JCPA doesn’t speak for all US Jews

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA, not to be confused with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a think-tank) describes itself thus:

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), the united voice of the organized Jewish community, was formally established in 1944 by the Council of Jewish Federations, the forerunner of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). The JCPA was known for many years as the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC). The name was changed to the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in 1997 to reflect more accurately the agency’s mission. — JCPA website

The idea that there could even be a “united voice of the organized Jewish community” is doubtful. But the Jewish Federations are a major presence in many Jewish communities, raising a large amount of money. Some of it goes to local charitable uses, and some of it to the Jewish Agency and Joint Distribution Committee — organizations which were central to rescuing the remnants of European Jewry after the war, as well as Jews from Yemen, Ethiopia, etc. The Federations have always been Zionist, if sometimes less than efficient.

I happen to be a board member of our local Jewish Federation, and I’ve served as treasurer for the last three years. I had never heard of JCPA until a few months ago, when the group sent our Executive Director an email to distribute to the membership. I was a bit bothered by what I thought was a liberal tilt to the message and felt that it might alienate some of our Republican donors. After all, the Jewish Federations should be about helping Jews in trouble anywhere in the world, and introducing domestic politics would be a distraction.

And nobody ever asked the members of our Jewish Federation whether they agreed with the policies of the JCPA, the “voice of the organized Jewish community.” Do you pick up on a bit of chutzpah here?

The CEO (since 2005) and President (since 2009) of JCPA is Rabbi Steve Gutow. A Reconstructionist Rabbi, Gutow is also “founding Executive Director” (although he does not hold the position now) of the National Jewish Democratic Council, whose mission is frankly partisan. How am I going to explain this to our Republican donors?

But there is a much bigger problem.

The JCPA’s website presents staunchly Zionist principles. But one of the speakers for its Plenum in March, 2011 is Peter Beinart. Peter Beinart? The guy that suggested that young American Jews are not pro-Israel because Israel is undemocratic, racist and militaristic?

They are paying this guy to speak with my money (about half of their budget comes from Federation allocations)?

This is less surprising when you note also that JCPA’s Washington Director from 2005-2009 was none other than Hadar Susskind, presently “Director of Policy and Strategy” for the phony ‘pro-Israel’ organization J Street!

Beinart, J Street, and others are attacking Israel from within the American Jewish community, trying to change the meaning of being ‘pro-Israel’ as it was traditionally understood by groups like AIPAC, etc., as supporting Israel’s policies as determined by its democratic government. The new meaning seems to be that Israelis don’t know what’s good for themselves, and need to be forced to move in the direction approved by the Obama Administration.

This point of view is emphatically rejected by most of the “organized [or not so organized] Jewish community” in the US.

To be clear, I am not accusing JCPA of being in the same pot with J Street (yet). I am saying that

  • a group that advertises itself as the voice of the organized Jewish community should understand that these Jews are found everywhere on the domestic political spectrum, and
  • a group that advertises itself as Zionist should be very, very careful about its connections with people and organizations that are trying to invert the meaning of ‘Zionism’, like Beinart and J Street.

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