The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations rejected the membership application of J Street, an organization that bills itself as pro-Israel and yet has frequently criticized the Jewish state.
The full membership considered the organization’s application Wednesday after the group’s membership committee decided that it was qualified for admission and forwarded it without any recommendation.
JTA reported that the vote of the 51-member organization was 17 in favor, 22 against and three abstentions. J Street needed a two-thirds majority of the entire membership, 34 out of 51, for entry.
In a statement, J Street said it was “disappointed” that its application had been rejected.
“This is a sad day for us, but also for the American Jewish community and for a venerable institution that has chosen to bar the door to the communal tent to an organization that represents a substantial segment of Jewish opinion on Israel. …
“In many ways the vote illustrates one of the key reasons that J Street was created in the first place and why we continue to grow: a large segment of the American Jewish community feels that it does not have a home or a voice within its traditional structures.”
It went on to say it was “heartened by the tremendous support we received from many of the largest and most prominent organizations in American Jewish communal life who urged their fellow members to join them in building a robust and representative community body, among them: Union for Reform Judaism; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Anti Defamation League; the Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbinical Assembly; United Synagogues for Conservative Judaism; National Council of Jewish Women; and HIAS. We also understand that we received the votes of a number of other large organizations that chose not to go public.”
Under the rules of the Presidents’ Conference, an organization needs a two-thirds vote of the membership to gain admission.
In a statement, the Presidents’ Conference pointed out that some current members did not initially receive the necessary votes for membership and gained admission after reapplying.
“The present membership of the conference includes organizations which represent and articulate the views of broad segments of the American Jewish community and we are confident that the conference will continue to present the consensus of the community on important national and international issues as it has for the last fifty years,” it said.
In its statement, J Street said it had applied to the Presidents’ Conference “because we value Jewish community and the concept of a broad tent of pro-Israel organizations that truly represents our community’s diversity and dynamism. Unfortunately, our bid was thwarted by organizations on the right of the community who do not share those same values.”
“Since our inception six years ago, J Street has been a fast-growing, vibrant organization that has proudly advocated policies supported by a majority of Israelis and American Jews,” it said. “We have quickly become a vital, thoughtful and refreshing voice on Israel, welcomed by many in the Jewish community and by many previously alienated by it. When an organization like ours is kept out of the American Jewish community’s official Israel umbrella organization, despite broad support, we should all be asking ourselves some hard questions.”