A WELL PLACED GARRISON PROTECTS ISRAEL’S HARSHEST CRITICS IN SEATTLE
What happens when your Jewish federation leadership, your rabbi, even the head of your college student’s Jewish studies program collude with Israel’s harshest critics?
Another academic year is upon us, and as surely as the leaves must fall radical groups will again extend the battleground against Israel to our college campuses. Only a few weeks into the quarter and already one of the nation’s most controversial critics of the Jewish state, Peter Beinart is slated to speak at the University of Washington.
Beinart will tell the impressionable young students that the Palestinians have extended the olive branch of peace to Israel and Israel has repeatedly slapped it to the ground. He will explain to them why it is a good idea to boycott, divest and sanction Jews and Jewish businesses that reside where he does not wish for them to reside. Oh and one last thing, he will tell the UW students all of this from behind a lectern at Hillel-UW.
Hillel-UW together with J Street and New Israel Fund are sponsoring the Beinart event to take place on October 23rd at Hillel UW.
We have shared with our readers previously the serial anti-Israel efforts of both J Street and New Israel Fund (NIF). In the early days of this summer’s Hamas war against Israel, NIF rushed an emergency grant to fund protests AGAINST Israel. Meanwhile J Street spent much of this past year (successfully) lobbying congress NOT to renew or expand sanctions on Iran for their efforts to construct a nuclear weapon.
The core premise of both J Street and NIF (and Peter Beinart for that matter) is that Israel and her actions are both the primary cause of the conflict and the primary obstacle to a peaceful resolution with the Palestinians.
We are not surprised that Rabbi Oren Hayon, the director of Hillel UW has opened his doors to an extreme ideologue like Mr. Beinart. After all it was Rabbi Hayon who lashed out at the Seattle Jewish community for their too strident support of the campus fight against BDS, famously asking if the boycott against Israel is worth fighting. Earlier this year Rabbi Hayon’s Hillel hosted a series for a hand selected group of student leaders titled “Love, Hate & the Jewish State”. NIF’s Ben Murane facilitated the class which reportedly provided a “safe space” to commiserate regarding all that is wrong and troubling about Israel.
Some readers, especially those who land on the pro-Israel side of the divide may be asking themselves how two arguably ant-Israel groups could have gained free reign within our premiere Jewish college institution.
A WELL PLACED GARRISON PROTECTS ISRAEL’S HARSHEST CRITICS
Neither New Israel Fund or J Street are amateur organizations stumbling their way towards their goals. In fact both groups are well funded to the tune of millions of dollars and have established for themselves a well placed protective garrison that reaches into the highest echelon of our Seattle Jewish community.
The J Street Rabbinic Cabinet includes many of Seattle’s most prominent Reform and Conservative religious leaders including Rabbi Daniel Weiner of Temple De Hirsch; Rabbi Jill Borodin of Beth Shalom and Rabbinical representative on the Jewish Federation board of Directors; Rabbi Anson Laytner formerly of Kol Haneshama and the AJC; Cantor David Serkin Poole of Temple Bnai Torah and current board member of the JTNews and Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg of Congregation Kol Ami in Olympia.
No less proficient in their outreach efforts, New Israel Fund has recruited to their NW Regional council some of the most prominent movers and shakers in the Seattle Jewish community.
In addition to Rabbi Daniel Weiner and Rabbi Anson Laytner (JTNews), the NIF council has recruited Jewish Federation board members Sarah Boden and Lisa Orlick-Salka. According to the Jewish Federation website, Boden serves on the board of JTNews as Treasurer, is Vice Chair for the Federation’s Planning & Allocations Committee*, serves on the Federation’s Donor Engagement Committee as well as the Federations’ Center for Jewish Philanthropy Advisory Committee.
Federation board member Lisa Orlick-Salka also serves on the Jewish Federation’s Special Initiatives & Small Grants Committee.
Two prominent members of the academic community round out the New Israel Fund’s NW council, Prof. Noam Pianko who is the Samuel N. Stroum Professor of Jewish Studies and Associate Professor in the Jackson School of International Studies at the UW. And Prof. Joel Migdal who is the Robert F. Philip Professor of International Studies at the UW’s Stroum Center for Jewish Studies.
Reality can sometimes be quite sobering, yet those of us who support Israel in the conventional sense – by actually supporting Israel – need to live in the world of reality. Organizations whose reason d’etre is to critique and advocate for positions that we believe are harmful to the Jewish state are ascendant and well situated in Seattle. They are investing considerable resources on reaching out to and proselytizing to our youngest and brightest. Meanwhile, despite some extraordinary and laudatory efforts it feels like the good guys are merely playing a game of catch-up.
*As of 2013
Beinart also speaking in SD Dec 15 courtesy of same suspects.
“You probably heard the sad news that Rabbi Berk from Congregation Beth Israel and Rabbi Marcus from Temple Emanu El have decided to ignore the protests they received from many members of the community and from their own congregants, and forge ahead with their astonishingly plan to lend the credibility of their institutions to give cover to J Street by inviting Peter Beinart to speak at Beth Israel on Dec 15. As mentioned before, it could have been an interesting exercise in the free exchange of ideas if the format chosen had lent itself to a real debate between Beinart and someone challenging his ideas. Offers and entreaties were made to line up such speakers to be on a panel with Beinart, but that idea was merely brushed aside. Instead, the organizers decided that there will be a panel all right, but it will be a panel of three Reform rabbis tasked with the delicate job of asking Mr. Beinart questions (on our behalf since clearly the rest of us mere mortals are considered too untrustworthy to be given such a task). The panel? Rabbi Devorah Marcus from Emanu El, rabbi Jodie Gerson from CBI and rabbi Philip Graubart from Congregation Beth El. Any clearly identifiable voice from the center-right or the right of the political spectrum? Not on your life.
Questions from the public then? Don’t count on it either. The rabbis on the panel will ask the tough questions. Or more likely they won’t. And even if the public was allowed to express their views, the best way to prevent tough or embarrassing questions from reaching the speaker, especially as controversial an author as Beinart, is to ask people to write questions on index cards obligingly provided with mini-pencils, which allows the organizers to select the ones they like and ignore the ones they don’t. That is exactly the procedure followed in most cases when other anti-Israel speakers are invited to speak on campus. For people who profess an obsession with Israel remaining a “democratic” state, isn’t it a tad hypocritical to adopt procedures that make sure no other voices than that of the speaker or his friends can be heard?
So, since the community will have no choice but to either boycott the event altogether or submit to a well-rounded pro J Street propaganda exercise, the next best thing is to suggest to the august panel to consider what other writers have to say about Mr. Beinart, and maybe borrow a few ideas regarding which questions to ask him. The following article is a good start. There will be more in the days preceding this …. event.
Training and Education
About the Middle East
Thanks Gary, par for the course. Free speech for me, not for thee.
Mike, thanks for this update. Now I understand why 2 of my old Seattle friends have soured on Israel- they attend Beth Shalom. When I still lived in Seattle the rabbi there was very pro-Israel, and he even taught that it was forbidden to speak ill of Israel in public. Hillel is a very liberal organization. When Rabbi J was in charge, he tried to make a difference re Zionism and halachah, but the next rabbis to come in moved things right back to the left. What a difference ten years makes.
I can tell you that down here in Orange County and more specifically UC Irvine, Hillel and the Jewish Federation have been the two biggest obstacles to our getting the message out to the Jewish community as to the anti-Semitic atmosphere on campus brought on by the Muslim Student Union and Students for Justice in Palestine.
A sign of the times. Hard to understand.
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