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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

J Street becomes mainstream in Boston

If I was going to pick one Jewish community in the US where this was most likely to happen, Boston would have been high on the list (in fact, I can't think of anyplace other than San Francisco or Washington where the Jewish community comes anywhere near being as left-liberal as Boston). The Boston Jewish Community Relations Council admitted J Street as a member two weeks ago, and that means that the radical Leftist anti-Israel organization now has its hands in the communal till.
Lacking community support for its hard-left positions, J Street seeks a foothold inside establishment Jewish groups to push its policies to counter mainstream efforts defending Israel and, at the same time, to claim it speaks for more than a small fringe.

On May 25, 2011, the group scored big in Boston, when it was voted onto the Jewish Community Relations Council.

The saga began in January 2010 when the JCRC ignored its own bylaws and allowed J Street to slip in the back door, without applying like all other groups. This happened without discussion, without a vote, without a shred of publicity. The group was simply added by committee, via supposedly absorbing an existing member organization, Brit Tzedek V’Shalom, which was closing down.

No coverage followed in The Jewish Advocate. Nothing. The wider Boston Jewish community had no idea the group had been admitted to what is assumed to be the mainstream voice of Boston Jews on various issues, including aspects of Israeli policy. The facts only emerged nearly a year later when the group’s director, Jeremy Ben Ami, was disinvited from a speaking event at a Newton synagogue. In media reporting on the controversy, it was noted that J Street was a JCRC member.

Even the Combined Jewish Philanthropy’s Barry Shrage was surprised by the revelation, though the council is heavily funded by CJP. Shrage checked into the story and was told of the Brit Tzedek–J Street merger.

Damage-control efforts ensued, including the announcement that all 41 JCRC organizational members would be rescreened for adherence to membership requirements – an unprecedented measure and a transparent effort to deflect focus from J Street’s irregular admission.

CAMERA, a national, Bostonbased organization and council member for 20 years, asked renowned non-profit law specialist Bruce Hopkins about the Brit Tzedek–J Street merger. His response was that J Street’s admission to the JCRC was clearly “illegal.” Brit Tzedek V’Shalom, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization – and J Street’s backdoor route to JCRC membership – cannot, in fact, legally merge with J Street, which is a 501(c)4 lobby. Non-profit groups receive tax-deductible donations; lobbies do not.

Adding to the deception, Brit Tzedek V’Shalom is not actually defunct; it filed a governmentrequired annual report in January 2011 – a full year after J Street claimed Brit Tzedek had disappeared.

CAMERA provided all this information to JCRC officers and to member organizations. But many in the JCRC are J Street allies and so, again, the council ran interference for the group. This time J Street was made kosher by a retroactive name change.

Instead of J Street being on the council, it would be J Street Educational Fund – a 501(c)3 adjunct of J Street. The yearand a-half-long membership, during which time J Street was seated unlawfully while pushing through radical policy recommendations, would be retroactively legitimized!

This was all perfectly fine with most of those attending the May 25 meeting. Even a proposal to postpone a vote and have J Street finally apply in a normal process without special treatment and in the full light of day was voted down. In the final tally, 9 voted against admission, 11 abstained and 56 voted for the group. These numbers include as many as 41 “community representatives,” individuals whose vote is the same as that of someone speaking for an organization with thousands of Boston-area members. Notably, several of Boston’s largest Jewish organizations were absent, abstained or voted against.

Many Jews in Boston would be appalled to know how the JCRC bent the rules for J Street.
Read the whole thing.

In light of this story, I suppose I should not be surprised that I was in Boston when this happened and did not hear a word about it.

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