what is missing.  My job was to help inspire them to take action on creating what they want and filling the gaps in what they think is missing.

Addressing the issue of JVP’s inclusion Dvorchik said “There were young people who are members of JVP who were there.  While they may be members of JVP, they are also members of the Jewish community and if they want to find more social or cultural outlets, I want to help them as Jews.  This was not about pushing an agenda of an agency but rather a chance to connect with young Jews.

The Federation supports J-Connect and Hillel in their efforts to connect young Jews.” explained Dvorchik  “This was not about any organization other than J-Connect and their attempt to engage young Jews.  We would never exclude an individual from participating in Jewish life because they belong to an organization.  We may not support the organization or their mission, but we will always support the individual Jew.

Mr. Dvorchik emphasized that “I think it’s important to know that while members of JVP were there last night, JVP itself was not there.  No specific organization was there, just young Jews who belong to many different organizations.

We at The Mike Report very much appreciate the vital contribution that the Federation and it’s supported agencies provide to our community. The prescient initiative by JConnect to engage young leaders is laudable.   Yet, we remain troubled at what appears to have been the inclusion of an anti-Israel, and we believe anti-Semitic organization at an important community sponsored event.

Including JVP in events such as the Jconnect leadership gathering, we believe, serves as a tacit endorsement of the mainstream bona-fides of what we see as a malicious organization whose reason d’etre is the weakening of Israel and the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state.

 The text of the invitation to the JConnect leadership event is included below in it’s entirety.

 Jconnect Seattle invites your organization to nominate two young adult leaders for a unique, community-wide event discussing the future of Jewish Seattle.

 This group will represent the diversity of our entire community, and we encourage you to choose representatives that will be able to express the vision and mission of your organization as we navigate the landscape and discuss opportunities ahead. The evening will be facilitated by Keith Dvorchik, President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and Elise Peizner, Jconnect Associate Director.

Involvement of the next generation is vital to the livelihood and continuity of all of our organizations, and a voice from your organization will ensure that other young leaders are able to serve as ambassadors to the wonderful work that is being done. Our hope is to develop a sense of communal spirit and to confront issues knowing that we have thought partners representing the full spectrum of our community.

All organizations included in The Guide to Jewish Washington will be asked to nominate young leaders as we believe that every organization cares about fostering young leadership. We anticipate representatives from over 20 organizations, and we want to ensure that all voices are heard. At this first gathering, individuals will have the opportunity to voice their mind, share their thoughts, and create an outlook for the future of what young Jewish Seattle looks like.

Please send nominations to Elise Peizner at _____________ including name and email address.

Thank you for your partnership as we move our community forward,

 Oren Hayon​

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