Wednesday, June 3 was designated this year as “Jewish Unity Day,” established by the City of Jerusalem and Gesher, an organization that seeks to close the gap among Jews of different denominations. It comes a year after the kidnapping and murder of three teenage boys in Israel, a tragedy that, however briefly, brought the country together and linked Jews of the diaspora with their brothers and sisters in the Jewish state.
To mark the occasion, Jewish Unity Prizes were presented to individuals and organizations from Israel and around the world, honored for strengthening communal understanding.
It’s an inspiring concept and one we hope will become more widely known. Not surprisingly, JCC Watch, a local grassroots group that seeks to hold “Jewish communal groups accountable,” according to its website, was not among the prize recipients. Far from it. The group has been conducting a campaign against prominent Jewish organizations and individual leaders for allegedly supporting BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel. JCC Watch seemingly sees no distinction between a gift to the progressive New Israel Fund, which advocates for equality among all Israelis, and calling for the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Surely there are legitimate political and ideological issues at play in determining who is in or out of the Jewish communal tent. But the JCC Watch’s latest effort may be its most brazen, announcing in a headline on its website that “your donations to UJA go to delegitimize the State of Israel.”
That’s quite a stretch, an irresponsible claim in the spirit of the McCarthy era. It’s based on the notion that UJA-Federation is responsible for the personal donations made through the Jewish Communal Fund (JCF), a donor-advised fund. Operating like charitable funds at Schwab, Fidelity and Vanguard, JCF is made up of more than 1,500 individual funds established by donors. Those donors recommend where their contributions should go and support charitable giving to thousands of organizations.
Some of those individual donations go to groups like New Israel Fund or B’Tselem, which monitors Israeli actions in the West Bank. Such groups are viewed by JCC Watch as destructive to Israel.
But UJA-Federation, which established JCF, does not provide any grants to the New Israel Fund, and has nothing to do with the JCF grant process, which is up to individual donors. JCF also has its own board and its own 501-c3 status.
JCC Watch knows all that but prefers to confuse the public. Not only does it stir up trouble in the spirit of communal disunity and discord, it does harm to the State of Israel we all seek to strengthen, each in our own way.