JFNA Tosses Israel Critic from Heroes Contest
The national umbrella organization for Jewish federations has removed harsh critics of Israel from an online voting contest designed to identify “heroes” within the Jewish community.
One of the excluded nominees, Jewish Voice for Peace Deputy Director Cecilie Surasky, was among the top 10 vote getters in the Jewish Community Heroes contest when Jewish Federations of North America officials pulled her name from the contest website.
Surasky’s organization takes no stand on a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict – today seen as a litmus test in much of the Jewish community for upholding Israel’s continued existence as both a Jewish and democratic state. JVP also does not condemn the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel and was instrumental in organizing a protest at the JFNA’s 2010 General Assembly, at which the protesters disrupted an address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“One of the core values of the Jewish Federations is to support Israel, and our Jewish Heroes rules preclude us from accepting nominees whose aims run counter to our mission,” said Joe Berkofsky, a JFNA spokesman.
But JVP alleges that the contest changed its rules partway through. A comparison of current and cached versions of the JFNA’s website shows that the initial rules were amended to state that nominees are ineligible if they are “nominated for a cause that runs directly counter to the ideals of The Jewish Federations of North America.” No such language was evident a week before Surasky was removed.
Berkofsky denied that contest guidelines were amended. “The rules were never changed,” he said. “If anything, the rules were just clarified. The rules were always the same.”
… In a press release, JVP pointed to the presence among the top vote-getters of Manis Friedman, a Chabad rabbi who in 2009 declared his belief in “the Jewish way” to fight a war against the Arabs: “Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children (and cattle.)” He later retracted the comments.
Surasky alleged that the JFNA was treating her group differently than right-wingers who opposed JFNA policy.