In Depth: The San Francisco Guidelines

Do discussion guidelines like those created by the San Francisco Jewish Federation unite or widen the divide in the American Jewish community?

from The Jerusalem Report:

Tough Love

… But Kahn, who has been with the JCRC over 20 years, says the “schism in our community is the greatest I’ve ever seen. We’ve reached a point in the polarization that it is harder to engage around Israel at all.”

Kahn proudly tells The Report, “We have treaded where no Federation has treaded before. We may have been the first community to realize the critical need, and by no means, the last. Why San Francisco? Because Israel-related issues play out particularly intensely here. We are encountering an explosion of anti- Israel feeling here.”

Will the guidelines spread throughout the country? A spokesman for the Federation umbrella group, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), refused The Report’s requests for comments on the guidelines and would not comment on whether these guidelines will be adopted elsewhere. But in a recent New York Times article, William Daroff, vice president for public policy of JFNA, defended the San Francisco Federation’s decision. “An open exchange of views within the pro-Israel community is good,” he was quoted as saying.

“But there has to be some sort of line between constructive discussion and destructive communication that does not recognize Israel as the eternal home of the Jewish people.”

In contrast, Dr. Steven Nasatir, president of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, tells The Report, “We don’t need guidelines on how to behave as far as Israel.” Other Jewish organizations around the country, however, have in fact created similar policies to those in San Francisco. Rabbi Howard Alpert, executive director of the Hillel of Greater Philadelphia, tells The Report that in March his group passed a “set of policies regarding use of Hillel resources for Israel or other controversial programs.”

Alpert says that his group’s focus, however, is different. “Our primary question is, how do we create an inclusive Jewish community among Jewish students, recognizing that there are parameters? We want to cast as wide a tent as possible.” Those parameters, he says, include the exclusion of “anyone advocating harm to the Jewish community, or boycotting and other punitive measures against Israel.”