Israel, Politics

J Street conference: A show of hope for 1,000 peeps, 160 pols

J StreetIn a week, the J Street conference will be in full swing with over 1,000 participants officially registered — and 160 members of Congress. Who’s on the list? Check it:

  • National Security Advisor Jim Jones gives the keynote address
  • Senator Chuck Hagel
  • Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami
  • U.S. Representative Robert Wexler (D-FL)
  • Former Ambassador of the United States to Israel Martin Indyk
  • Former head of Shin Bet Ami Ayalon
  • Palestinian Minister of National Economy Bassem Khoury
  • Members of Knesset Nitzan Horowitz, Shlomo Molla, Amir Peretz, Meir Sheetrit, and Yuli Tamir
  • Jordanian Ambassador to the United States Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein

There is nary a Jewish progressive group not present on panels: Encounter, Just Vision, Americans for Peace Now , the Reform Religious Action Center, Ameinu, Progressive Jewish Alliance, Jews United for Justice, Jumpstart, the Ford Israel Fund, Nathan Cummings Foundation, the New Israel Fund and Meretz USA. Visiting from Israel are Breaking the Silence, the Settlement Watch project of Shalom Achshav, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Haaretz, NIF’s Shatil wing, B’Tselem, Peres Center for Peace… oh the list goes on.
And work proceeds apace to bring Brit Tzedek v’Shalom beneath J Street’s auspices with a grassroots program with professional, paid organizers and integration into J Street’s budding network.
For weeks now, the naysayers and establishment have been yaping and yawping about how J Street doesn’t really care about Israel, how they’re secretly Saudi foreign agents, how they’re misguided and not really Jewish, and or (in many places too numerous to link) irrelevant. They’ve been calling the 160 Congresspeople and asking them to withdraw their attendance (which Sens. Chuck Schumer and Gillibrand of NY did). They’ve been hooping and hollering about the sky falling if J Street gets their way.
But what’s amazing to me is that all the negativity — “J Street doesn’t care about Israel” — hasn’t managed to counteract the overwhelming excitement and hope among attendees. A better Israel, a freer Israel, an Israel not beset on all sides by hate and fear of violence. An Israel not rotting from within because of and distracted by the Palestinians and finally able to resolve stagnant domestic issues left unaddressed. I have rarely seen the right wing orgs, blogs and even the government of Israel spend so much time concentrated time attempting to exorcise one Jewish group. Despite their most ardent cries, the anticipation is electric.
This conference is about hope. Hope that after decades of mismanagement, new forces in the Jewish community attuned to a more modern age will lead Congress to Israel policies that actually have Israel’s best interests in mind: a cessation of violence, an end to occupation, and stability in the region.
Oh, and if you’re going, please tell us and come to a panel featuring Jewish and Muslim bloggers organized by Richard Silverstein.

13 thoughts on “J Street conference: A show of hope for 1,000 peeps, 160 pols

  1. I was so hopeful about J Street when they began, but after they invited anti-Semitic poets, maybe something is wrong there. Maybe there is something to the stories about improper funders. Why not use economic measures against Iran so that no one will have to go to war? Something isn’t right here.

  2. It’s pretty exciting to see folks like a former Shin Bet head and a Jordanian official on the list.
    It’s also interesting to see that the RAC will be involved, given Eric Yoffie’s comments about JStreet a while ago. But, then again, the RAC isn’t part of the URJ. It’s merely affiliated with it. But then, I’m just noticing a session with Yoffie on the schedule. Interesting.
    It’s also worth noting the lack of interest from ARZA, the American Reform movement’s Zionist wing.

  3. Agree with all of kungfujews excitement! especially about the poets, and other cultural workers, (batami you should back up your very serious charge) i feel people can learn a lot from jstreet and I will be there to do so. I will only say by correction my own progressive Jewish org Jewish Voice for Peace is not represented on the list, but there will be many folks there who are supporters of both organizations.

  4. I think there’s something wrong with suggesting that “something isn’t right here.” Granted, you may disagree with J Sttreet’s positions, but I think the suggestion seems to imply that J Street is actually purposefully working against Israel and that is not just a misstatement — it’s a downright lie.
    Though I do agree they are interesting questions. Hopefully they will be addressed this weekend. I will be there with the students of J Street U but also representing Habonim Dror North America.
    See you all there!

  5. Jewlicious writer Larry will be there. I’m glad J Street was able to pull in at least as many people as we got for our last Jewlicious Festival. I also hope Richard Silverstein got enough PayPal donations to allow for his attendance – I’m sure Larry sure as heck wouldn’t wannna miss that (unofficial totally independent not at all sponsored by J Street) uh… bloggers panel!

  6. It’s not official and it’s not on the program. It’s organized by the bloggers themselves, Richard Silverstein as cheif.
    I was invited and planned to participate on the panel, until I bowed out in favor of Dan Sieradski’s joining. I have a lot to say about the conflict, but not necessarily as much to say about how blogging has changed the conversation around the conflict. Mobius, as the first Jewish blogger of any repute, deserves to be on that panel, not me. He now is.
    J Street shouldn’t let our motley collection of bloggers sit on an official panel. They have a reputation to protect and too many of us bloggers are loose cannons. Also, as infamous as we think we are, we’re not Jonathan Chait or Matt Ygelias either (panel Tues @ 9 am).
    And to CK’s digs:
    J Street defeated all dour expectations with 1,200 participants in a down economy for a conference that cost $140-$500 plus hotel, over three weekdays, to hear some pretty wonky stuff. Jewlicious’ festival — all due respect implied of course — cost $36 plus tent rental, over spring break weekend, at a beach, with party music. Sounds like a pretty rockin’ festival, but don’t try to compare numbers, my friend.
    Important to note: Brit Tzedek brought 300 people to their conference in DC each year. That number quadrupled in a year. Pretty fucking amazing. And this is J Street’s Year Two. What will happen in Year Three? But thank you very much, CK, for blowing snot all over the thousands of Jews who think this is really important.

  7. I have been sick the last two weeks, so snot – in rainbow colors, no less – is something I’m quite familiar with. KFJ is right, we could all use less snot blowing around.
    I hope this snot ceasefire is remembered the next time AIPAC Policy comes around, instead of the predictable jeers, sneers, name calling and generally unpleasant snot thrown in the direction of the thousands of Jews and non-Jews who think that AIPAC’s work is not merely important, but vital, both to American and Israeli interests.
    There is a fundamental difference in opinion on pro-Israel policy, and I think KFJ encapsulated it, more or less, in one sentence here:
    Only the pursuit now of policies which actively make progress towards Palestinian demands can be considered pro-peace.
    That statement encapsulates, for me, JStreet’s approach and direction in which to influence American policy. I disagree, vehemently, but this is not the time for that debate. If you support this statement, support JStreet. If you don’t, blow your snot into the sink, in the privacy of your home, and join the tens of thousands of American Jews who passionately support AIPAC’s efforts, building on a half century of success, to further strengthen and advance the American-Israeli relationship.

  8. Aw KFJ! As I read your response, I was touched (really I was) by your straightforwardness. I mean it was magnanimous of you to admit that J Street has “a reputation to protect and too many of us bloggers are loose cannons.”
    One of yourthe panelists once wrote “And I’m supposed to make a life for myself here? To commit myself and the fruits of my labor to the Jewish state? Who in their right mind would want to live in such a place? Or offer a penny to it? … Seriously — fuck this country. I can’t wait to get the hell out of here.” And of course, there is no end to the enmity between Richard Silverstien and I. Anyone who follows J blogs knows that. Richard has accused me of being a bully, a thief, an utterer of anti-gay slurs and I don’t know what else – and then there are also his predictable political rants and abrasive style of communication. So yes, loose canons indeed. On occasion.
    Interestingly enough, the phrase “loose canons” was the exact term used by the Jewish Week to describe J Street’s refusal of co-sponsorship from Michael Lerner’s Tikkun Community.
    As for the Festival, yes it costs $36 but there is no tent rental and it happens in Long Beach, CA, but not on a beach. Many participants fly in from out of state and as many sleep in a nearby hotel as sleep on the floor of the Long Beach JCC. And it’s not all party music either, the Festival does have a significant educational component provided by a broad variety of speakers. Finally, we do not have anywhere near same financial and staff resources that J Street has so we’re pretty pleased with our numbers. Feel free to join us, it’s a good time!
    That having been said, you gotta give J Street props for managing to pull this off and there is no denying that this is a significant event – I mean our writer Larry’s going and on his own coin! And we’ll publish whatever he writes. So there you go.

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