Column One: American Jewry’s Fight
By CAROLINE B. GLICK
It can only be hoped that the overwhelming majority of American Jews call and demand that all Jewish Federations stop allowing anti-Israel groups to feed from the communal trough.
In light of these overwhelming levels of support, it is disconcerting to see that across the US, Jewish communities are failing to prevent anti-Zionist Jews from hijacking communal funds and facilities to finance anti-Israel activities.
CONSIDER A few recent examples.
“….Meanwhile on the East Coast, both the Washington and New York Jewish communities are embroiled in a feud over Federation funding for anti-Israel Jewish groups. In Washington, a group of pro-Israel activists operating as the Committee Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art has begun a campaign to end Federation funding for anti-Israel activities.
In a letter to Federation President Susie Gelman and Federation board members from March 6, COPMA’s chairman Robert Samet argued, “It is critical that the Federation establish guidelines for withholding funding from partner agencies that engage in political propaganda and activism denigrating Israel and undermining its legitimacy as a strong, secure and independent Jewish state.”
COPMA’s specific concern is Federation Funding for the District of Columbia Jewish Community Center’s professional theater group Theater J.
As the letter explained, “Theater J, a partner agency of the Federation and a recipient of its funding and support, has turned an arts program at the DCJCC… into a platform for political activism that expresses hostility and antipathy towards the State of Israel and little regard for its security.”
In 2009, Theater J staged the virulently anti- Semitic post-modern passion play Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill. The play accuses the entire Jewish population of Israel of mass murders that were never committed.
Unfortunately, as COPMA notes, this is par for the course. In the past, Theater J’s artistic director Ari Roth organized buses to bring community members to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to watch a production of the virulently anti-Israel propaganda play My Name is Rachel Corrie.
This year, under Roth’s leadership, Theater J presented Return to Haifa, a play that COPMA argues “distorts the history and origins of Israel and makes the historically accurate death of a Jewish child in the Holocaust… comparable to the fabricated and utterly fantastical story of an Arab child allegedly abandoned by his fleeing parents in Haifa in 1948, ostensibly as a result of their terror over advancing Israelis.”
In response to COPMA’s letter, Roth told the Forward that it “is not a prerogative of the donor” to intervene in artistic content, and claimed that attempts to limit the theater’s activities amounted to censorship or blacklisting.
Carol Greenwald, COPMA’s treasurer, rejects Roth’s arguments. In her words, “The issue is not artistic freedom to create whatever the artist chooses; the issue is the appropriateness of a Jewish communal institution using Jewish communal funding to showcase defamation of the Jewish people.”
The Forward quoted Andrew Apostolou, a local Jewish Community Relations Council member, as quite sensibly saying, “There are things a Jewish community shouldn’t be doing, like serving a bacon cheeseburger on Yom Kippur. Putting on an anti-Semitic play is one of these things.”
COPMA is not alone in its concerns. In New York, a group of activists formed a new organization called JCC Watch to force the New York Jewish Federation to end financial support to the Manhattan JCC due to its partnership with organizations that support economic warfare against Israel through calls for economic boycotts, divestment and sanctions. Like COPMA, JCC Watch asks that the local Federation adopt guidelines to prevent Federation funds from being transferred to groups and programming that showcase calls for economic and political warfare against Israel.
So far, Washington’s Federation has not responded to COPMA’s letter. Interviewed by the Forward, the Washington Federation’s CEO defended giving supporters of anti-Israel sanctions the stage as part of Federation-sponsored panels on the grounds of “welcoming multiple voices.” And in an op-ed in New York Jewish Week last month, the New York Federation’s CEO defended the JCC’s partnership with groups that engage in economic and political warfare against Israel….”