The 14th Street Y, one of New York’s most prominent Jewish institutions, has cancelled an event by a group advocating a partial boycott of Israel.
The Y’s management told the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace that it was concerned about large crowds at the planned May 27 meeting, but the group believes it is being barred because of its politics.
“This is consistent with other issues we have seen in Jewish institutional spaces, when Jews who have tried to express opinions that are not of the status quo about Israel are censored,” said Liza Behrendt, a member of the New York chapter of Young, Jewish and Proud, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace.
Young, Jewish, and Proud rented a room at the Y this Sunday to discuss the history of the movement to boycott, divest from, and implement sanctions against Israel.
On Friday, Behrendt said that she received a phone call from Y executive director Stephen Arnoff telling her that he was cancelling the event.
Arnoff said his staff grew concerned that press coverage would draw a large crowd after a reporter from the Forward called the Y to inquire about the event. The Y, he told her, lacked capacity on the holiday weekend to accommodate a big group.
A representative of the Y’s parent nonprofit, the Educational Alliance confirmed in an email that Sunday’s event has been cancelled.
“We were worried about large crowds (it) could attract,” said Linda Adams in an email message.
Behrendt said that the Y’s pulling the plug on her event was just the latest instance of Jewish institutions clamping down on criticism of Israel. Behrendt cited Young, Jewish and Proud’s ejection from TribeFest, an event sponsored by the Jewish Federations of North American in Las Vegas in March of this year.
JVP was also barred from becoming a member organization of the Brandeis University campus Hillel group in March 2011. And last May, the Boston Jewish Community Relations Council discussed revoking membership of the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring because it rented space to JVP. In the end, the group was allowed to stay a member.
Mainstream Jewish groups say that JVP belongs outside of the Jewish communal tent because it does not endorse a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Naomi Zeveloff is the former Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.