Sunday, November 22, 2009

Major Rift in the Bay Area Jewish Community;

The SF Jewish film Festival, the SF Federation,
and the Pro-Israel Community

by Lawrence W. White MD

For many years, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF) has run films critical of Israel, often with attitudes bordering on anti-Semitism. This year, the film “Rachel” celebrated the life and death of Rachel Corrie. Rachel was an impressionable young student recruited by the International Solidarity Movement, (ISM), a Hamas-supporting group, who was sent to Gaza to aid in the campaign to demonize Israel. She was accidentally killed when she entered a war zone to try to stop the removal of tunnels used to smuggle arms to Hamas. The ISM loves martyrs, and so Rachel became a glorious sacrifice to the cause of demonizing Israel. And so, one of the many ideologically motivated film makers, made a documentary about the life and death of Rachel. And predictably, the SFJFF decided this rather mediocre film was a must showing for their annual festival.

The film festival compounded this provocation by co-sponsoring the film with two anti-Israel groups, and by inviting Rachel’s mother, Cindy Corrie, a mouthpiece for ISM, to speak. .The showing of the film was welcomed by the most vocal elements of the anti-Israel community, who hailed the screening as a milestone in getting American Jews to break with Israel. Pro-Israel spokespersons, such as Michael Harris who was invited to give a short presentation before the film to mollify critics, were booed and harassed. Larry Goldberg, who attempted to ask a question after the Cindy Corrie soft-ball interview, had the microphone snatched from his hands by SFJFF goons.

And then there was the showing of Defamation by the film festival, a film that ridiculed concerns about anti-Semitism as if a guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington had not been murdered recently because of Jew hatred, as if a world-wide outbreak of anti-Semitism has not occurred as a result of solidarity with the Arab masses and manipulation by the Arab sheikdoms. Further, “Defamation” ridiculed teaching about the Holocaust, giving respectability to the views of Norman Finkelstein, a professional anti-Semite and Israel hater, who makes his living speaking to conventions of Holocaust deniers, who refers to the Holocaust as an “industry”, and who ridicules Elie Wiesel as the “clown prince of the Holocaust”. The film mocks Abraham Foxman and the ADL, and glorifies Walt and Mearsheimer, the authors of “The Israel Lobby”.

There are Jewish film festivals all over the country; none have been controversial. The difference is that the others are about film, about Jewish culture, about history, about real people and honest problems. The SFJFF is largely about left wing anti-Israel propaganda. The CEO, Peter Stein, and most of his board, are ideologues who are less interested in Jewish film, culture, and history than in anti-Jewish propaganda.

The result? A major rift in the community between those who support the existence of a Jewish state and want a strong US-Israel relationship, and those whose radical proclivities are far stronger than any feelings for Israel or for the survival of the Jewish people.

For those supporting Israel, there are two main targets that have emerged; the film festival and its director, and the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, which has given its imprimatur year after year to the festival, and contributed funds collected from its donors to the festival.

The SF Federation has not acted in good faith. When the controversy exploded, leaders and staffers in Federation initiated a letter writing program defending the showing of “Rachel”. The director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, an arm of Federation, published a column in J, ridiculing film festival critics and implying that they were a tiny, angry, and vocal minority, who were unconcerned with the issues of the greater community. The SF Federation nominated Peter Stein as a hero of the Jewish community in a contest run by the United Jewish Communities.

The Federation CEO, Daniel Sokatch, a founder of the anti-Israel group "J Street" and a member of their advisory board, complained about muzzling of the “progressive” community. Sokatch, who did untold damage to the reputation of Federation in the larger community, compounded the controversy by defending the film festival. As pro-Israel donors began to consider bypassing Federation with their dollars, Sokatch also bailed out by taking the CEO job at the New Israel Fund, another fringe group which, like J Street, is anti-Israel while claiming to be pro-Israel. Why the Federation chose a far-left wing ideologue as CEO says more about the Federation than about Dan Sokatch. At best, it is a demonstration of naïveté, at worst, an indication of the political inclinations of the Bay area Jewish community.

Recently, pro-Israel leaders in the community attempted to find a formula to heal the rift. They asked the Federation to pass a resolution that would deny funds to any organizations that advocated harming Israel via boycotts, divestment and sanctions. At the insistence of Federation, the wording was watered down repeatedly. Zvi Alon, Natan Nestel, and others tried to run an advertisement in the weekly Jewish paper, “J”, advocating for this resolution. Then Federation successfully used its muscle to get “J” to refuse the ad. This time the critics fought back, threatening to expose the behind the scenes censorship by Federation. As a result, “J” backed down and reluctantly ran the ad.

At a contentious meeting on Nov 19, Federation voted against the resolution, promising to reconsider it at their February meeting, and hoping the issue would go away by then. Perhaps they failed to understand that this controversy had now gone international. Media coverage had exposed the rift, and had shown how extreme anti-Israel groups have hijacked both the film festival and the Federation, and acted to accelerate the abandonment of Israel by a growing segment of the American Jewish community.

Rabbi Daniel Gordis, a thoughtful and articulate writer, published an article in the Jerusalem Post on this subject. Pointing out facetiously that the world agrees that “Israel is the primary culprit in the Middle East conflict, the cause of relentless Palestinian suffering and the primary obstacle blocking the way to regional peace” Gordis discusses how the world has instigated a chorus of opprobrium as exemplified by the Swedish organ-snatching blood libel, Norwegian divestment, Turkish severance of military cooperation with Israel, and the US administration notion that the problem in the Middle East can be boiled down simply to the “settlements”, including areas of Jerusalem currently “occupied” by Jews.

And the list seems endless. American Jews have now joined in. According to Gordis, Canadian and American Jews have lashed out at the Toronto International Film Festival for its honoring of Tel Aviv. Two American Jewish sociologists have written that 50% of American Jews under age 35 have stated that the destruction of Israel would not be a personal tragedy for them. And on and on.

As Gordis pointed out:

“In San Francisco, Jewish communal funds were used to support the SF Jewish Film Festival's screening of Rachel, an Israel-bashing "documentary" about Rachel Corrie of International Solidarity Movement fame. Noting that the SFJFF was now effectively in partnership with Jewish Voices for Peace, a well known anti-Israel, pro-boycott organization, many prominent Jews vehemently protested. But the film was shown, anyway.”

So Federation, now an unindicted co-conspirator in the abandonment of Israel, will not agree to withhold funding from those who demonize Israel. And further they hope (expect) that their critics will forget about this by the time of their next meeting. They won’t.

The good news is that this is not a new phenomenon. We have seen this drama many times before. Because Jews from Central Europe preceded Eastern European Jews in immigrating to America by two or three generations, they found themselves suddenly embarrassed by those who clamed to be their fellow Jews. The new arrivals spoke Yiddish, lived in poverty, and were completely unassimilated, while wealthy German Jews, who had fully become a part of the larger American community with leadership positions in government, finance, retailing, and professional life, looked down their noses at their co-religionists as they figured ways to set themselves apart from these aliens..

Then we had the phenomenon of those Jews who put loyalty to Roosevelt ahead of rescue of European Jews. Or Jews who put loyalty to Stalin ahead of saving Jewish intellectuals from show trials and execution.

And again, those elements of the Reform Jewish community who opposed Zionism in the 1940s, formed the American Council for Judaism, and installed Rabbi Elmer Berger as its CEO. Their fear? Accusations of dual loyalty, and a desire to prove beyond any doubt their allegiance to their host nation.

And again, when a fight erupted over community control of schools in New York, wealthy Manhattan Jews wanted to ally with the black community more than they wanted to protect the less influential Jewish teachers and social workers. And again, when Leonard Bernstein and his ilk lionized the black Panthers and radical black anti-Semites.(immortalized by Tom Wolfe in “Radical Chic”). Or recently when Michael Lerner (another anti-Israel propagandist pretending to be pro-Israel) invited the rabid Israel hater Alice Walker to give the Yom Kippur sermon at his temple.

It is hard to pick up a newspaper without reading some evidence of a rift in the Jewish community. Samuel Freedman has written a wonderful book called “Jew vs. Jew” in which he profiles many examples of internecine battles among Jews in America over the last 50 years. Though this is not a new phenomenon, the Bay area excels at the sort of venom in which the far left seems to specialize.

So what now? Those who want SF Federation to declare their clear intent to deny funding or validation of anti-Israel action or talk are here to stay. At the same time, another group, also large, influential, and well connected, is trying to secure the resignation of Peter Stein. If Stein does not resign voluntarily (which seems unlikely) supporters hope to get funders to withdraw support from the film festival.

Federation loudly defends itself, pointing out that it has been active in promoting Israel. And the film festival defends itself by pointing to some of its other cosponsors and non-controversial films. However, as long as Federation does not declare its intent regarding support for those who defame Israel, and as long as Peter Stein remains stubbornly recalcitrant and continues calling the shots at the SFJFF, the rift will remain.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The SF Jewish Film Festival; Latest Actions

By Lawrence W. White MD

I have previously commented regarding the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the “Rachel” and “Defamation” disasters of 2009, the controversy over the actions of Peter Stein, and the responses of the Jewish Community Federation and the JCRC. Most recently, (10/26/09) I recommended specific steps to resolve this crisis in our community and get the film festival back on track so that it will once again serve the community. Central to this was to secure the resignation of Peter Stein.

Currently, there are two efforts underway to prevent a repetition of this years events, which not only had a clear anti-Israel message, but also trivialized any effort to oppose anti-Semitism

The first effort is aimed at having Federation take a clear stand against funding any group that supports divestment, boycott or sanctions against Israel. This would actually let the SFJFF off the hook, since as an organization they do not advocate these positions. However, by insisting that any recipient of Federation funding not partner with any group that advocates these anti-Israel measures, this would prevent such actions as the partnership with Jewish Voice for Peace, or the invitation to Cindy Corrie who is a messenger for ISM. Those who are supporting this effort will publish an advertisement in this weeks J, and seek to have Federation adopt a measure to accomplish this stand.

The second measure is aimed directly at the Film Festival. It seeks the resignation of Peter Stein. The clear logic and rationale behind this are spelled out in the statement reprinted below. As long as this is a Jewish film festival, it must be pro-Israel. And as long as the SFJFF is a non-profit, they need to be an arts organization, not a political organization.

Why Peter Stein Should Resign

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither, let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you…”

Psalms 137, 5-7

We are a group of pro-Israel supporters who firmly believe that the resignation and departure of Peter Stein from his current position as Executive Director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF) is an essential step to prevent a continuation of the years of films and programs which demonize the State of Israel and its Jewish citizens. This culminated on July 25th with the showing of the film “Rachel” combined with an anti Israel speaker and sponsorship. This is completely unacceptable for an organization which has enjoyed such substantial and generous support from the Jewish community through the 29 years of their existence. The pattern must be changed! No guarantee is possible but we know this is the way to begin.

We do not think that the Federation is the central address for this problem. Rather, we believe that SFJFF and its Executive Director is where the attention should be directed.

It is clear to us that Peter Stein bears personal responsibility for each of the decisions that led to the terrible event at the Castro Theater on July 25th of this year.

In his role as Executive Director of SFJFF, he selected "Rachel" for the Festival in February when he saw the movie in Berlin. He has final and personal authority on the selection of all films shown by the Festival.

Peter Stein decided to build a program around the showing of "Rachel" and selected Cindy Corrie as the speaker.

He decided that the Jewish Voice for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee would be co-sponsors of the program as they had been for a number of times previously. These are both well known anti-Israel organizations.

Mr. Stein personally conducted the Question and Answer session after the showing of the film in a manner that gave Cindy Corrie an extended and favorable setting for her anti-Israeli message.

He has admitted that he did “due diligence” before the event and knew that it would stir a controversy but he went ahead with it anyway. An obvious search request on Google concerning Rachel and Cindy Corrie would show over 32,000 entries.

Another film which was also part of the recent festival and almost equally disturbing was “ Defamation.” Attention to it was diminished because of the controversy involving “ Rachel.” The film mocked the efforts of our community to fight anti-Semitism and tried to ridicule the importance of the remembrance of the Holocaust...

Mr. Stein also withheld information about the controversy he was creating from the President of SFJFF and the members of the Board until the Festival program was printed and received in the mail in June.

During the six years of his tenure as Executive Director, he has consistently selected films which have an anti-Israel bias and he has, therefore, nurtured the part of the community which shares this political perspective. The audience that was present on July 25th filled the auditorium and substantially represented this group.

SFJFF is an organization basically run by its Executive Director and the Board plays a supportive but inferior role. They provide no oversight to the Executive Director's authority to select all the films and design the programs. The staff is under Mr. Stein’s personal direction and he exercises final authority and responsibility.

The decision as to whether a film demonizes Israel is a subjective judgment and depends upon the eye of the beholder. If the beholder is Peter Stein, there can be no confidence that the present and past pattern will not be repeated.

To their credit, five members of the SFJFF Board (about one third) including the immediate past President recently resigned. They did so in protest to the actions of Mr. Stein and the other Board members since the current controversy began, as described above.

The remaining SFJFF Board, including a former Acting Executive Director of the Jewish Voice for Peace which was a co-sponsor of the “Rachel” program has a similar political perspective to Mr. Stein and cannot be expected to change either the oversight or his authority. They have been willing partners in the duplicitous and evasive strategy designed by Mr. Stein since the recent controversy occurred.

SFJFF has avoided either accepting responsibility or providing meaningful change from their longstanding pattern of anti-Israel films and programming. Mr. Stein’s strategy, which has been successful so far, is to literally outtalk and outlast those in the community who have expressed deep concern. He obviously wants to stay in control of the film festival so that, with the assistance of a compliant Board, the same political program can be continued in the years ahead.

We cannot ignore the fact that the continuing months of public and private discussion have not led to either an apology by the Festival or reasonable assurance that an event such as this will not occur again.

Therefore, we call for the immediate resignation and departure of Peter Stein from his current position. This is the only way to achieve much needed change. We also believe his resignation would be in the best interest of SFJFF as well as the wider community.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Letter from Tammi Benjamin to Chair of Jewish Community Federation

Dear Mr. Koshland,

I would like to bring to your attention the article below, in which Lenny Ben-David poses some excellent questions to J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami.

In the spirit of Ben-David's article, here are two questions which I would like to pose to the SF Jewish Community Federation Board of Directors:

Do you think that choosing a member of J Street's advisory council to be the Federation CEO was a wise decision?

Do you intend to adopt a resolution ensuring that Jewish communal funds will not go to support any organization or event that demonizes Israel, promotes the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, or lends support or legitimacy to terrorist organizations?

Mr. Koshland, the Federation's inadequate response to the anti-Semitic demonization of Israel and her supporters engendered by the SFJFF "Rachel" event, coupled with the revelation that your former CEO has strong ties to J Street, have led many Bay Area Jews to lose confidence in the Federation and to question their continuing financial support.

Your Board's answers to the questions I have posed could go a long way to addressing this crisis of confidence. I and the thousands of community members who will read this email look forward to your reply.


Tammi Benjamin

Showdown on J Street

Lenny Ben-David

October 20, 2009

J Street’s director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, published an open letter [1] to Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren in the Jerusalem Post this week insisting that he appear at the J Street Conference at the end of the month. Hopefully, Ambassador Oren will continue to deny the supposed “pro-Israel” organization the legitimacy of his presence.

J Street’s goals and policies were revealed when Stephen Walt, co-author of the venomous The Israel Lobby, recently proclaimed [2], “This is a key moment in the debate. It will be important whether Obama gets enough cover from J Street and the Israel Policy Forum so Obama can say, ‘AIPAC is not representative of the American Jewish community.’”

It’s time to call out Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s director, to answer the following questions:

1: You served as Fenton Communications’ senior vice president until you established J Street, launched in 2008. In early 2009, Fenton signed contracts with a Qatari foundation to lead an 18-month long anti-Israel campaign in the United States with a special focus on campuses. The actual text of the contract [3] called for: “An international public opinion awareness campaign that advocates for the accountability of those who participated in attacks against schools in Gaza.”

Did you sever your ties with Fenton when you began J Street? Do you retain any role or holdings in Fenton today? Did you play any role in introducing Fenton to the Qatari agents or play any role in facilitating the contract? Were you aware of the negotiations or the contract signed on March 12, 2009?

These questions are relevant because it’s important to know if J Street’s refusal to support Israel’s anti-Hamas military campaign was influenced by your ties with Fenton, whose promotional material claims: “We only represent people and projects we believe in.”

Were there discussions with Fenton prior to J Street’s refusal to condemn the Goldstone Report on Gaza, a report that certainly serves the Fenton/Qatari interests? Were there communications with Fenton surrounding J Street’s support for Rep. Donna Edwards who refused to sign a congressional resolution supporting Israeli actions in Gaza?

2: You were recently asked in an interview [4] about funds J Street received from Palestinians, Arab-Americans, and Iranian-Americans, to which you answered: “J Street does have some Arab and Muslim donors — about five. These are individuals, not organizations, corporations or foreign countries. Well over 90 percent of our money comes from Jewish Americans and Christians.”

Did you really say J Street has only five Arab and Muslim donors? A partial listing quickly extracted from the U.S. Federal Election Commission shows [5] more than 30 contributors, many with ties to Arab-American organizations.

So far, only J Street’s Political Action Committee has disclosed its contributors, as mandated by federal law. But who are the donors to the main J Street organization? Make that list public, and these pesky inquiries will probably go away.

When asked about J Street’s funding by the Jerusalem Post — the newspaper that ran the original exposé — you responded [6] “at most 3 percent” of contributors were Muslim or Arab. Now you state that the figure may be closer to 10 percent. One tenth of J Street’s budget of $3 million, or $300,000, is a substantial sum. Why do so many Arabs contribute to an organization that purports to be “pro-Israel?”

3: Do any Israelis support J Street’s agenda? How many? Look at the list of Israeli speakers appearing at J Street’s Conference, all losers in Israel’s political arena: Ami Ayalon, Colette Avital, Amir Peretz, Shlomo Ben-Ami, Yuli Tamir, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. They have all failed to secure support from the Israeli electorate or even from their own parties, so they take their messages to the U.S. and plead with the U.S. government to pressure Israel’s government, make the Israelis do things that their citizens have already rejected. The tactic is patently anti-democratic.

Two retired senior IDF officers, well-known members of the peace camp, recently went to the U.S. to speak on J Street’s behalf. When they got there they discovered that J Street opposed sanctions against Iran. According to a JTA account, Brig. Gen.(res) Israela Oron called for a “timetable that would be tied to punishing sanctions.”

“The thing that worries me and that worries other Israelis is that [current negotiations are] not limited in time,” Oron said as the faces of her J Street hosts turned anxious, adding [7]“I’m not sure I’m expressing the J Street opinion.”

Maj. Gen. (res) Danny Rothschild discovered that he differed [8] with J Street’s policies on an immediate freezing of settlements, the halting of settlements’ natural growth, and opposing tough sanctions against Iran.

And then Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz spoke to a Washington gathering in early October sponsored by J Street’s co-founder, Daniel Levy, today of the New America Foundation. When Pines-Paz was told he was wrong in “assuming that everyone on the left is aligned on Iran’s nuclear capabilities and threat, [and in agreement] with Israel’s assessment,” he exploded. [9] “Wake up!” he shouted.

J Street produced a film clip for its site and for YouTube [10] showing prominent Israelis who “speak out in support of a two-state solution and J Street.” But do they actually support J Street? View the clip carefully and discover that only three out of 11 Israelis mention J Street at all — former minister Ami Ayalon and Uri Savir. The third is former MK Colette Avital who is a J Street employee in Israel. Not quite the ringing endorsement J Street had in mind.

Even the leaders of Israel’s opposition have refused to appear at the Conference, according to sources in Jerusalem.

4: How extensive is your interlocking directorship? I believe that is the correct characterization of J Street and its allied organizations. J Street’s contributions from the heads of the Arab American Institute and Iranian lobby NIAC have been documented in these pages. They serve on J Street’s Finance Committee which has a minimum requirement of $10,000. As research continues in the files of various federal agencies, we found that the interlocking relations continue into the second tiers as well.

Take for example, the case of Rebecca Abou-Chedid. She appears in the federal elections records as contributing to J Street’s PAC. Her occupation is listed as “consultant” for “USUS LLC.” But until recently, she was also the national political director at the Arab American Institute where she “was responsible for formulating AAI’s positions on foreign policy … and represented the Arab American community with Congress as well as the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and State.” Today, Abou-Chedid is the director of outreach at the New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force. [11]

J Street co-founder and Advisory Council member Daniel Levy serves as co-director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation, an institute that benefits from George Soros’ largess and membership on its board.

Heads of other pro-Arab organizations, such as AMIDEAST, and Arab foreign agents are contributors to the PAC. But Mr. Ben-Ami claims that no organizations or foreign governments contribute. They don’t need do; their representatives do.

5: Who drives policy at J Street? It’s difficult to imagine that the unwieldy J-Street 160-member board of advisors directs policy. Some of those members are also foreign agents who worked for Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It also seems unlikely that your big bucks, 50-member Finance Committee provides decision-making guidance. That’s where the heads of the pro-Iranian and Arab-American lobbies sit.

So who directs policy? A hint was provided by a left-wing blogger, Richard Silverstein, who heard the pre-launch spiel in Seattle given by you and “co-founder” Daniel Levy 18 months ago.

“It’s always important with efforts like this to examine the board member names,” Silverman wrote. [12] “There are of course leaders of the main American Jewish peace groups. There are rabbis and academics. But most important there are heavy hitter political donors (Alan Solomont), policy wonks (Rob Malley), U.S. ambassadors to Israel (Samuel Lewis), high level political operatives (Eli Pariser of Moveon), Hollywood liberals (Robert Greenwald), business leaders, George Soros’ top aide (Morton Halperin), and even a former Republican senator (Lincoln Chafee) and former Congressman (Tom Downey). … The group founders believe that Barack Obama and his staff “get” J Street’s perspective while they believe a Clinton candidacy might not advance J Street’s mission as aggressively.” [Note, the briefing was given at the height of the Democratic primaries.]

Soros, the National Journal reported, was present [12] at J Street’s initial strategy sessions.

Anyone reading Soros’ 2007 manifesto, “On Israel, America and AIPAC [13],” will understand that he is the spiritual godfather of J Street, if not its silent sugardaddy.

“I believe that a much-needed self-examination of American policy in the Middle East has started in this country,” Soros proclaimed, “but it can’t make much headway as long as AIPAC retains powerful influence in both the Democratic and Republican parties. Some leaders of the Democratic Party have promised to bring about a change of direction but they cannot deliver on that promise until they are able to resist the dictates of AIPAC. Palestine is a place of critical importance where positive change is still possible. Iraq is largely beyond our control; but if we succeeded in settling the Palestinian problem we would be in a much better position to engage in negotiations with Iran and extricate ourselves from Iraq. The need for a peace settlement in Palestine is greater than ever. Both for the sake of Israel and the United States, it is highly desirable that the Saudi peace initiative should succeed; but AIPAC stands in the way. It continues to oppose dealing with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas.”

So it appears that Soros has created an organization that competes with AIPAC, calls for inclusion of Hamas, and opposes sanctions against Iran. His people sit on J Street’s board, and his other offspring from the New America Foundation and the National Iranian American Council, work in lockstep. It’s a scary scenario that should attract the attention of the best investigative reporters from national news outlets, but the modern day Lotus Eaters have been lulled and ensnared by J Street.

But just because they won’t ask the tough questions doesn’t mean that they don’t have to be answered.

Article printed from Pajamas Media:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:

[1] an open letter:

[2] proclaimed:

[3] text of the contract:

[4] an interview:

[5] shows:

[6] you responded:

[7] adding :

[8] discovered that he differed:

[9] he exploded.:

[10] YouTube:

[11] director of outreach at the New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force.:

[12] Silverman wrote.:


Friday, October 16, 2009

Statement From the Jewish Community Federation: “Setting the Record Straight”

by: Jim Koshland. President, Jewish Community Federation, F. Warren Hellman, Chair, Jewish Community Endowment Fund, Jennifer Gorovitz, Acting CEO, Jewish Community Federation

Setting the record straight. October 14, 2009

Months have passed since the Jewish Film Festival’s screening of Rachel and emotions continue to run high. The Jewish Community Federation has been frequently implicated and targeted in the controversies surrounding the film.

We have learned a great deal from this experience and should have more clearly articulated our position sooner and elaborated on steps the Federation has been taking. Although the Federation’s allocation, made many months prior to the 2009 Festival, provided 1.7% of the Film Festival’s funding, some in our community saw the Federation’s participation as having a greater significance.

We are committed to improving our communication, transparency and responsiveness. So, given the barrage of misinformation, let us set the record straight:

• We are unwavering in our commitment to Israel. Last year, $9.5 million was allocated in support of Israel. We were the first Jewish federation to establish its own office in Israel. For more information on our Israel programs, please see

• We oppose the boycott/divestments/sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.We do not affiliate with or fund groups that advocate for the BDS movement.

• We value the contributions the Film Festival has made to Bay Area Jewish life.The Rachel event should not overshadow the Film Festival’s successful 29 year history.

• We believe that the Film Festival made significant mistakes in its handling of the Rachel event and have conveyed our concerns accordingly.

• We strongly disagree with the Film Festival’s choice of Rachel Corrie’s mother as the event speaker as well as the co-presenters and deplore the rancorous and offensive behavior of anti-Israel attendees at the event.

• The Federation does not, nor should it, participate in the planning of Film Festival programming or in the choice of films. The Federation is a separate legal entity, funding the mission of the Film Festival. We are one of more than 115 organizational contributors to the Festival, including KGO and the Consulate General of Israel.

• We have urged Film Festival leadership to adopt new policies and proceduresto ensure that the specific problems associated with the Rachel event do not happen again, including policies addressing choice

of co-presenters and speakers.

• We believe that the Federation’s many stakeholders can share diverse opinions on how best to support Israel as a secure Jewish democracy, while remaining civil and connected as a community.

• The Federation is surprised and concerned by the counter-productive assertions of a relatively few community members, who, in the name of a pro-Israel campaign, have urged the broader community to discontinue support of the Federation. We have received letters filled with personal insults, some even accusing the Federation of anti-Semitism,

Nazism, or anti-Zionism. If successful, this campaign will seriously undermine the critical programs we support both here andin Israel.We ask you to join us in ending divisive accusations and rhetoric. The abiding mission of the Federation remains a positive and hopeful one: to build and strengthen Jewish education, culture and identity here in the Bay Area and in Israel. With the needs being more acute than ever during these unpredictable economic times, together, and only together, can we rise to the challenge.

Jim Koshland, President, Jewish Community Federation

F. Warren Hellman, Chair, Jewish Community Endowment Fund

Jennifer Gorovitz, Acting CEO, Jewish Community Federation

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Latest on the SFJFF Controversy

The ongoing controversy over the actions of Peter Stein and the SFJFF continues to “fester” Below, please find:

1. Letter of Rabbi Doug Kahn, JCRC director, that appeared in J.

2. My comments, deconstructing Rabbi Kahn’s letter.

3. Comments by others, from J web site.

In a later communication, I will make specific recommendations of what is needed to resolve this controversy. These accounts have been posted at SFJFF Watch,

JCRC director says, ‘Rachel’ rousers are off-track with attack on Federation

Even though the “Rachel” event at this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival was more than two months ago, it continues to fester.

Specifically, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, one of many institutions that have supported the festival with modest grants, has been targeted by a small group of activists.

It is one of the most unfair attacks against a Jewish institution I have witnessed in my 30 years as a Jewish communal professional — and I must respond.

Although most of our community has not weighed in about the wrong-headed decision of the SFJFF — a remarkable though sometimes uncomfortably edgy cultural institution — to politicize the showing of “Rachel,” this group of activists has decided to beat up on the Federation repeatedly because it did not capitulate to their demands.

As a result of an e-mail campaign and, most recently, a video that distorted the Federation’s role, the Federation has received waves of e-mails from community members expressing their concern about its alleged support for anti-Israel organizations (along with a considerable number of supportive e-mails).

Some of the critical, and too often uncivil, e-mails suggest that the Federation is encouraging or supporting anti-Israel activism.

Let’s get real. The Jewish Community Federation for decades has done everything possible to build support for Israel, mobilize the community to contribute to special funds during times of crisis, grow the connection between younger Jews and Israel, and strengthen Israeli society.

Our Federation was the first in the country to establish an Israel office to deepen the relationship further and the first to create a confirmation class trip to Israel as a rite of passage. It has one of the most active and innovative Israel Centers in the country. And it continues to present Israel in the Gardens at a time when other communities have quietly eliminated the largest annual show of solidarity with Israel.

In addition, the Federation also dispenses millions of dollars each year to local educational, social service, cultural and other community institutions that touch people’s lives from cradle to grave.

But given the subject of the attack, the focus here is on the Federation’s critical role in sustaining our community’s commitment to Israel.

JCRC receives Federation funds that enable us to mount the most ambitious pro-Israel advocacy campaign in the country — critically important in an area inundated with anti-Israel activism.

Hillels receive funds that enable their staffs to reach out to students to participate in Birthright Israel programs. Day schools receive funds and increasingly incorporate Israel into their curriculum. If the Federation is held responsible for the decision of an agency to co-present films with groups whose views and

behavior on Israel most of us find repugnant, then it should also be credited for every pro-Israel action by an agency it supports. That is only fair.

Let’s look at the facts.

• Many mainstream Jewish organizations and foundations sponsor, co-sponsor and co-present at the SFJFF.

• The Federation made clear its strong concerns about the “Rachel” event soon after the program came to light.

• The Federation does not endorse the co-presenters (American Friends Service Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace) of the “Rachel” event or their views on Israel. Indeed, Federation finds the views anathema and vigorously opposes the boycott/divestment/sanctions movement against Israel.

• The e-mail campaign targeting the Federation has resulted in hundreds of wasted hours — hours that could have been devoted to growing the community instead have been used to respond to unfair attacks.

• The Federation is committed to working with SFJFF leadership to ensure that the kind of polarization that resulted from the 2009 festival does not repeat.

Federation leaders represent a broad diversity of views, but in giving of themselves tirelessly, they have a common goal: to grow the strongest possible Jewish community to secure our future here, in Israel and throughout the world.

In fact, Israel activists should embrace the work of the Federation — now more than ever.

So what should happen now? The SFJFF, an important community institution with a strong following, has to take specific steps to repair the breach and rebuild trust with many in the community who were profoundly and rightfully upset.

The Federation has to ramp up its marketing and outreach efforts about the multiple ways in which it promotes a positive image of Israel.

Also, rather than leave the discussion to those with the strongest and loudest views, the voices of moderation in our community need to weigh in much more.

The vociferous e-mailers need to channel their tremendous energy into disciplined pro-Israel activist efforts so that we can put pressure on Israel’s true detractors rather than some of its champions.

Let’s all step back, take a breath and think about how all those who care deeply about Israel — from left to right — can work together in the coming year to achieve common goals. The stakes are too high to do otherwise.

Rabbi Doug Kahn is the executive director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council. JCRC is a beneficiary agency of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federationeration.

Response by Lawrence W. White MD

I am disappointed that Rabbi Doug Kahn found it necessary to use condescending language, as well as to allege non-moderate behavior by those who disagree with Federation failures. In expressing his "outrage", he has unfortunately confused the issues and added to the feelings of frustration of many in the pro-Israel community.

Rabbi Kahn is a highly capable individual, but cleverness and flowery rhetoric will not cover up the errors of omission that Federation has committed. Let us deconstruct his remarks.

He complains that the issue "continues to fester". This is because it has never been dealt with in an honest and effective manner. When there is significant disagreement, the Federation and the JCRC cannot expect the community to simply accept their "wisdom" without demurral. .

“Targeted by a small group of activists". Contrary to his claim, this is neither a small nor a fringe group, but the great majority of Israel supporters in the Bay area who have finally grown weary of having their concerns regarding the film festival ignored year after year. .

"Unfair attacks against a Jewish institution". The involved Jews have been both patient and fair. We are not a bunch of Molotov cocktail throwing crazies. We simply ask the Federation (and the JCRC) to stop obscuring the issues and deliberately missing the point. Rather we ask that you speak to the legitimate concerns of those of us battling the anti-Israel forces in our community.

the SFJFFa remarkable though sometimes uncomfortably edgy cultural institution". Sorry, the board members of the film festival have been selected more on political grounds than any other. Indeed, the film festival is more political than cultural. There was no culture or aesthetics in “Rachel” or in the discussion with Cindy Corrie, who has a single minded agenda. Further the film festival CEO has been disdainful of, and has ignored the criticisms that have occurred, year after year.

"To politicize the showing of “Rachel,” Rabbi Kahn, have you seen this film? It is not the critics who have politicized the showing. The last thing the critics are looking for when they attend screenings of the SFJFF is a political controversy. But in this case, “Rachel” itself is a political screed, and the decision to show it and to invite Cindy Corrie was a political act by Peter Stein that was a serious blow to those of us who seek to promote a fair solution to the conflict in the Middle East

“This group of activists has decided to beat up on the Federation repeatedly because it did not capitulate to their demands.” This wording is very unfortunate, and I expect better from a professional in our community. The statement is gratuitous and completely misses the point.

It’s like saying that the black community beat up on the KKK because they did not capitulate to their demands to stop lynching. No, we are frustrated by the actions of Federation because they are unwilling to act as a moral force in the the Jewish community. Federation has held itself out as being the voice of the community. In this case you failed a large segment of the community.

A key point here is that this is not really a demand, but rather a conviction that we will not continue to donate to Federation, when the money is misused in this way. We can accomplish the same goals by giving directly to the organizations that are focused on the issues that matter to us.

"As a result of an e-mail campaign and, most recently, a video that distorted the Federation’s role” There is no explanation of how Rabbi Kahn believes that the video distorted the role of Federation. This is simply an assertion, not an argument with evidence.

"The Federation has received waves of e-mails from community members expressing their concern about its alleged support for anti-Israel organizations" Not alleged. If you give the unfortunate actions of the film festival your imprimatur by donating even a small amount of money, then the support is not “alleged”. The Federation is looked to as a force that showcases the values of the community. (And Federation certainly presents itself as if that is the case) At a time when Israel is being subjected to the worst forms of dishonesty, defamation, and calumny, while the Jewish state is abused with one libel after another, we expect that our Federation will in no way give support to the voices of hatred in our community.

It does no good to say that Federation does not agree with the positions of JVP or ISM, when it supports (and the amount of support is irrelevant) a film festival that has JVP as a sponsor, and invites a representative of the ISM to be an honored guest at a screening.

"Some of the critical, and too often uncivil, e-mails suggest that the Federation is encouraging or supporting anti-Israel activism." There are errors of commission and errors of omission. This is one of deliberate omission. The absence of clear denunciation of the role of JVP and other organizations, and the failure to unequivocally be in the vanguard of those defending the Jewish state, leads to only one conclusion.

"The Jewish Community Federation for decades has done everything possible to build support for Israel” Yes, but past actions are not the point. You are being judged by your failure to react to this issue, one which we consider to be vitally important at a critical time for the Jewish state. No one disputes the good work of Federation in the past. But if Federation also fails in a vital part of its mission, that needs to be judged on its own merits.

“Many mainstream Jewish organizations and foundations sponsor, co-sponsor and co-present at the SFJFF”. Well, yes, and Germany produced Beethoven, Brahms, and Goethe, so why dwell on the National Socialists?

"The Federation made clear its strong concerns about the “Rachel” event soon after the program came to light" No, their concerns were neither strong nor really very clear, and occurred only after criticism came from the community. Federation’s role should be to lead, not react. .

The Federation does not endorse the co-presenters (American Friends Service Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace) of the “Rachel” event or their views on Israel” Why not say so at the time? Why only now? Why not use your moral standing to get those co-presenters removed?

“The e-mail campaign targeting the Federation has resulted in hundreds of wasted hours.” These wasted hours could have been avoided by being more responsible and less devious"

The Federation is committed to working with SFJFF leadership" Sorry. We believe these are empty words. The only leadership involved in this fiasco is Peter Stein, who works alone, does not consult his board who were kept in the dark about the two films in question, and has shown no sign of understanding the issues Further, he really doesn't care, as long as you continue to indulge him as you have year after year.

"Federation leaders represent a broad diversity of views" Yes, but there are certain red lines that must not be crossed. . I don’t believe Federation leaders are ready to see Israel go down the tubes, but JVP (whose director was on the board of SFJFF) is willing to. You can’t keep invoking “diversity”.

“So what should happen now? The SFJFF, an important community institution with a strong following, has to take specific steps to repair the breach and rebuild trust “ Unfortunately the film festival CEO believes that it has already done this in their recent mailing containing a non-apology. I have not heard Federation suggest that this falls short. At this point, it is clear that very specific steps are indeed required, the first being to secure Peter Stein's resignation. Anything short of this will only guarantee a repeat further down the line.

Let me be clear. Peter Stein is a decent and intelligent man. But given his actions and inclinations he should not be directing a Jewish film festival.

“The Federation has to ramp up its marketing and outreach efforts about the multiple ways in which it promotes a positive image of Israel." Start by declaring that Federation won’t support in any way those who advocate sanctions boycott, or divestment.

“Also, rather than leave the discussion to those with the strongest and loudest views, the voices of moderation in our community need to weigh in much more”. Most of those who are speaking out on this issue have indeed been voices of moderation. To imply otherwise is an attempt to silence the critics by using pejorative language. That there are many who are displeased by Federation behavior does not make them radicals or extremists. You would be advised to avoid projecting an attitude of scorn and ridicule on those who are concerned about this issue.

“The vociferous e-mailers need to channel their tremendous energy into disciplined pro-Israel activist efforts" More scorn and ridicule being delivered from on high. Well, perhaps you haven’t noticed. The emailers are precisely those persons in the community who have been active in “pro-Israel efforts”. Otherwise they wouldn’t care about this issue.

“Let’s all step back, take a breath and think about how all those who care deeply about Israel — from left to right — can work together in the coming year to achieve common goals. The stakes are too high to do otherwise.” Flowery rhetoric is no substitute for the simple actions that have been urged on Federation. No one has asked for anything unreasonable.

Other Comments

Posted by Abraham Miller

10/10/2009 at 11:40 AM

Let's Get Real

Let’s get real, Rabbi Khan; prior good deeds do not give you license to participation in a program that demonizes Israel (Rachel) and casts aspersions on the work of anti-defamation organizations (Defamation). You compelling logic is equivalent to saying Mussolini got the trains to run on time, so all else is forgiven.

Posted by Zvi_Alon

10/11/2009 at 08:08 PM

Poll the comunity - I will pay

Dear Rabbi Kahn,

I appreciate this type of communication, more than the silence the JCRC and the Federationeration adopted in the last 2 month.

I believe you have made a sincere effort in composing you response – as you said – you had to do it since this issue is “festering” and is driven by a “small” number of “activists”.

So, my dear Rabbi, the use of festering is telling the true story – can you not come out and say – we (I and the JCRC) realize we have made a mistake – this time all lines have been crossed and we did not take the proper action earlier! Hence we are going to fix it once and for all. We now realize what five SFJFF board members who resigned from its board realized that the SFJFF cannot be supported in its current mission and structure and a true change is required.

Let me assure you that this is not a small group of activists, but a large group that wants to work with the JCRC and the Federationeration and jointly set a very clear water mark so that this will NEVER repeat in the FUTURE.

You say most of us find this behavior “repugnant” but you fail to say that YOU (I) find it equality repugnant and you (I) will NOT let this happen again; that YOU will organize the community to stop this and channel the communities energy in the right direction – in other words – apply proper judgment and lead this change personally.

You enumerate the good the Federationeration is doing. Let me share my view, and I am not alone, that I am NOT AGAINST the Federationeration, the SFJFF or the JCRC. All are doing good things – but this is NOT the issue and please stop changing the topic of discussion.

If one ignores a red traffic light only once out of 100 times should they not get a ticket?

If one avoids paying Tax only once out of 1000 times should they not be punished?

If one’s child uses deadly drugs only once in 10000 times should the parents look sideways?

You will answer the above questions the same way we will, the “small” group of “activists”.

Dear Rabbi Kahn,

Start leading, by embracing the fact that a mistake was made. You should lead the effort in getting the Federationeration to adopt a simple resolution that will state very clearly that “The Federationeration should never support organizations, events or participate in funding any activities that demonize Israel or that collaborate with those who call for divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel”.

This is not about a marketing campaign you are recommending to lunch, we do not need to get retrained; reprogrammed or re-educated. We need our leaders to have the muscle to do the right thing.

If you think that we represent a small and noisy group, then go ahead and, issue an open poll to the Jewish community which is as simple as the following:

- - - - - - - - -

Dear Jew(?)

Please vote YES or NO on the following question.

Should the Federationeration adopt a simple resolution that reads?

The Federationeration should never support organizations, events or participate in funding any activities that demonize Israel or that collaborate with those who call for divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel

Yes ____ No ____

- - - - - - - - -

The results of this poll will help guide you, the Jewish organizations and all of us; if you need help the same resolution can be adopted by ALL Jewish organizations including SFJFF, JCRC and others.

I will finance these efforts and make it very transparent eliminating the need for long approval process by committees etc.

Is this not a true democracy?


Zvi Alon

A very concerned Jew

Posted by john

10/09/2009 at 10:38 AM

Doug Kahn miscasts the issue.

The issue is not the Federationeration it is the Film festival event, and the Federationeration’s lack of proper response.

The Film Festival glamorized the pro-Hamas ISM. It also co-sponsored its Federationeration funded event with the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). Those extreme anti-Israel organizations repeatedly call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

By virtue of its ongoing support of the Film Festival, the Jewish Federationeration continues to lend legitimacy to those extreme anti-Israel groups with whom the Festival had been collaborating, as well as the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which is glamorized in the event.

The whole issue would be behind us if the Federationeration would adopt a policy ensuring that it will not fund organizations that demonize Israel or that collaborate with extremist anti-Israel groups advocating boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

The issue is prolonged because the Federationeration leadership fails to respond to the issue.

One would have expected the JCRC Director to lead the effort to stop the support of organizations that defame the Jewish state, and collaborate with groups that call for divestment and boycotts of Israel.

Instead, Doug Kahn is trying to camouflage the Federationeration’s failure to respond in a fashion which will ensure that the Federationeration support will not be misused as is done at the Film Festival.

The Jewish Federationeration is an important institution in our community, and it is essential that it not support any events that involve groups that advocate boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. We all have the responsibility to speak up when we believe the Federationeration has misallocated our donations.

That is the issue, and Doug Kahn is evading it!

The Jewish community deserves much better from its Federationeration leadership!

Posted by john

10/09/2009 at 10:58 AM

Can one imagine an African

Can one imagine an African American Federationeration supporting a Film Festival with an event glamorizing the KKK, and co-presenting it with the Aryan Nation? How can the Jewish Federationeration continue to justify allocating donations raised from the Jewish community to fund a Film Festival whose programming is glamorizing the Pro-Hamas ISM and is done in collaboration with extreme anti-Israel organizations?

No mainstream Jewish organization should fund an organization or event that demonizes Israel or that collaborates with extremist anti-Israel groups that advocate boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Posted by Ron Feldman

10/09/2009 at 02:06 PM

Irrelevant Response

I’m glad that Doug has at least taken the time to respond in writing which neither he nor Federationeration representatives did to my e-mail.

However, his response amongst others in the SF Jewish Community is not sufficient and is largely irrelevant. The Federationerations other activities in support of Israel are NOT the issue, it is the Federationeration’s lack of a backbone to stand up for Israel within the San Francisco community that’s the issue.

It’s not the first time and the Federationeration is not alone. Most of the area synagogues and Jewish organizations do not stand up for Israel when it is attacked in our community. Instead they leave it to poorly funded small groups like SF Voice For Israel to be the only strident pro-Israel voice in the community.

As the other commenters mention, all that the Federationeration needed to have done in this instance was come out clearly to condemn the SFJFF and to state unequivocally that future funding for that organization and others that pull similar stunts would be at risk. Instead, to mollify the liberal anti-Israel community at large, the Federationeration and other organizations used bland “diplomatic” language that achieved nothing. Israel is under continuous attack in our country and particularly in SF. If the Federationeration can’t stand up for it, then my money will go elsewhere. Doug - your defense of this grave error is sad and embarrassing.

Posted by Jack Kessler

10/10/2009 at 08:02 AM

Answering a Question with a Question

Della D admits, which Rabbi Kahn does not, that the SFJFF “made a mistake” in showing “Rachel” And we should “get over it”. Does Della realize that this is not an isolated event but a persistent decades long pattern at the Film Festival?

The Film Festival has been running the nastiest anti-Israel films it could find year after year. Every year we object and every year Doug Kahn writes these same evasive denials.

Maybe it’s time that the Film Festival stop making the same “mistake” year after year. Maybe it is time for Doug Kahn to either put an end to it or resign.

What difference does it matter who else funds the Film Festival? How does that excuse Federationeration funding the screening of hate-Israel flims?

How does calling those who object, “bullies” and “martyrs”, excuse the Federationeration’s actions?

How is calling names an argument?

Posted by Jack Kessler

10/10/2009 at 06:27 AM

Why Didn't Federationeration Just Say 'No'?

Rabbi Kahn’s response is a masterpiece of evasion, and changing the subject. The fact is that the SFJFF sponsors an anti-Israel film festival. The Film Festival is anti-Israel EVERY YEAR. And every year we get these double-talk denials. It simply does not matter what else the board does if it persists in funding anti-Israel propaganda.

“Corrie” isn’t “edgy” as Rabbi Kahn so cutely and dishonestly put it. It is a deliberate statement of hatred of Israel.

Since Rabbi Kahn either can’t or won’t take responsibility for his actions, perhaps it is time for someone else to head the JCRC

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Jewish Community Heroes; Vote for Larry Goldberg

This just in; Lisa Cohen has sent the following message;

 Vote for Larry Goldberg - Please VOTE for Larry!!!!!!!! He deserves it! Jewish Community Heroes

From: bob & lisa cohen

Shalom. Hope your fast was an easy one if you observed Yom Kippur last year. I opened this link up today and thought I would send it because one of the many deserving recipients of this award is Larry Goldberg. Larry had the courage to speak up for Israel while surrounded by the Israel hating islamo-nazis that filled the auditorium at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. At the very least, Larry should have more votes than the undeserving Michael Lerner or Peter Stein. I am pretty sure you can only vote once so please,take the time to honor a real hero-Larry Goldberg!

I second the message, and ask you to go to the site and vote NOW. Lisa is also nominated, so vote for her also. We need to beat Peter Stein.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Federation Statement and Response via Open Letter

The Federation Statement (a response to the recent video)

For a century, the Federation has worked diligently as the face of collective Jewish philanthropy. As ever, the abiding mission of the Federation remains a positive and hopeful one: to aid the poor, the hungry, the infirm – and to build and strengthen Jewish education, culture and identity here at home and in Israel. To that end, the Federation has supported the Film Festival for 25 years. The Federation objected to the recent Film Festival event that featured Rachel Corrie’s mother as a speaker. The Federation expects its grantees to exercise responsibility and respect with regard to sensitive program choices. We have communicated these concerns to the Film Festival, and expect that they will take them seriously and respond accordingly.

We are many communities with diverse opinions, but we are one people. Rancor and vitriol cast a dark shadow on our commonalities, including our support of Israel. The Federation does not support boycott, divestment, sanctions or delegitimization of Israel. On the contrary, the Federation grants more than $10 million annually to projects designed to strengthen Israel.

Our core beliefs are anchored by a moral obligation to repair the world; toward that great and just end, as we prepare for Yom Kippur, let us begin to repair the breach in our own community and return the community’s attention to our vital work of tzedakah and tikkun olam.


An Open Letter to Federation
regarding problems with the statement

Dear Ms Gorowitz;

I have read the statement from the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, and find myself displeased with what is not said, and the unfortunate tone of moral equivalence

While the statement is clear that the Federation does not support boycott, divestment, sanctions or delegitimization of Israel, it makes no mention that the co-presenters of films shown by the SFJFF, such as Rachel and Defamation, do support these measures designed to undermine and destroy the Jewish state. .

You refer to such groups as having “diverse opinions”, as if this is simply a friendly disagreement within the family. In fact, some positions are simply “outside the tent”. Do you really believe that there are no red lines that should not be crossed?

One example; The Jewish Voice for Peace, (JVP), which was a co-presenter of Rachel, is not a supporter of Israel by any criteria.

The JVP lobbies for elimination of US aid to Israel

The JVP demonstrates at anti-Israel events, often with signs that say “Kill the Jews”.

The JVP is the Jewish arm of ISM, a radical, anti-Israel organization that recruits westerners to travel to Israel to obstruct Israeli security operations, and justifies Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians

The JVP believes that the occupation of Arab lands applies to all of Israel

The JVP believes that any attempt by Israel to defend itself is simply a perpetuation of an unjust occupation

The JVP believes that the only obstacle to peace is Israel

Your statement supports the false belief that all those who debate these issues have “commonalities” including support for Israel. The commonalities to which you refer simply do not exist, and it is time to stop trying to fit this into a neat gumbuya/we are all one formulation.

Further, the “rancor and vitriol” to which you refer is a direct consequence of the support and legitimacy given to the SFJFF by not declaring clearly that you will not support financially or in any other way groups that demonize Israel and work against the survival of the Jewish state.

It is time for the Federation to cease and desist from giving any kind of legitimacy to those whose goal is the destruction of the Jewish state. Organizations such as ISM and JVP must be held accountable, not subsumed under the rubric of “commonalities”

JVP (and other organizations that the film festival courts and collaborates with) is not a part of our “one community”. It is, in fact, a disgrace to our community, and this needs to be made clear in a forthright manner. And lest you believe that you need to be diplomatic to avoid antagonizing your donors, I can assure you that JVP acolytes will not be among the donors to Federation.

Your challenge now is to do those things required to prevent losing a large segment of the pro-Israel community from your donor rolls. Many Jews, unhappy with your actions regarding the SFJFF, have already decided to earmark their contributions and give directly to selected organizations outside of the Federation banner.

You certainly are aware of the problem. By now, you know that the Jewish Film Festival expects that your objections regarding the Cindy Corrie invitation are meaningless; they will do as they wish. It is time for Federation to make a simple declaration that you will not support, financially or otherwise, any individual, organization or event that supports boycott, divestment, sanctions or delegitimization of Israel.