A column from March 21, “Only One Way To Change Hillel: Leave,” contains some gross inaccuracies that need to be corrected.
It suggests that, in 2009, the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco issued a “gag rule” regarding Israel-Palestine, and that we did so because “two major California-based foundations said that if one dime of their money went to support or endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, however indirectly… they would pull all their money. That’s why the policy was put in place, and that’s why it was mimicked around the country.”
Jay Michaelson, the author, is wrong on both points. First, there was no “gag rule“ in regard to Israel-Palestine. In fact, there was a concerted communal effort in San Francisco, in the aftermath of a breakdown in communal civility, to develop a nuanced policy solely for Federation-funded institutions that simultaneously preserved our commitment to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and our commitment to lively, diverse and critical discourse.
Second, our federation did not create a new grant-making policy based on the threats of two major foundations or on any donors. We are very proud of the diversity of our donor base, united by a deep commitment to our core values. The policy stemmed from consensus — borne of three months of dialogue, argument, soul-searching and, eventually, compromise among our diverse working group.
Working Group on Israel
Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco