J Street’s Bumpy Philadelphia Road

Now that Brit Tzedek has merged with J Street, we’re witnessing the rapid growth of  “J Street Locals” proliferating throughout more than 20 regions across the country.  (I’m happy to be attending the launch of J Street Chicago at Emanuel Congregation this Thursday night and even happier to hear that a healthy turnout is expected).

I’m dismayed, tho, to learn that J Street Philadelphia‘s debut is receiving more than its share of ridiculous attacks from certain corners of the Philly Jewish community.  I’ve just read that even Penn Hillel has come under fire for renting out its facility to this “anti-Israel” group.

According to the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent:

A flap over Hillel of Greater Philadelphia’s decision to lease its space to J Street — for the official launch of its Philadelphia branch — is just one local manifestation of a debate that has roiled much of the national Jewish establishment since the advocacy organization was founded nearly two years ago…

Gary Erlbaum, who sits on the Jewish Community Relations Council’s Israel advocacy committee and is also a board member of the Jewish Publishing Group, has been outspoken in his opposition to J Street, and is upset about Hillel’s decision to host the group’s Feb. 4 event.

“What makes them pro-Israel? If the Palestinians had a lobby, it would be called J Street,” said Erlbaum. “The Hillel building is an inappropriate spot for a group that’s anti-Israel.”

Oh, for God’s sake. A group committed to supporting the two-state solution through a diplomatic means while safeguarding Israel security and its future as a Jewish and democratic state is somehow “anti-Israel?”

You know, sometimes when I’m feeling really, really optimistic, I dream about what it might feel like if the American Jewish community actually could tolerate the kind of vigorous and freewheeling debate that they enjoy in the actual Jewish state itself.  (Now wouldn’t that be “pro-Israel?”)

10 thoughts on “J Street’s Bumpy Philadelphia Road

  1. My hope is that reasonable people will begin to see these charges against J Street as so ludicrous that they will cease to pay them any attention. And, who knows, maybe it will lead some to give J Street’s position more of a hearing.

  2. This kind of attack is actually encouraging, because it shows that J Street is growing at a pace that frightens AIPAC and its mainstream supporters. A movement like J Street is only worth attacking when it starts to persuade a significant number of people and erode their once knee-jerk support.

  3. I am attending the JStreet Philadelphia launch. I think it is interesting, that the worst “anti-Israel” charges the opponents put in their op ed is supporting Goldstone. I actually think JStreet should do much more to support Goldstone, they are being pilloried for supporting it anyway, might as well take the moral position!

  4. I believe one of the weekly Jewish papers had an attack on J Street last week. I didn’t save it, but wish I had. Totally inappropriate, but probably influential.

  5. Very strange. According to local.jstreet.org NYC gets as many locals as Eugene OR, Maine gets 2 chapters-the same number as New Jersey, which is still twice as many as all of Florida gets.

    Fortunately Detroit get a local for all the Jews who are still there.

    Doesn’t anyone at JStreet know where Jews actually live?

  6. [Amazing, I once had a pen pal in Evanston when I was in 5th grade at PS 135 in Queens NY which would be about 1958]

    Anyway, back to J Street. Is it truly “pro-Israel” or actually pro-Obama is the question. Shall we try to reconstruct what we know about J St. by, in the liberal tradition, upon ourselves to plurality in debate by trying this:
    http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/showdown-on-j-street/ as well as this: http://www.thecuttingedgenews.com/index.php?article=11863

    and my contributions:
    http://myrightword.blogspot.com/2009/08/follow-j-street-money-trail.html
    http://myrightword.blogspot.com/2009/08/j-streets-jeremy-ben-ami-threatens.html

    1. Yisrael,

      Delighted to be your latest Evanston pen pal!

      For the record, J Street was founded well before Obama became President. It was created with the primary purpose of building American political support for a negotiated two-state solution – which was also the policy of the Bush administration, by the way.

      As a matter of fact, even Bibi Netanyahu is now on record as supporting the two-state solution. So what is it exactly that makes J St. an “anti-Israel” organization?

  7. Dave,

    J Street Launches are happening in 21 cities where Brit Tzedek v’Shalom previously had chapters. Chapters operated in cities in which volunteers stepped forward to organize them. The two organizations integrated in January and this is the first event bringing together the constituencies under the mantle of the new J Street Field Program. J Street will soon be hiring 4 additional professional organizers and most certainly expanding into key geographical areas.

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