December 12, 2018

Letters to the editor: J Street and Tel Aviv

Left, Right and U-Turns on J Street

David Suissa’s article “J Street’s Real Failure” (May 16) was full of factual errors and falsehoods, and he was also wrong in his overall argument. 

As Suissa should know, because he spoke at the J Street National Conference, J Street opposes BDS and has helped defeat BDS resolutions on college campuses and within church groups. We believe, however, that the way to defeat BDS is not to ban its supporters from conversation, rather to debate them.

In addition, J Street did not endorse the Goldstone Report and has consistently criticized one-sided and biased activity at the U.N. against Israel. If the U.N. Security Council had considered action based on the Goldstone Report, J Street stated clearly and publicly that it would have urged the U.S. to veto such action.

Furthermore, following the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation announcement, J Street stated that any Palestinian government must abide by its international commitments, including recognition of Israel and a renunciation of violence, in order to play a constructive role in working toward a two-state solution.

As members of J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet, we believe there is nothing “boring” about advocating for peace and a just end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fact remains that Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish and democratic homeland depends on a two-state solution. We recognize, as well, that the Palestinians and Israelis together must find the means to a just and end-of-conflict solution.

J Street does not, and indeed cannot, put pressure on Israel to do anything. However, as American Jews who love Israel, we can urge our government to exercise leadership to advance a peace agreement.

We do not apologize for devoting ourselves to these ideals on which the future of our people and the State of Israel depend.

Rabbi Lisa Edwards, J Street, L.A. Rabbinic Cabinet Co-Chair
Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, J Street, L.A. Rabbinic Cabinet Co-Chair
Rabbi Susan Laemmle, J Street L.A. Rabbinic Cabinet Co-Chair
Rabbi John Rosove, J Street National Rabbinic Co-Chair

David Suissa responds: I have no doubt that the signatories of the letter share a deep love for Israel, and I value the many years they have invested in an exceedingly difficult peace process. At the same time, I have to call it as I see it: J Street’s mission of “pro-Israel and pro-peace” has failed on both counts — Israel and peace.

It’s not simply that J Street has done damaging things, such as co-sponsor events with virulent anti-Israel BDS groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, as it did March 6 at Smith College.

The bigger point of my critique is this: J Street’s obsession with the failed peace process has reduced Israel to a one-dimensional caricature as “the country that won’t make peace.” 

J Street exists not to defend Israel against lies, nor to promote the complexity of the Jewish state, nor to expose the teaching of Jew-hatred in Palestinian society that has long been the key obstacle to peace. No, it exists solely to push Israel relentlessly toward a peace deal that has no partner.

As a result, unwittingly or not, J Street has reinforced the global lie that Israel is the major obstacle to peace and worthy only of condemnation.

While the peace process has been in a coma, J Street could have done plenty to help Israel. It could have, for example, used its marketing wizardry to campaign against the delegitimization of Israel, exposed Palestinian duplicity, or promoted Israel’s grass-roots culture of tikkun olam with its liberal base to create deeper bonds with Israel. It did none of those  things.

Instead, it has doubled down on its failed strategy, thus continuing to make Israel look like an enemy of peace. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do think my friends at J Street ought to find more effective ways of helping Israel.

Viva Tel Aviv! 

Thank you for the wonderful post on 50 things … I love it (“50 Reasons to Love Tel Aviv and Never, Ever Leave,” May 16). I am an Israeli living in California — and miss home very much. To read your post was refreshing and I will pass it on … plus the way you write clearly describes our Israeli ways.

Mati Mizrachi via

What a superb article, and it captures Tel Aviv perfectly. I visit at least once a week to recharge, re-energize and let my freak flag fly.

Rolene Marks via

“Too Persian”

We praise Dr. Afshine Emrani and his article calling for greater cross-cultural unity and understanding within the Jewish community, and beyond. His message resonates with us personally, as rabbis and as leaders within our ownschool/shulcommunity. Andyetwefeelobligatedtorespondtoa radicalmisperceptionthatwassharedwithinhisarticle. Hewrotethat there are Persians who are upset that their children cannot get into Pressman because “they only take Americans.” We do not know whether Dr. Emrani himself agrees with this falsehood or was simply printing what he hasheardotherssay. Butwedoknowthatwhathewroteisnottrue— categorically so.

More than forty percent of the over 500 students enrolled at Pressman Academy are from families of Middle Eastern origin, and the vast majority of them are either Mizrahi Israeli or Persian Jews. At Pressman, we are proud of the diversity of both our student body and our professional and lay leadership. It is character, not family lineage, that is our guiding light. We accept and embrace Jewish students and Jewish and Gentile faculty members of every ethnicity, skin-color, cultural background, familial make- up and sexual orientation, and we do so as an expression of the very Jewish values of inclusion which suffuse our curriculum and our institutional culture. AsourMissionStatementarticulates,weareheretodevelop minds, nurture hearts and instill Jewish values…in all Jews who are eager for the unique marriage of educational excellence, Jewish substance and communal intimacy that thrives at Pressman Academy and at Temple Beth Am.

We are responding to the comment in the article only to correct a misperception that borders on the slanderous, not because we believe that crowingaboutourdiversityorcountingethnicitiesmatters. Whatmattersis ensuring that Jewish values permeate everything we do, so that all Jews who are hungry for what we are offering feel embraced, welcomed and loved.

Rabbi Joel Rembaum, Interim Head of School, Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am


Rabbi Adam Kligfeld, Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Am 


A story about the online invitation service Mitzvites (“A New Way to Send Out Invitations,” Mazel Tov Supplement, Spring 2014) provided an incorrect amount that he site charges. It is $249. The story also mischaracterized the work done by Jess Wall. He handles the day-to-day operations of Mitzvites and does not work for the company ZeroLag.