Your article last week, “JCC Festival Accused of Hurting Israel,” was seriously misleading. Recent events in the Middle East, with potentially dire consequences for peace and democracy in the entire region, remind us all of the importance of our political and economic connections and the messages they send to the broader community.
We want to assure our members and the community at large that the JCC does not support “Boycott, Divestment, Sanction,” or BDS, in any form, nor do we fund, endorse or promote the message of any organization that does so. We stand firmly in support of Israel and in opposition to BDS activities. We take these concerns seriously, and we choose our partners and affiliations with care.
On Jan. 27, the executive director and a member of the board of the JCC met with Richard Allen, at his request. We acknowledged that he had raised important issues and assured him that the board of the JCC would complete its already begun process to better understand the issues and take appropriate action to ensure that the JCC’s mission is not being compromised.
Your article, by amplifying Mr. Allen’s accusations, implies that the JCC is a willing accomplice in extremist actions against Israel. That is completely untrue. We are a passionate supporter of Israel and we actively partner with Israeli organizations that deepen the connections between disparate communities of Jews. Your article alarmed us because it reported claims that misrepresent and fundamentally misunderstand the overwhelming thrust and focus of the myriad of JCC programs that successfully implement the JCC’s mission to promote community that embraces diversity, which is rooted in Jewish values and which increases connections to the people of Israel.
We understand that Mr. Allen and some others believe that any relationship, no matter how tenuous, to any group that has ever taken a public position that is critical of Israel and its policies is an implied endorsement that should not be tolerated by any Jewish communal organizations. However, the JCC is determined to provide a forum for open discussion and cultural and other events that promote our mission and serve our community, and we will resist narrowly focused efforts to circumscribe activities that do so. We make decisions every day about what programs are worthwhile and consistent with our mission. This sometimes involves sensitive judgments about which groups intend to strengthen Israel through constructive criticism and which groups do not have Israel’s best interests at heart. We are justifiably proud of the rich programming we offer.
With all of the external threats facing our community and Israel, we believe it is more important than ever to foster a genuine exchange of views without pointing fingers or painting well-meaning efforts with a broad brush of guilt by association. We urge The Jewish Week to be mindful of these issues and more balanced in its future coverage.
and Alice Gottesman
JCC in Manhattan