‘Forward’ says B’nai Jeshurun retrenched on Palestine statement under pressure from wealthy donors

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On December 4 the NYT broke the B’nai Jeshurun rabbis’ brave statement in support of the Palestine upgrade at the UN, and it became the most emailed story of the day. After that the progressive rabbis backed off somewhat from their statement, and issued a clarification saying they were passionate lovers of Israel and that they apologized for not consulting with others before issuing the original statement. The Forward says that Rabbi Rolando Matalon read a further apology to the congregation from the pulpit a week ago.

Reporters Seth Berkman and Larry Cohler-Esses looked into the pressure on the progressive rabbis, and they chalk it up to wealthy donors:

The rabbis’ [subsequent] apology from the pulpit took place as a group of B’nai Jeshurun members was organizing to press the synagogue to establish clear policies on the rabbis’ future freedom to speak out unilaterally on public issues.

Sally Gottesman, a vice president of the synagogue board who supports the rabbis’ stand, indicated she thought the group, which reportedly includes some important donors, was having an impact. “I think they are putting on real pressure,” she said. “Minority voices often know how to make their voices heard. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Gottesman stressed that she was addressing the issue only in her personal capacity as a congregation member, not in her official role with the synagogue board.

Marvin Davis, who is a Manhattan real estate mogul and one of the reported key members of the ad hoc group, declined to comment on the matter when reached by the Forward.

Another individual involved with the group, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, described it as an informal “group of wealthy people.”

This is the tragedy of Zionism in American Jewish life. The most powerful segment of the community is the older, conservative wealthy portion, the folks who haven’t studied the issue since 1973. The young Jews who organize against Birthright don’t have money, don’t have clout. This is why Obama ran away from the settlements question with his hair on fire and tried to get to the right of Romney during the general election, money. This kind of story only makes the Follow the money story more important. Hat’s off to the Forward.

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