Philadelphia Feud Erupts Over Federation Embrace of Anti-J Street Film

Troubles Just as Group Makes Bid for Mainstream Acceptance

Fairly Balanced? J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami is portrayed as an incoherent voice for appeasement in a controversial video embraced by the Philadelphia Jewish federation.
youtube
Fairly Balanced? J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami is portrayed as an incoherent voice for appeasement in a controversial video embraced by the Philadelphia Jewish federation.

By Nathan Guttman

Published March 26, 2014, issue of March 28, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

In response, J Street issued a statement saying the movie contains “numerous inaccuracies, distortions and outright lies.”

Though not shown in commercial screenings, the documentary is being presented to Jewish gatherings, at Jewish community centers and in private screenings sponsored by local groups across the country. It was also presented by an advocacy group on the sidelines of the recent policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee to a room packed with AIPAC delegates.

But the Philadelphia federation will be the first Jewish federation in the country to sponsor a screening of the movie, a fact that has drawn more attention to its event.

In a letter to Philadelphia’s federation interim CEO, Alex Stoker, Rebecca Kirzner, J Street’s regional organizer for the Mid-Atlantic region, protested the event. “There is a difference,” she wrote, “between open and honest debate over policy and strategy… and a film designed to defame and personally attack those with different viewpoints.”

Community members who were taken by surprise when the program was announced voiced similar complaints.

Three years ago, following a similar controversy over an event in which J Street representatives were scheduled to speak, the Philadelphia Jewish Community Relations Council formed a committee tasked with defining guidelines for pro-Israel events. The group’s report was handed to the federation, but leaders ignored the vetting process it recommended when deciding to sponsor the March 27 event. “None of that was followed, zero,” said Dan Segal, who was on the committee. “The idea that J Street bashing is appropriate and that the federation will sponsor it is unacceptable to me.”

Marc Zucker, a former JCRC chair who was also on the committee, wrote to Stroker: “I worry that each time Federation takes one step forward toward engagement and pluralism, it takes two steps back. This backward-looking, divisive and mean-spirited event is unworthy of Federation’s mission.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.