Op-Ed: With Whom is the JCC Partnering?
(Tova Domnitch contributed to this article)
Over one hundred people protested outside the JCC in Manhattan last week, while the JCC was holding the “Other Israel Film Festival.” Jewish community leaders and others at the rally condemned the JCC in Manhattan for partnering on this event with organizations that support the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement. The demonstration was organized by JCCWatch.org, Americans for a Safe Israel, and the Israel advocacy organization, ZStreet.
Erica Werber, senior director for public relations for the JCC in Manhattan, disputed their claim, stating that “The JCC in Manhattan does not support BDS and we do not partner with organizations that support BDS. We stand with Israel against de-legitimization and support open and respectful dialogue within our community.”
Yet, among those organizations listed by the JCC in Manhattan as partners in the film festival are the New Israel Fund, B’Tselem, and Partners for Progressive Israel. According to Richard Allen, founder of JCC Watch, “Meretz-USA, which has just changed its name to Partners for Progressive Israel, on its website, calls for a boycott of Israeli products such as Ahava cosmetics, B &B Baked Goods, Sodastream and wine products from nine Israeli vineyards.”
He continued to state, “The NGO-Monitor website, run by Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University, states that the New Israel Fund provides money to groups that work to delegitimize Israel and force sanctions against Israel in international and European forums. It’s time for the Board of directors of the JCC in Manhattan to stop these nefarious partnerships.”
Community activist Dr. Marvin Belsky also spoke out against the JCC in Manhattan. “The Jewish Community Center of Manhattan, by aligning with anti-Israel groups supporting boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, such as the New Israel Fund, Progressives for Israel and B'tzelem, besmirches its reputation by confusing misinformed innocents to the detriment of Israel and demeans their Jewish heritage,” said Belsky.
Allen also claimed “that the JCC gives these groups free access to solicit the JCC members; they provide BDS supporting groups with tables to recruit members and access to speak to members in forums that are set up for that purpose.”
“Jews do not call upon Jews to boycott Jews,” he added. “In these perilous times when Israel is under economic assault by the BDS movement, Jewish organizations must not tolerate any attempt to delegitimize the State of Israel.”
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, Member of the board of the ZStreet, agrees. He stated that “organizations should be made to follow guidelines that they will not partner with groups that boycott part (outside pre-1967 borders) or all of Israel.”
Referring to Jewish groups that run programs within the framework of the Jewish community, Wiesenfeld stated, “Anyone who partners with groups that support BDS does not belong in the tent.”
Robert Sidi, a rally participant from Manhattan, said “The JCC in Manhattan's leadership is shamefully weak when it comes to Israel. I urge all the Jews on the Upper West Side to stand up to the JCC and demand that they support Israel or step down if they continue to delegitimize and defame the State of Israel.
Television personality, Timberly Whitfield also came out for the rally. “As a non-Jew and frequent visitor to the Holy Land, I came out Sunday to protest the terrible anti-Israel activities going on at the JCC in Manhattan,” she stated. “I don’t like the idea of any organization supporting groups that go against Israel as a Jewish State.”
AFSI chairperson Helen Freedman also condemned the JCC in Manhattan. In addition, she and her organization have an antidote to the BDS movement. “We support a ‘Buy Israel’ program being launched on November 28th, with the emphasis on purchasing goods made in Israel, and continuing such a program until the entire BDS plan fails miserably.”