J Street Fails Badly in Bid for Admission to Presidents Conference

Group Slams 'Unrepresentative' Group After 22-to-17 Vote

Failed Bid: J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami led the group’s push to gain admission to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.
j street
Failed Bid: J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami led the group’s push to gain admission to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

By Nathan Guttman

Published April 30, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The dovish group J Street has lost its bid to gain admission to the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations by an unexpectedly wide margin.

In a secret ballot vote held Wednesday evening at the Conference offices in New York, J Street failed to come close to winning the two-thirds majority of participating members needed to win admission to the umbrella group.

Some 22 member organizations voted against accepting J Street, 17 supported it and three abstained. Put another way, J Street won just half the 34 votes it needed. There are 51 organizations in the Conference, each with one vote, no matter its size.

In a statement issued shortly after the vote, J Street said it was disappointed and added that it is a “sad day” for the organization.

“In many ways the vote illustrates one of the key reasons that J Street was created in the first place and why we continue to grow: a large segment of the American Jewish community feels that it does not have a home or a voice within its traditional structures,” the statement added.

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told the Forward after the vote that the structure of the Conference of Presidents is “unrepresentative of the breadth of the views” of the Jewish community. Ben-Ami argued that the vote rejecting his group’s membership “calls into question the premise of the Conference” as an umbrella organization representing the community.

He turned down the notion that the vote should be viewed as a rejection of J Street by the community, saying that it was “a handful of old guard institutions voted against us,” he said. Ben-Ami added that J Street will consider its next moves and will “look at all options.”

An analysis of the vote, which remains secret even after the meeting, indicates that J Street enjoyed the support of liberal groups, Reform and Conservative organizations and several major players, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The majority voting against it were right-wing and Orthodox organizations, as well as several smaller groups with no clear ideological leaning.

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, noted that J Street would have won a lopsided victory if the votes were weighted to take into account the organizations’ membership size. Because J Street “won the popular vote,” she called on the Conference of Presidents to find ways of expanding the communal table.

“It is very usual that organizations have to examine their structure,” she said, adding that that this examination should deal with “closing the gap between the popular vote and the organizational vote.”

The Presidents Conference said in a statement issued after the vote that its current membership reflected the community’s diversity.

“The present membership of the Conference includes organizations which represent and articulate the views of broad segments of the American Jewish community and we are confident that the Conference will continue to present the consensus of the community on important national and international issues as it has for the last fifty years,” it said.

The voting process is not only secret, but also complicated. The Conference of Presidents’ bylaws require a quorum of 75% of member organizations attending the meeting. Of them, a majority of two thirds is required in order to approve a membership request.

With JTA


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!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • 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.