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.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Video; SFJFF Exposed ; Action Needed

The video highlighted in the post from Ploni Ben-Ploni has been creating a major sensation. Both Federations, who have provided financial support to the SFJFF, are considering statements regarding future support. Prior to the video, many within the Federation communities had hoped that this would die down, but such is not to be. The SFJFF will have a statement out next week (more on that later)

This is a story with implications far beyond the Bay area. Should Jewish organizations be funding propaganda designed to destroy Israel via boycotts, divestment, sanctions, and incitement (right out of the Julius Streicher playbook?)

A Call to Action

This issue has some urgency. By virtue of its ongoing support of the Film Festival, the Jewish Federation continues to lend legitimacy to the extreme anti-Israel groups that co-presented or provided other means of support to the Corrie event.

These include Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Rachel Corrie Foundation (RCF), and the International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

The damage caused by the Jewish Federation's granting of respectability to these extreme organizations can only be undone when the Federation unambiguously states that it will not support organizations or events that demonize Israel or that collaborate with those who call for divestment, boycotts, sanctions against Israel or banning aid to Israel.

 We all have the responsibility to speak up when we realize that our donations to the Jewish Federation are being misallocated. The Jewish Federation is an important institution in our community and it is vital that the Federation remains true to its mission.


* The San Francisco Jewish Community Federation:

Jim Koshland, President -
Jennifer Gorovitz, Acting CEO -
Rabbi Doug Kahn, Exec Dir JCRC -

* The East Bay Jewish Federation: Rabbi James Brandt CEO -

Tell them:

The Federation that you fund should never support events or organizations that advocate boycotts, divestment, sanctions against Israel or banning aid to Israel, and it shouldn't collaborate with those who do.

We can continue to donate to the Federation only when it stops its involvement with the SF Jewish Film Festival (and any other such events or organizations that defame and demonize Israel or Jews).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shocking video: the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival - Exposed

This two-part short film about the 2009 SF Jewish Film Festival speaks more eloquently than a 100 blog posts about what is wrong with the Film Festival and how important it is that organized Jewish community act to ensure that something like this never happens again under Federation auspices.

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival - Exposed (Part 1)

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival - Exposed (Part 2)

There are many shocking moments in this film.  To my mind, perhaps the most obscene is the treatment of the sole pro-Israel questioner, who was jeered, manhandled and bullied as he tried to, as some are fond of saying, speak truth to power.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Sokatch Saga

As we all know, Dan Sokatch and The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco have parted ways. Mr. Sokatch is leaving and taking a position as CEO of the New Israel Fund.

Many questions are being asked. Did this have anything to do with the Film Festival fiasco? Or with other controversial matters? Is he leaving of his own volition or was he pushed?.

After talking to several people and connecting the dots, here is my assessment of what has happened.

Dan Sokatch is a young, capable, and idealistic man who once studied for the rabbinate, but switched to public advocacy and administration where he thought he could be more effective.

Sokatch founded the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) about a decade ago as a vehicle to “bring the Jewish community into the 21st century” Sokatch can best be situated among those Jews who believe that social justice should be the central organizing principle of American Jewry. And with the PJA he was able to realize many of his core passions.

A little over a year ago, the SF Federation was seeking a new Executive Director. Three features hovered over Federations background that helped color subsequent events

First, donations had been steadily declining, from a peak of 17 thousand families to al little under 11 thousand, in a community of 250,000 Jews. Some way need to be found to turn this around.

Secondly, for the past 20 plus years the San Francisco Federation had developed a reputation as being more left-leaning than comparable Federations in other cities. Some of their allocations went to organizations of the sort that more likely to be supported by the New Israel Fund. Further, the commitment to Israel had been declining, much to the dismay of other Federations around the country, .

Despite this, progressive Jews in the Bay area were suspicious of Federation as being too “old guard”, too committed to Israel with a reluctance to criticize the Jewish state, and demonstrating a long-standing failure to address their concerns. In fact, Federation has always sought consensus and tried to meet the needs of the entire community.

It made some kind of sense to think that someone like Sokatch would be comfortable with the changing philosophy of Federation, would allay the suspicions of the progressive community, and would lead to the involvement of significant numbers of progressives, both financially and personally. And so the job was his.

Sokatch was welcomed into the Federation family with much enthusiasm. Universally, there was good feeling about the hire. But there were two red flags that were ignored.

First, it is never prudent to have a broad based organization like the Federation run by a political operative who represents only one part of the political spectrum. Sokatch’s background was clearly in liberal advocacy, albeit in a Jewish context. When a Federation CEO is not identified with a political bias, the various members of the Jewish community can each project their own personal beliefs and values onto the director.

Secondly, and more specifically, prior to his hiring he had been involved in the founding of J Street, and was on their advisory board. J Street is a progressive political group founded as a vehicle to challenge the strong political support for Israel that had been nurtured for many years by such organizations as AIPAC. In addition, J Street viewed itself as the Jewish cheerleaders for Barack Obama. When the President wanted to lean on Israel, J Street gave them cover within the Jewish community.

While mainstream Jewish activist groups had used their clout to lobby on behalf of the American-Israel relationship in such areas as foreign aid and Iran sanctions, J Street took contrary positions However, for the leaders at the SF Federation, wishful thinking trumped any real consideration that this might be a problem. It was accepted at face value when J Street labeled itself as pro-Israel, despite the fact that it was perceived by many as an alternative to AIPAC, an organization that represents the entire spectrum of pro-Israel orientation. Further, J Street had been organized by persons who had marginal commitments to the welfare of Israel. .

Over the past year, a number of things have happened that caused tension between Sokatch and the lay leaders of Federation.

The first, and the most important of these, was the community-wide outrage at the actions of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF). The festival, under the directorship of Peter Stein, has had a history of showing films that were often considered anti-Israel, and has come under heavily criticism for this. But this year, criticism reached a fever pitch with the decision to show the film “Rachel”. This is a political polemic designed to enhance the martyrdom of Rachel Corrie, a young woman accidently killed by a bulldozer while attempting to stop the IDF from destroying a home in Gaza that was protecting smuggling tunnels.

The problem was magnified by the fact that the festival arranged to have the Jewish Voice for Peace, an outspoken anti-Israel group, and the American Friends Service Committee, as cosponsors

To compound this, the film festival showed a second film, “Defamation”, which mocked concerns about anti-Semitism, ridiculed the Anti-defamation league and Abe Foxman, trivialized the Holocaust, and lionized such figures as Norman Finkelstein, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. The final blow was an invitation from the Film Festival to Cindy Corrie, mother of Rachel and a propagandist for the International Solidarity Movement, a radical group with ties to Hamas.

These poorly conceived decisions by the SFJFF sparked vigorous and broad based outrage, which quickly spread into the national media. . Since Federation was one of the financial sponsors, there was a call for them to defund the festival. Both Peter Stein and the Federation leadership responded to this controversy in a way that can only be described as tone-deaf. They insisted that this was simply an example of “diversity”, and defended the decisions of the SFJFF on\ the basis of catering to a broad range of opinions.

Sokatch was placed in a difficult position. If he spoke out against the Festival, he would antagonize his progressive supporters. But if he failed to do, he risked alienating many of those who considered this to be a moral issue.

Federation and its supporters were determined to hang tough. They were not going to give in to what they thought was simply one more group complaining with little cause about Federation. Further, they attempted to garner support for the film festival director, encouraging letter writing campaigns. One additional piece of support for Stein came when he was nominated for an award by the United Jewish Communities as a community “hero”. All indications are that the nomination originated from within the walls of Federation.

The film festival critics were persistent, and criticism of Stein and the Festival board quickly evolved into a threat to boycott Federation. It appeared that Sokatch might replace Stein as the villain-in-chief.

Secondly, the J Street connection rankled. AS the year went by, J Street was exposed as an anti-Israel lobby group despite their pro-Israel claims. They helped raise money for lawmakers who took critical positions on Israel, and they vocally opposed the Gaza war. The last straw for many came when it was revealed that J Street donors included individuals who had been associated with pro-Palestinian and pro-Iran groups,

At the same time, Sokatch did not entirely sever his connections with J Street, and is slated to be a speaker at their convention in October. It almost seemed as if he were testing the limits of what was acceptable.

Finally, significant donations from the progressive Jewish community did not materialize. Since this was one of the main reasons for his hire, this failure was not helpful.

Despite the fact that there was tension, and that Sokatch became progressively more controversial, his leaving appears to be his own decision. The position as CEO of the New Israel Fund became available; he initially turned it down, but as things became more sticky, he accepted it. There is no reason to believe that he was pushed out,,and he is leaving with considerable good will.

Dan Sokatch is a decent and highly capable person. He is sincere about his commitments, and believes strongly that he is doing the right thing for the future of American Jewry. However, I believe that there are significant problems with Sokatch’s thinking.

The first has to do with his belief that social justice should be the core organizing principle for American Jewry. There is little dispute that social justice is an important component of Jewish thought and action. But if it is to be the central principle, then the question can be asked; why be Jewish? There are many secular organizations that do excellent work in the realm of social justice. And while we must be aware of and attend to social justice as an important feature of Judaism, there are other enduring features, such as religious belief, study of Torah and other texts, and a commitment to the existence of the Jewish state as part of our heritage. We are a diverse people, and not all Jews will be comfortable with all these roles. But without any of these things, and with only a strong commitment to social justice, why not simply join “Ethical Culture” or be active in the ACLU?.

In addition, Sokatch appears to be a man who is unable to recognize that those who disagree with him on some matters are not all simply reacting reflexively and without thought in the name of support for outmoded policies There is reflexive uncritical thinking across the entire political spectrum, and brilliant ideas come from individuals of both the left and the right. If Dan Sokatch can absorb this, he will go far.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

JTA blog: "Sokatch not pushed", but was offered new gig 4 months ago and declined

Jacob Berkman at the JTA Fundermentalist blog claims that Sokatch was not pushed out but goes on to say
Sokatch, according to insiders, found himself in the middle of a few major controversies in San Francisco, including the heated debate this past summer over the decision by organizers of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival to screen a movie about Rachel Corrie, the pro-Palestinian activist who was killed when she lay down in front of an Israeli bulldozer as it was about to raze a Palestinian house. Several foundations were outraged by the decision and then pushed to the brink when the film festival decided to invite Corrie’s mother to speak.

Sokatch had to put out a fire between a hyper liberal San Francisco Jewish populous and major foundations that were upset with the film festival. In the end, he publicly said that he thought the festival should have invited a wider range of speakers, not just Corrie’s mother.

He later irked some of the community’s more conservative factions by agreeing to speak at the upcoming conference of J Street, a new organization that has lobbied for U.S pressure on Israel (and the Palestinians) and criticized Israel's invasion of Gaza.

and adds

Sokatch, according to one insider very close to the situation, was offered the NIF job four months ago and turned it down. But only recently had a change of heart.

We’ll see if this version of the story holds as more people weigh in over the next day or so.


In any case, good riddance!

Breaking: Sokatch out at Federation!

Has the SFJFF fiasco claimed its first victim?  Daniel "J Street" Sokatch is out at the Federation.  It will be interesting to learn if he jumped, or if he was pushed.

Here's the email from Federation prez Koshland and from Sokatch regarding the departure:
From: Jim Koshland <>
Date: Tue, Sep 15, 2009 at 3:19 PM
Subject: Important letters from Daniel and me

Dear Agency Presidents and Executives,

It is with real regret that  I announce today that the Officers of the Federation have accepted Daniel Sokatch’s resignation.  Daniel is to become the leader of the New Israel Fund, allowing him to have a global impact at this most critical juncture in Israel’s history.

We have dearly appreciated the leadership and vision that Daniel brought to the Federation, and take great comfort in knowing that we’ve accomplished so much in such a relatively short time. Among these myriad achievements: We raised more than $22 million from the community—no mean feat in these difficult and challenging economic times; our Endowment Committee provided crucial funding to fill the gap where the need was greatest; and, we launched the JCF Catalyst, which not only provided emergency funds to the neediest in our community, but also strengthened our synagogues and began the innovative series of projects that take us into the future with optimism and an abiding spirit of hope.  From a more international perspective, our Federation, Endowment Funds and Supporting Foundations sent more than $160 million toward important and deserving projects in our local community and throughout the world.

We are pleased to announce that the able and talented Jennifer Gorovitz, who has been with the Federation for five years—most recently as Chief of Staff—will become Acting CEO. Prior to her already distinguished tenure at JCF, Jennifer practiced law for a decade and is a first-rate manager and leader.  She has our  confidence and trust; we look forward to working with her.  We welcome her and wish her very good luck, indeed.

Please also join me in thanking Daniel Sokatch and wishing him the best of luck in his new position.  Please see his letter to the community below. 


Jim Koshland, President

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Enclosed please find important announcement letters from Daniel and myself.  
 Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I am writing to let you know that I will be resigning my post as CEO of the JCF in order to assume the leadership of the New Israel Fund.  This was not an easy decision for me, as I am genuinely sad to be leaving the Federation and its rich history of 100 years of tikkun olam and tzedakah, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead a global organization at a particularly critical time for Israel. 

Still, I feel completely confident that I leave the organization in capable and passionate hands . I am so very proud of the Federation and all we have accomplished together over the past year. I take great pride in our mutual and committed efforts to  accomplish our goal that the Federation—and our Jewish community—remain relevant, vibrant and dynamic in the 21st Century. It is my hope that our meaningful progress continue ever onward.

Thank you so much for sharing in this most-important and vital cause; you should all be justly proud. I will miss each and every one of you.

Sincerely, and with heartfelt appreciation,

Daniel Sokatch

Monday, September 14, 2009

Letter to Peter Stein from Tammy Benjamin

Dear Mr. Stein,

I have just seen a recent e-solicitation of yours (forwarded below), extolling the virtues of independent Jewish films and exhorting members of the community who appreciate the value of such films to donate to the SFJFF. In your letter, you also indicate that one of the reasons you are asking donors "to step up" their donations now is that "our detractors are calling for us to be defunded," implying that your "detractors" are motivated by a desire to stifle independent Jewish films.

As one of the many members of the Jewish community who has been calling for the SFJFF to be defunded, I would like to respond to your egregiously disingenuous solicitation.

Far from a desire to stifle independent Jewish films, we are calling for the SFJFF to be defunded because of your disgraceful mishandling of the "Rachel" event. Permit me to remind you of why we feel this way:

1) You refused to cancel the screening of "Rachel" and the talk by Cindy Corrie, despite the fact that many members of our community, including several Holocaust survivors, described how enormously hurtful and offensive this program would be to them and to the entire Jewish community.

2) You refused to cancel the "Rachel" event, despite knowing that "Rachel" director Simone Bitton and Cindy Corrie had engaged in efforts to harm the Jewish State, including the following:
Simone Bitton signed a petition in January of this year calling on the UN and EU to impose immediate sanctions against Israel.
Cindy Corrie has called for an end to all U.S. aid to Israel, and she is closely allied with the International Solidarity Movement, a group which has aided and abetted Palestinian terror against Israel.
The Rachel Corrie Foundation, which Cindy Corrie heads, promotes divestment and boycotts against Israel; attacks mainstream Jewish organizations such as AIPAC; and funds "Birthright Unplugged," which, according to the ADL, "counters the Taglit-Birthright Israel trips...providing a distinctly anti-Israel view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

3) You refused to disavow the Jewish Voice for Peace and American Friends Service Committee as co-presenters of the "Rachel" event, despite knowing of the numerous actions that both of these organizations have taken to harm the Jewish State and her supporters, including the following:
JVP supports divestment, boycott and sanctions against Israel; engages in anti-Israel political lobbying; encourages Israeli youth to refuse to serve in the IDF; viciously attacks major Jewish organizations that combat anti-Semitism, such as the ADL, CAMERA, the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Stand With Us; was a major sponsor of the virulently anti-Semitic Sabeel conference in 2007; and marched at an anti-Israel rally in San Francisco alongside groups holding banners calling for the destruction of the Jewish State. (Just recently the JVP issued a statement supporting the boycott of Israeli films celebrating Tel Aviv at the Toronto International Film Festival. I guess the JVP isn't keen on independent Jewish films, except those that demonize Israel).
AFSC calls for and supports divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel, and the organization's Bay Area leadership -- including "Rabbi" Lynn Gottleib, co-director of Middle East Programing for AFSC Pacific Mountain Region and a member of the National Advisory Board of JVP -- has called for vandalizing Israeli products at local stores such as Trader Joe's.

4) You refused to acknowledge that the "Rachel" event indeed turned out to be an unmitigated anti-Semitic, anti-Israel hatefest:
The audience at the event was, overwhelmingly, virulently anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, and it included some of the most vicious enemies of the Jewish State in this country, such as ISM and SBM leaders Paul Larudee and Donna and Darlene Wallach, who openly support Hamas and work towards the destruction of Israel.

Virulently anti-Israel organizations used the event as an opportunity to recruit new members from among festival attendees.
Members of the audience behaved like hooligans and thugs, booing, hissing and heckling token pro-Israel speaker Mike Harris, perversely applauding the mention of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and cheering the mention of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's name. One person even yelled out "Seig Heil" twice during Harris' talk, each time accompanied by full Nazi salute.
When JCRC board member Larry Goldberg attempted to ask the only question that was critical of the event, an SFJFF staff member tried to grab the microphone away from him. According to Goldberg's own account: "We wrestled for the microphone as a second member of the staff advanced on me. The crowd immediately started booing me and yelling as I struggled to keep my grip on the microphone. I could hear a woman's voice across the aisle yelling, 'Shut him up, shut him up.'" Goldberg concluded: "The afternoon was simply the worst experience for our community in many years."

For these reasons, until you:
publicly admit that the "Rachel" event was an egregious lapse in judgement on the part of you and the SFJFF board, and apologize to the Jewish community for the hurt and anguish you have caused in the community;
produce and publicize a written policy statement indicating that you will never in the future show films or bring speakers that demonize Israel or her supporters;
publicly repudiate JVP, AFSC and any other organization which seeks to harm the Jewish state or her supporters, and ensure that these groups will never be allowed to participate in future SFJFF events in any way;

I will continue to:
encourage the hundreds of people bcc'd on this email, and the thousands more who will read it on the internet, to withhold any and all financial support to the SFJFF, as well as to the Jewish organizations that fund the festival;
call for your resignation and the resignation of the entire SFJFF board.

What do you say, Mr. Stein? Will you do the right thing?

Many of us look forward to your response.


Tammi Benjamin

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Disingenuous: Peter Stein, CEO of the SFJewish Film Festival

Disingenuous; –adjective

1. Not straightforward or candid; insincere, cynical, or calculating
2. Pretending to be unaware or unsophisticated; faux-naïf.
3. Unaware or uninformed; naïve.

Peter Stein has just sent out a fundraising letter on behalf of the SF Jewish Film Festival. I reprint it here;


What does independent film mean to you?

If you answer the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, you’re not alone. Here’s why:

SFJFF films explore themes that humanize the Jewish experience -stories
of what it feels like to be a misunderstood bat mitzvah, of the process of learning to accept yourself for the size and shape that you are, of the delicate dynamics of a Holocaust survivor's family

SFJFF films tell little-known Jewish stories- tales of Ethiopian Jews caught between tradition and assimilation, of a group of Jewish alumni from Newark who cared enough to restore their high school to its former glory, of how young Orthodox filmmakers document their experiences.

‘SFJFF films entertain- stories of brazen and hilarious civil disobedience, spontaneous mid-life adventures and cutting-edge animation from Israel.

SFJFF films ask challenging Jewish questions- whether idealism can make a difference in the Middle East conflict, of what solace can be found when a loved one is held captive, of the Jewish response to anti-Semitism.

It is precisely for these reasons --- for being an arena for art, d\dialogue, and independent ideas, that SFJFF is renowned as a world leader. It is why we are able to attract the highest quality films and the respect of filmmakers.-.why we are the only Jewish film festival that the National Endowment for the Arts regularly supports. and why our audience is among the most discriminating. Unfortunately, it is also for these reasons that our critics are threatening to defund us. Today, more than ever, we must rely on people like you for support.

If this year's San Francisco Jewish Film Festival left you feeling entertained, touched, intellectually, stimulated or positively moved, please take this moment to support us financially.

Gifts from people like you make up 75% of our budget. Please reach deep and give all you can. Gifts can be made through our website- fest.sffiorg/about/membership or via the enclosed.

With profound gratitude,

Peter L. Stein
Executive Director

Either Peter Stein doesn't get it, (or he gets it but assumes that his audience is too dense to get it)

Does he really believe that these are the reasons why some are working to remove his funding? Those who wish to see him cut off from community funds base their commitment on deeply held principles, and not on the trivial reasons given by Mr. Stein.

The film festival has always been free to do as it wishes artistically. However, when the films it shows cross the line into partisan politics, use dubious arguments, and rely on polemics, then the festival is no longer serving up art but rather is in the business of indoctrination.

And when that indoctrination is contrary to the interests of the Jewish community and our core values, it is very appropriate to sit up, take notice, and work to fix the problem.

To understand the real reasons for opposing funding for Peter Stein, all one needs to do is read through the offerings on SFJFF watch , or read the articles by Jennifer Rubin, Abraham Miller, Ronald Radosh, Jamie Glazov, David Hornik, and others. These writers have explained clearly why many of us wish to deny community dollars to Peter Stein and his questionable agenda. Stein would certainly be advised to educate himself on these issues; he owes the community no less.

The film “Rachel”, directed by Simone Bitton, has a political agenda, and is fundamentally dishonest. It is designed to glamorize the work of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and to use an unfortunate young woman as a martyr to oppression of the Palestinians by Israel. Along with the accompanying visit by Rachel’s mother, who tours the country on behalf of ISM, it helps spread the gospel of hatred.

Peter Stein invited Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, to speak after the screening in San Francisco. Because of strong protests, Stein brought in Dr. Michael Harris, who was given five minutes before the screening to make the case against the film, and more importantly to give the appearance of fairness. As many predicted, the film attracted a disproportionate share of Israel bashers, who were there to worship Rachel and the ISM. As one would expect, Dr. Harris was booed, while the Iranian dictator Ahmadinejad was applauded. By contrast, Cindy Corrie answered softball questions for over an hour from an obsequious Peter Stein.

Dr Abraham Miller has revealed the real agenda as follows;

"the documentary tours film festivals along with Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother and a propagandist for the likes of Hamas and the International Solidarity Movement — groups committed to Israel’s destruction.
Peter Stein, the festival’s director, knew exactly what he was doing in selecting this film. Stein was familiar with both Bitton’s work and her politics. He invited the American Friends Service Committee, now helping with the boycott of Israeli goods, to participate in the showing. Stein also had on his board Rachel Pfeffer, the interim director of Jewish Voice for Peace — a group committed to the destruction of the Jewish state. (Since Rachel Pfeiffer’s outing as JVP director, her biography on the festival web site has been thoroughly cleansed.)"

The other problematic film, “Defamation”, is in many ways an even more dangerous film. It is a diatribe against Holocaust memorializing, and makes the fight against anti-Semitism seem like a small-minded endeavor, pursued by foolish and petty people. . It trivializes those concerned with these matters, depicting the ADL and its staff as buffoons, showing those Israelis who are concerned about the Holocaust as dinosaurs living in the past, and strongly suggesting that Yad Vashem exists to make Jews angry so that they will persecute Palestinians.

The heroes of the film are John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the two individuals who attacked the “Israel lobby”, indirectly raising issues of dual loyalty, and implying that it was impossible to have a rational discussion about Israel. (This is the same message given by Jimmy Carter, who schleps his book all over the country and has a forum wherever he wishes)

Walt and Mearsheimer are portrayed as calm, rational academics, shown in serene book filled offices, working against the hysteria of those who uncritically support Israel.

The film lionizes Norman Finkelstein, a man who once suggested that Elie Wiesel was the clown prince of the Holocaust and has written a book to the effect that the Holocaust is simply an "industry" rather than the central tragedy, physical and psychic, for Jews born in the 20th century.

Finkelstein, though not a Holocaust denier, has become the darling of deniers, and of a gaggle of anti-Israel groups who love to hire him to speak at their functions (Speaking of an industry; Finkelstein is doing very well at this endeavor)

Many of us grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust. The fears thereby engendered are not ancient history. We believe fervently in the survival of a Jewish state. We consider this to be a moral issue. And while those who work against that goal are free to have their beliefs, we are not obligated to have them promote those messages on our dime.

The issue here was framed by Jamie Glazov who asked:

“Why is a Jewish film festival giving a platform to a documentary and to an individual that serve the cause of anti-Jewish hate?”

Why indeed. And herein lies the real reasons why we believe the community should not fund the SFJFF, not the reasons given by the ever duplicitous Peter Stein.

The Affection of the Wife Beater

Many of the organizations devoted to demonizing to Israel claim to be motivated by concern.  Their constant attacks are nothing more than an expression of love and a desire for improvement.

This is bunk. They are, in fact, the affection of the wife beater, who demonstrates his warm feelings for his mate with his fists.

We've recently seen how the SFJFF expresses its love for Israel: by sponsoring films and presentations by Israel-bashers and by facilitating a verbal pogrom against the Jewish state.

The SFJFF is not the only "pro-Israel" organization which can only hurt the one it loves.  J Street, the anti-AIPAC lobby with which Federation CEO Daniel Sokatch is associated, has raised Israel-bashing as pro-Israel activism to a high art, as explained by Jennifer Rubin on Commentary's Contentions blog:


Jennifer Rubin - 09.08.2009 - 5:21 PM

J Street has apparently gotten so much flack about its perpetual criticism of Israel and cheerleading for every Palestinian propaganda point that the J Street team has been forced to come up with a “Myths and Facts About J Street” crib sheet. Let me just say that if a Jewish organization has to put out a statement denying that it is anti-Israel, pro–Mary Robinson, is funded mostly by Arabs, and has defended a nuclear-armed Iran, then they might as well pack it in. Suffice it to say, you don’t see the ADL or AIPAC or any other genuinely pro-Israel group in such a defensive crouch.

Moreover, some of its “defenses” are rather, well, pathetic. Let’s take just two. On Mary Robinson, J Street says it never defended the choice of Mary Robinson for the Medal of Freedom Award. The “defense”? They were mute! Only their friends defended her. No, really:

J Street never issued a single statement related to Mary Robinson. Individuals associated with J Street’s public relations firm may have done some personal work on the issue — but that had nothing to do with J Street, just as the firm’s work for dozens of other clients is completely unrelated to J Street.

Wow, that sure settles that.

Then there is Iran. J Street denies it has defended Iran’s nuclear program. Well, they haven’t defended it. They just don’t think we should, you know, do anything about it:

As of the early fall of 2009, we are not of the opinion that the time has come for Congress to move ahead with further sanctions. We agree with those who are calling for ’strategic patience’ at this moment of unrest and uncertainty in Iranian domestic politics and continue to urge Congress to give the diplomatic and political processes currently underway more time to unfold.

I think the mullahs are the one’s calling for more and more and more time to “unfold.”

And so it goes: J Street doesn’t support U.S. negotiation with Hamas; it just thinks Hamas is too important to ignore:

Ultimately, a political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will require Palestinian political reconciliation and we support efforts by third parties to achieve reconciliation and a unity government, whose officials will work within a diplomatic process to achieve an acceptable two-state solution. Further, we would not oppose a decision by the Israeli government, the United States, or other countries to find unofficial, indirect ways to engage Hamas in order to advance U.S. and Israeli interests.

Sort of easy to see how these “myths” take hold. It seems that crack team at J Street’s PR firm that defended Mary Robinson isn’t very good at its job. But then it has an impossible task—trying to convince the Jewish community that they really, deep down, support a strong and secure Jewish state.

It's time for the wife-beaters among us to fess up: they've got a problem, and their habit of taking it out on Israel is simultaneously ugly and psychologically revealing.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

JPost: Aiding the Destroyers Among Us

"Really, Mrs. Corrie -- Israeli Jews make matzah
out of Palestinian babies? How interesting!"

Hmmm. Sound like a situation that we might be familiar with here?

Israeli and Jewish Israel-bashers constitute a major, perhaps insuperable, obstacle to any attempt to defend Israel in the court of world opinion. Anyone attempting to defend Israel abroad will inevitably be confronted with some statement characterizing Israel as a racist, apartheid state, perpetrating war crimes against the Palestinians, from the mouth of an Israeli academic or journalist. The fact that the source is Jewish or Israeli is assumed to provide credibility.

Sadly, many Jews who care deeply about Israel's existence help fund its delegitimization.

More here: Think Again: Aiding the Destroyers Among Us.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Open Letter to Dan Sokatch, CEO SF Jewish Community Federation

Dear Mr. Sokatch;

I am writing because I am disturbed at the direction that the Federation has taken in its support for the SFJFF, of Peter Stein, and of their programs.

I will not recount the damage done by the screening of "Rachel" and of "Defamation", the use of Cindy Corrie, the sponsorship by JVP, and the unfortunate use of language by you, as well as attempts to reframe the issue by Peter Stein. Others have gone over these issues in great depth.

To claim, as you have, that the SFJFF is independent and that you do not interfere in their programming may be technically true, but misses the point. This would be true de facto if no money from the Federation, or any other form of support, was given to them. However, as this is not the case, you are in part responsible for their actions and any harm that they do to our community. And this being America, you of course can do as you wish; you have only to accept the consequences.

It is certainly true that the SFJFF has done much good over the last 29 years, including reaching out to unaffiliated Jews. However, if they are not careful, all of the good done over 29 years will be annulled by a few bad choices. And I speak of really bad choices, not just films that are edgy or present a somewhat marginal point of view.

If the festival selects films based on the politics of their director and executive committee, they have a responsibility to display caution and due diligence. Not every film that elicits opposition is automatically provocative and deserving of a "discussion". I doubt that we would agree to screen a film that defended the practice of lynching (Birth of a Nation), or glorified Hitler (Triumph of the Will). Would Peter Stein claim that these are wonderful films, with outstanding directors (as they were considered at the time), and though controversial, should provide food for thought?. There are some things that are simply beyond the pale, no matter how many persons may want to see them. . The fact that some may like these films is irrelevant; morality is what matters.

You have received many letters from Federation donors expressing their strong feelings, and their determination to withhold support from Federation. I understand you believe that the Federation can tap the pocketbooks of "progressive" Jews who have not previously been involved, thereby expanding your base of donors. Anyone who has been involved in community work, in politics, or in non-profit fundraising, knows that ignoring your base is always a mistake. I suspect that you will lose far more than you will gain from the few, if any, progressives who decide to support Federation.

What to do?

First, you need to stop using buzz words like "diversity", or "depth of feelings and convictions", and start treating members of the community as adults.

Secondly, you need to stop taking actions to defend and promote Peter Stein. Recently, the UJC recieved a nomination for Peter Stein as a community hero; there are strong reasons to believe that the nomination came from Federation. This, along with a letter writing campaign by staffers, must stop. Federation must not take sides in such a volatile dispute, especially when the side that you take is that of persons who do not wish our commuhnity well.

These issues are too important. Your choice of hanging tough rather than recognizing this as the serious crisis that it is serves no one.

I understand that you believe that this is just another instance of a sour dissident group unhappy with Federation, who are balanced by those who support the SFJFF. Let me assure you that those who are upset with your actions are thinking persons of substance, and that this is a much larger crisis than you seem to believe. It is one which you ignore at your peril. Pandering to our enemies (I am not overstating the case) will achieve a loss of respect for you personally, and ultimately a loss of dollars for Federation.

Lawrence W. White MD

Where is the Outrage; Hatred Comes to the Bay Area Jewish Community and it Comes From Some Jews

I have lived in the Bay area since 1995. I have seen many instances of anti-Semitism coming from Jews, including demonstrations by members of Jewish Voice for Peace, Women in Black, and others, often in collaboration with Palestinian groups. I remember how some of these groups shut down a speech by Benjamin Netanyahu in Berkeley about eight years ago, and the claim by a Jewish leader of one of these organizations (MECA) that “not everyone deserved free speech”. I remember demonstrations in front of the Israel consulate which threatened to turn violent. I have read anti-Semitic diatribes in the pages of the Berkeley Daily Planet.

But for the first time, the larger community has reacted vigorously to these outrages. The catalyst was the showing of the film “Rachel” by the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, and co-sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). The JVP has nothing to do with peace and is questionably Jewish; it has become an ostensibly Jewish mouthpiece for the allies of Hamas. Along with the showing of Rachel, Cindy Corrie, a flak for the International Solidarity Movement, was gently interviewed by Peter Stein, the Jewish film festival director. You will read below how that showing degenerated into a hate fest.

Despite the clear outrage, the SFJFF believes that they simply started a dialogue about something with two presumably equally valid points of view. (By their reckoning, Birth of a Nation, which defended the Ku Klux Klan, or Triumph of the Will, which glorified Hitler, might also be merely controversial and deserving of discussion). The Jewish weekly, “J” ran a point-counterpoint spread presenting both sides of the argument (see Larry Goldberg’s article below). “J” saw no need or value in taking sides. The Film Festival, controlled by a director and board who are far left ideologues, has issued no apology and defend their actions on grounds of aesthetics and free speech (The film was a political polemic, not a well crafted documentary with aesthetic value)

And the Federation of SF? They are not taking sides either. Their new CEO comes from a progressive background, and is one of the founders of the far-left “J Street”. Presumably he does not wish to alienate his base. Perhaps he really believes that there is nothing wrong in showing propaganda put out by a pro-Hamas group. Perhaps he believes that progressive Jews who hate Israel will suddenly start giving money to the Federation.

Federation’s minimal response consisted of carefully chosen non-committal words, along the lines of ‘Hey, not us. We have no control over what they do’ Well, never mind that the Federation gives partial funding to the SFJFF. And never mind that the community donates its dollars to that same Federation. And never mind that we expect some leadership on moral issues that affect our community. Is there not some reason to expect our leaders to express some judgment regarding this anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate fest? Where is the outrage?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Memo to Peter Stein; SFJFF Screening for 2010

To: Peter Stein;
From: Lawrence White;

Subject; It is not too early to consider screening for next year.

I recommend that for 2010, SFJFF consider the film described below. There is no downside to doing this.

Jewish Voice for Peace, which advocates talking to Hamas, will support it. The Corrie family, who spend a lot of time in Gaza, will love it. The ISM, active in hiding terrorists, will co-sponsor it along with Women in Black. This will serve to expand the ranks of our viewers, garner more controversy, more publicity, and more viewers. .

And for the rest of the Jews? Federation will not get involved, except to throw money raised from the community at us. They will tell us that SFJFF is an independent organization, they will not tell us what to screen,

A little discussion/dialogue within the community is a healthy thing, and this movie will certainly accomplish this. We need to get past bland pro-Israel programming and look at the issues that divide our community. These differences must be aired. Not everyone is pro-Israel, and we need to accept that we are American Jews, not Israeli Jews, and our concerns are different.

It is time to look at other voices. This film was made in Palestine. The director is a gifted young man educated in Germany. It has received applause and praise from viewers in Gaza. It will likely be shown at Cannes,

We have shown many films made in Israel. What's wrong with one film from Palestine?

Perhaps we can invite someone from CAIR or the Muslim Brotherhood to discuss the movie in a Q and A led by you (Peter Stein) , (microphone to be carefully guarded so comments only from those who love the movie.) And oh yes, if those pesky Zionists make a lot of noise, we will let them have a few minutes before the film to air their tired grievances. (What's wrong with those people? Don't they have lives?)

See you at the movies.

Hamas goes to the movies
From The Independent
By Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza

The audience in the Gaza Strip clapped and cheered as the actor delivered the movie's most memorable line – "To kill Israeli soldiers is to worship God".
Imad Aqel, which premiered at the weekend, is the first feature film produced by the Islamist Hamas movement and the title is the name of a Palestinian militant whom Israel held accountable for the deaths of 13 soldiers and settlers.
Director of Hamas feature film hopes it will air at Cannes Film Festival
Hamas's first dramatic feature film depicting the life top Hamas operative Emad Akel was aired publicly on Monday to cheering crowds in the Gaza Strip, Al Jazeera reported.
The film's director Majid Jundiya who studied film in Germany said that he hopes the film will be shown in the Cannes Film Festival, and added that the film is one of Hamas's first attempts at breaking into the media industry.
The film received applause and praise from the viewers in Gaza.
The $200,000 budget movie tells the story of Emad Akel, commander of the Hamas military wing, who was killed in a firefight with Israeli troops in Gaza in 1993.
Akel, 23 at the time, was known as "the ghost" for his many disguises, including dressing up as a Jewish settler with a skullcap. In the early 1990s, he topped Israel's wanted list for his suspected role in killing 11 IDF soldiers, an Israeli civilian and four Palestinian informers in a series of attack.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

After the Stain, What is to be done?

In 1915, D. W. Griffith presented "Birth of a Nation", a blockbuster film that presented a positive view of the Ku Klux Klan. The film was hailed for its pioneering innovative camera techniques, for its special effects and artistic techniques. It was widely viewed, breaking all existing box office records. Unfortunately, it was also dishonest. It claimed reconstruction was a disaster, that blacks could never be integrated, and that the Clan's violent actions were justified. The film was filled with fabrications, and lack of accuracy. More importantly, it promoted white supremacy and gave sustenance to American racism. It was the catalyst for riots in major American cities as gangs of whites attacked and murdered blacks. Despite this, President Woodrow Wilson described the film as "all so terribly true" Thus we saw the power of film to influence public policy and morality.

I suspect that in 1915 there were well-meaning folk who defended showing "Birth of a Nation" it on the grounds of esthetics, free speech, and the promotion of "healthy dialogue" around "divisive issues". The Cindy Corrie's and Peter Steins of the day undoubtedly claimed that the film promoted healthy dialogue and promoted social justice.

Fast forward to the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF). As the French say, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, (the more things change, the more they remain the same). As most of my readers know, the festival chose to screen a documentary film about Rachel Corrie, a young member of the ISM who was accidentally killed after she chose to enter a war zone in which the Israeli army was operating to destroy the infrastructure hiding smuggling tunnels. In addition, the festival invited her bereaved mother, who has been on the lecture circuit preaching hatred, to come and talk about the film. Further the film is not subtle in its condemnation of Israel, presents no context to explain why Israel was destroying the tunnels, or how the ISM deliberately creates “martyrs”. Further, the film is directed by a person well-known for her anti-Israeli bias.

Thus, a film that promotes a point of view both dishonest and dangerous, that uses the tragic death of a naïve and uninformed young woman to further an amoral agenda, has now been shown at a Jewish film festival. Like its predecessor of 1915, it is filled with fabrications, and like its predecessor, it is designed to provoke and inflame the darkest of passions. And the response was, predictably, a near riot resembling a gathering of brown-shirts in 1930s Germany.

I have previously written about the role of Peter Stein, director of the SFJFF, in this sordid affair. Stein’s presence at the helm of the festival has been the major problem. With more astute guidance, this blunder never would have occurred.

Let me be clear. Peter Stein is not an evil man. In fact, I believe that he is well-meaning. He is knowledgeable about the esthetics and the production of film. Unfortunately, Stein is out of his depth as director of the SFJFF. . He has not a clue about community and group dynamics, and lacks any understanding of the historical and sociological background of the films that he is screening or the audiences to whom he is presenting. He fails to appreciate how film can be used (and often misused or abused) as a polemical device, one that has been dangerous historically. And he is completely unsophisticated about the ethical and moral requirements of a civilized society

Screening this film, inviting Cindy Corrie, and appealing to an audience of anti-Israel folks, were all errors of judgment. And there were many individuals who warned him of these errors. Rather than examining the arguments on their merits, or engaging his critics, he chose to go into lockdown mode, trying to reframe the debate as an issue of free speech, or of esthetic freedom, or of healthy dialogue between different points of view. It never occurred to him that there are some points of view that are simply too abhorrent to be discussed.

Quite apart from the message of hate, this has cast a serious cloud over the Jewish Film Festival. After all, it is the board and funders of this organization who selected Peter Stein and did little to guide him in the need for caution and circumspection

Consider the many mistakes he made. For starters, the selection of the film showed no ability to distinguish between a one-sided political polemic and a serious and informative film. To not understand that this is a propaganda piece designed to discredit the Jewish state, is to fail to be attuned to the needs of the Jewish community.

Secondly, Stein wrote a publicity piece about the film in which he took the inflammatory words of Jewish Voice for Peace and disseminated them as fact in order to promote the film. This material, presumably representing his own point of view, runs contrary to any concept of truth and justice. His positive statements about Rachel Corrie, and about the film director Simone Bitton, his claim that at worst Rachel was "perhaps naive", while on the other side there was an "inadequate military investigation", show an ignorance and bias inappropriate for the director or a major film festival.

Third, after the controversy erupted, he remained oblivious to the consequences of his insistence on showing the film, and of inviting Rachel Corrie’s mother, an activist representing forces of hatred and division. He demonstrated a willful ignorance of the moral implications of his actions.

Fourth, Stein refused to give serious consideration to the many admonitions from community leaders. Most advised against showing the film, and almost all advised against inviting Cindy Corrie. Stein stonewalled, claiming to be an honest broker in trying to promote a dialogue, and insisting that the show must go on. That this would become a hate filled event was no secret to those who warned Stein about the wisdom of showing the film and inviting Cindy Corrie. That he chose not to listen led to the predicted fiasco, one which might have been avoided.

Fifth, Stein did not understand what was happening the night of the showing of the film. It is instructive to watch video of the presentation by Mike Harris prior to the film, to understand how completely this event was simply another hate fest. The people who treated Dr. Harris with rude jeers are reminiscent of the same people who shouted down Dan Pipes when he was in Berkeley and who prevented Benjamin Netanyahu from speaking to a group here a few years ago

Despite the one-sided display by much of the audience packed with Zionophobes, despite the hatred received by Dr. Harris as he attempted to give some balance to the film, Stein chose to lob softball questions at Cindy Corrie after the film, showing no thoughtfulness or reflection about what had just happened.

Finally, anyone can make errors of judgment. But after seeing unequivocal evidence of the error, Stein could not bring himself to acknowledge that he may have made a mistake and suggest positive steps to prevent a recurrence.

What Stein did say was the following;”This has become a lightning rod for a tremendous controversy: Is it appropriate for a Jewish film festival to screen a movie critical of the Israeli government?” (Italics added)

These few words show that either he is attempting to reframe the issue or totally fails to understand the problem. Changing the terms to "critical of the Israeli government", thereby treating it as a legitimate political debate, can best be labeled as "nice try" But he still doesn't get it. The movie is not about the point of view of the Israeli government (at the time of Corrie's death it was a left of center government).

The movie glorifies a woman and organization that were dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state, not the replacement of the government. These are people who support organizations that glorify suicide bombers, and worship a man (Ahmadinejad) who has promised to commit a second Holocaust,

It cannot be ignored that a board member of the festival, Rachel Pfeffer, was the national director of Jewish Voice for Peace, and wrote a letter to "J" referring to the showing of the film as part of the film festival’s message of "social justice"

Let me be clear. Contrary to Stein's claims, this is neither an artistic nor a political issue. Neither is it a “teachable moment”. It can only be described as a moral issue. The pro-Corrie people support organizations that favor annihilation of the Jewish state. The other side seeks a lasting peace for all those living in the Middle East. What is there to debate?

I applaud Michael Harris for being willing to enter the belly of the beast and face the derision of modern day yahoos and ISM groupies, The hostile crowd might have become violent at any time. Dr. Harris’ words after the event bear repeating. As he put it

"The question that this poses to the Film Festival, and its supporters and funders, is this: Is it appropriate programming for the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival if it attracts an audience that not only boos a pro-Israel speaker, but applauds not only at the mention of boycotts/divestment/sanctions against Israel but even worse, at the mention of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?"

That is the key question that should be addressed. Instead Peter Stein is still making excuses.

If the perpetrator is Peter Stein and those on his board and staff who supported him, the victim is the Jewish film festival. An annual event that ought to be grounds for celebration has been badly stained. Not every controversy merits discussion; a civilized society does not debate the pros and cons of racism, of slavery, of genocide. . Sometimes dialogue lends credibility to matters that should be kept under a rock.

Stein’s bad judgment and obstinacy have brought discredit to the SFJFF. The festival board, the Jewish community, the San Francisco and East Bay federations, the funders and the various organizations that support the festival need to ask themselves how they permitted this to happen and more importantly how they can rectify it to prevent any continued deterioration in the reputation of the film festival

An initial step would be to replace Peter Stein and consider changing the composition of the film festival board

Peter Stein as a "hero" of the Jewish community

As we all know, Peter Stein is the director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. It was he who decided to screen "Rachel" and "Defamation". And he was the one who invited Cindy Corrie, mother of Rachel and supporter of ISM, to appear with the film "Rachel".

Now there appears to be a desperate rogue operation to honor Peter Stein. The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella group for the various Federations as well as successor to the UJA, is running a competition for heroes within the community. This year, Peter Stein, director of the SFJFF has been nominated.

(In response to demands from the community, by the time you read this the nomination may have been removed)

On the UJC website, it appears that the nomination came from the East Bay Federation. However, the CEO of the EB Federation states they had nothing to do with the nomination, and indeed his other statements about the film festival confirm that. At this point, no one knows where the nomination came from.

I was one of those who mistakenly sent out emails about this, that held the East Bay Federation responsible. This was based on the entry on the UJC website, as well as the funding for the film festival by both the East Bay and the SF Federations. Mea culpa, I apologize, The question now is how did this happen?

Here is what the nomination says:
"Peter L. Stein directs the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the oldest and largest Jewish film festival in the US. He has brought the festival through countless storms. Most recently, he stood his ground in introducing a controversial film, "Rachel," to the festival's audiences. Stein deserves to be celebrated because he sees the role of a Jewish community organization and its leader as grappling with the complexity of modern Jewish life, not circling the wagons in defense against it. Peter Stein has been a peacemaker. When the Jewish community was divided politically, as it often is, he has refused to take sides but has been willing to bring people -- and ideas -- together."

Can you believe this?

Stein and some of the powers within the SF Federation have been busy getting people to write letters in support of Stein, the film festival, and the Federation. (See recent issues of "J") So the question is, did some of these same supporters enter this nomination as a desperate measure, basically attempting to "make a purse out of a pig's ear", (pardon the metaphor), i.e. to turn a deteriorating situation into something brave and "heroic"?

Both Federations have known of this since last week, but as of this morning have not removed the nomination or tried to learn who was responsible. Some persons in the community suspect that one or both CEOs are trying to have it both ways.

Federation is bleeding donors as a result. This is tragic, since with the exception of the film festival, the Federations do outstanding and important work. But the CEOs have mishandled this. Even though it appears to be a rogue operation, they have been slow to respond, raising further suspicions. Nothing will stop this except full candor and full disclosure.

SFJFF: Brutus, and Jewish Voice for Peace.

In Shakespeare’s "Julius Caesar” Mark Antony gives the famous "Friends, Romans, Countrymen" funeral oration. In this speech he repeatedly condemns Brutus, but each condemnation is followed by "But Brutus is an honorable man" implying that Brutus' actions are virtuous.

As we all know, the now infamous showing of "Rachel" was cosponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). This organization routinely describes itself as a "supporter of Israel." This is the same distortion used by J Street. The formula is to take the most dangerous positions on Israel, then add "but we are pro-Israel" I refer to this as "the Brutus disclaimer".

The words and actions of JVP show this to be grossly inaccurate. The JVP has been pushing for boycotts, sanctions, divestment, and withdrawal of US aid to Israel. This is a strange form of "support". The JVP regularly delegitimizes, demonizes, and slanders Israel. It makes common cause with Hamas. It provides a platform to avowed anti-Zionists and anti-Semites who wish for annihilation of the Jewish state. It routinely collaborates with the most extreme anti-Israel organizations, including ISM and ANSWER.

By co-sponsoring Rachel with JVP, the film festival is collaborating with Israel haters. It is of interest that selections of persons to serve on the film festival board are not based on knowledge of film or of Jewish culture, but rather whether one has sufficient left wing credentials. Zionists are not allowed.

Funding by the San Francisco and the East Bay Jewish Federations provides the imprimatur of community support. In addition to a waste of our valuable dollars, they are thereby providing respectability and legitimacy.

Anyone who doubts the role of Federation should go to the following website;

Surprised? Shocked? I was. I will have more to say on this. Stay tuned.