Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin

Really J Street??

Ok, its official, my mind has been blown.

If you’ve read my other essays, it will not be a shock to you that I’ve never agreed with J Street’s supposed “Pro-Israel and Pro-Peace” mission. However, one point made by J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami in his most recent “Word on the Street: Difficult Questions and Hard Truths” has taken me over the edge.

In making his main points, Ben-Ami states “Failure to solve this conflict is eating away at support for Israel around the world, damaging the country’s legitimacy and, in some cases, fanning growing flames of anti-Semitism.”

Wait, what?

Did he just insinuate that the horrible, quickly increasing anti-Semitism all over the world, INCLUDING now the United States, is due to Israel’s inability to “solve the conflict?” Only a week ago, Rabbi Joseph Raksin (Z’L) was brutally murdered on his way to Shabbat morning services. While at the moment this is not being investigated as a hate crime, with violent anti-Semitism swiftly increasing around the world and specifically anti-Semitic incidents occurring in this neighborhood in Miami, it’s difficult not to see the connection. News reports from this past Shabbat in Miami show a community in a state of terror, with police escorts supervising observant Jews walking to the synagogue and Jewish parents scared to let their children play outside. It’s hard to believe that this is really happening in the United States in the year 2014.

In the subsequently published J Street position paper “Aim for Conflict Resolution, Not Just a Ceasefire” there is NO mention made of concern for the increase of global anti-Semitism. There is, however, significant concern and attention given to the “rise in intolerance and racism among the Jewish community” as it states “From the revenge killing of Muhammed Abu Khdeir to the very public anti-Arab pronouncements by members of the Knesset and by ordinary citizens, voices of hatred and racism have emerged and actions have occurred that run counter to the most basic of Jewish values…The growing lack of tolerance for political dissent and for opposing viewpoints should be of grave concern to Jewish leaders in the United States and in Israel. Racism and intolerance should have no place in our community.”

Yes, racism and intolerance should have no place in our community or the world at large and that includes racism and intolerance towards our own people. I’m shocked and deeply troubled that J Street appears to have a double standard when it comes to racism and intolerance. They feel that Jewish leaders expressing hatred and racism is “of grave concern” however, Jews being terrorized around the world at an ever increasing rate is “no big deal” or certainly not a big enough deal to be worth mentioning in their position paper. Have they forgotten WHY the early Zionists formed the first Zionist Congress to begin with? Why Theordor Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat? Why so many young bourgeois Jews from Kiev and Odessa picked up and left their homes to build a new state for the Jewish people?

Oh, wait, I forgot! As Ben-Ami states, it is OUR OWN FAULT, that anti-Semitism is increasing around the world. If the Israeli government would just sit put as rockets rain down, and ceasefire after ceasefire is broken by Hamas, ALL would be cool!

Mr. Ben-Ami, allow me to let you in on a little secret of Jewish History, anti-Semitism has existed for over 2000 years and will continue to exist no matter what course of action the Israeli Government takes to protect the Israeli people. When my great-grandparents farm was burned down to the ground by the KKK in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1935, the only reason was that my great-grandparents were Jews, pure and simple.

Yes, I do believe that racism and intolerance are bad and I do believe that given the correct security circumstances, a two-state solution may be the proper course of action for a long term solution for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but to ignore issues of physical safety of Jews around the world and to blame the Israeli government for murder, violence, and terrorism towards global Jewry is inappropriate and irresponsible.

To misunderstand that is to misunderstand why the Jews need a stable and solid homeland to begin with. Just this past year, J Street leadership cried foul when they were not voted into the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. After reading the most recent statements made by J Street during Operation Protective Edge, it has been made very clear to me that once you blame the Jews for anti-Semitism, you have really simply gone beyond the pale.

So I ask: Really J Street? Why do you really supposedly support the existence of a State of Israel? What’s the point?




About the Author
Shoshanna Schechter-Shaffin is a highly energetic and engaging speaker, writer, career Jewish Educator and Jewish Professional. She is the Executive Director of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, served on the faculty of the Department of Religious Studies and Women's Studies at Randolph-Macon College and currently serves on the faculties of Humanities, Religious Studies, and Gender Studies at the University of Texas-El Paso. Originally from Silver Spring, Maryland, Shoshanna is a graduate of the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School. She earned her Bachelors degree in Anthropology and Jewish Studies from the University of Maryland and a Masters Degree in Jewish Studies with a focus on Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary where she will begin pursuing an Ed.D in Jewish Education this Fall.