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Where do Jewish federations draw the ‘red line’ on opinions about Israel?


By Jacob Kamaras/

 Caption: Author Alice Walker, an anti-Israel activists, and playwright Eve Ensler clasp hands at the 92nd Street Y in New York City on the night they appeared together in dialogue, May 30, 2013. JCC Watch is calling for a halt in donations to the UJA-Federation of New York over UJA funding of the Y, which besides for Walker invited anti-Israel Pink Floyd band member Roger Waters this spring (an event that was ultimately canceled). Credit: Maxine Dovere.

The “red line” associated with Iran’s nuclear program or Syria’s use of
chemical weapons has sparked an ongoing international debate, in which both Israeli and Diaspora Jews have made their voices heard. But a debate that hits closer to home for American Jews is about where Jewish federations in their communities draw the line on funding programs associated with varying opinions about Israel.


In the Boston area, a recent test case for the local Jewish
federation—Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP)—revolves around its
relationship with Leonard Fein, the founder of organizations including the
National Coalition for Jewish Literacy, Moment
, and MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. In an Aug. 24 column for
the Forward, Fein called for a
boycott of the Israeli city of Ariel, which is located beyond the 1949
Israeli-Arab armistice lines.

I believe American Jews visiting Israel should stay away from [Ariel], treat it
as an offense against peace,” Fein wrote.

been a guest speaker for CJP and has a long-term relationship with that
federation’s leadership groups. Asked if that relationship would change due to
Fein’s stance on Ariel, CJP Executive Director Barry Shrage said it would not,
and regarding whether CJP is willing to continue to invite Fein as a speaker,
Shrage said, “Sure.”

“Certainly an argument about settlements, and how to protest settlements
and how to support settlements, is part of the daily life of the Jewish
community that has a healthy ongoing debate about important issues,” Shrage

Shrage believes Fein’s call for a boycott of Ariel was “a very poor tactic,” he stressed that Fein is
highly respected member of our community.”

“We’d be so much poorer a community if we drive out people like Leonard
Fein,” Shrage said. “The future of the community is about binding people


Click photo to download. Leonard Fein’s recent column for the Forward that called for a boycott of the Israeli city of Ariel. Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP), the Boston-area Jewish federation, will not change its long-standing relationship with Fein following his op-ed, said CJP Executive Director Barry Shrage. Credit: Screenshot via

But Charles Jacobs, head of the Boston-based advocacy group Americans
for Peace and Tolerance, believes CJP crosses a red line by continuing to work
with Fein. Jacobs called the policy of welcoming a “big tent” of organizations and individuals with varying
views on Israel a “slippery slope.”

CJP-certified Leonard Fein is now one more slip down the slope,” Jacobs told “Leonard Fein, who in the midst
of Middle East madness, where Arabs are murdering and gassing and torturing
each other—and each others’ wives …read more

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Posted by on September 23, 2013. Filed under Jewish News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.