Donor Slams Federation for Divisive 'Political Attack Ad' Aimed at J Street

Lamenting the Dwindling Size of the Philadelphia Tent

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.
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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 Larry Gellman

Published April 03, 2014, issue of April 18, 2014.
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For more than 30 years, my relationship with Jewish federations, Israel Bonds, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, J Street and Hillel has been the focus of my life.

I have chaired federation and Israel Bonds campaigns, led and helped create Jewish day schools in both Milwaukee and Tucson, Ariz., and donated millions of dollars to federations and other pro-Israel causes, from AIPAC to J Street.

That is why I am so saddened and frustrated by the recent decision of Federation and Hillel of Greater Philadelphia to co-sponsor a divisive film screening that demonizes a fellow Jewish group — in this case, J Street. Their decision is beyond disappointing. It flies in the face of everything that the Federation system claims to represent.

The film, “The J Street Challenge,” is nothing more than a lengthy political attack advertisement, featuring testimony from like-minded right-wing pundits, and funded by well-known J Street detractors who are trying to move, from the fringe, to defining the parameters of what can be discussed in our community. The event was packaged as an educational event titled, “What It Means To Be Pro-Israel.”

The Federation reportedly decided to sponsor the viewing at the behest of a few wealthy donors, bypassing its own Israel Advocacy Committee and jettisoning the guidelines for Israel programming that the committee had spent two years writing.

On its website, Federation proudly boasts its commitment to “One People. One Community. One Federation.” But its decision to sponsor this film paints a different picture. According to the filmmakers, there are two camps: the good, realistic Jews who love and support Israel, and the naive, fantasy-addicted Jews who are threatening the survival of our people.

This message may resonate with some in our community, because it reaffirms everything that they already believe. Sadly, it will also alienate the large portion of the community — myself included — that has a different idea of what it means to be pro-Israel.


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