As a small group of congregants at Temple Beth Avodah in Newton back out of a J Street event and relocate tonight’s event with Jeremy Ben-Ami across the street, The Boston Globe and the Boston Jewish Advocate‘s editorial pages have come down against the cancelation, as did the head of the local Jewish Community Relations Council. A veritable PR sweep.
The Jewish Advocate reports (behind a pay wall, no link available) that J Street believes that certain congregational members were circulating misinformation about the organization. The Jewish Advocate’s editorial on the matter:
We find ourselves puzzled, to say the least, by Temple Beth Avodah’s last-minute decision to yank the welcome mat from J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami.
The Nov. 18 event had been on the books for at least a month at the Reform synagogue in Newton. In the interest of full disclosure, The Jewish Advocate was on the bill. Our editor was to interview Ben-Ami, followed by more questions from the audience. […] We can’t speak for the synagogue, but our involvement did not amount to an endorsement of the controversial Israel advocacy group, but rather reflected our recognition that support for Israel comes in many shades.
In the Boston Globe’s reporting, Alan S. Ronkin, deputy director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) in Boston, said “It’s deeply troubling that there are people in the community who would prefer to stifle debate, rather than engage,’’ he said. J Street is a member of the JCRC there.
The Boston Globe’s opinion piece says, “If a mere conversation featuring the head of a group that has become, for better or worse, part of the mainstream conversation on Israel would “threaten the fabric of the congregation,” it says more about the congregation than it does about J Street.”
And in response, J Street has launched a petition advocating more open discussion in the Jewish community.It’s got to be the shortest petition I’ve ever seen:
No longer should a small minority in the Jewish community intimidate communal institutions out of hosting those with different opinions on Israel. Count me as supporting an open and honest conversation on Israel that will make Israel, our community and the U.S. stronger.
The event will continue tonight across the street from Beth Avodah at the Memorial-Spaulding Elementary School in Newton at 7:45 pm (RSVP) and Tuft’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at 6:00 pm (RSVP).