Welcome to the J Street Conference at the Washington Convention Center, where “more than 2,000 registered in advance,” according to a smiling lady welcoming the press.
“What do you have more of here, Jews or Arabs?” I ask the smiling face.
“That is racial profiling,” her smile evaporates.
“Isn’t J Street ‘Jew Street’?” I ask.
“That is your interpretation.”
“I’m so sorry. Could you please explain what the ‘J’ stands for?”
“It is the letter that’s missing in the Washington street names.”
“Is it the only one missing?”
“There is no Y Street, no Z Street. J is just the start from the top.”
Why choose to call your organization for a street, existing or not? But “J,” we must admit, sounds less like a “racial profiling” than any spelled-out “Jew,” “Jewish,” or “Judaism.”
Welcome to J Street, the street of the Js.
|I was invited to the Sabbath
at a Reform shule in Poughkeepsie.
It is called Vassar Temple
and the invite was from Beth El…
the Conservative Temple’s Rabbi.
And when I arrived there after
prayer was a lecture by a man
(a Reconstructionist Male Rabbi)
who said we should make a big tent
for J street and then used the
Daily Beast as a reference.
I walked out and said this was pathetic
and it was not Judaism.
It isn’t… to ask to include haters on the Sabbath
is not Kosher. Debate is fine during rest,
but the debate that happened at Vassar Shule
was intended to humiliate
and had no place on Friday nights.
I was reminded that I was a guest.
(also it is odd, but they have their own lame tunes
for common songs that have had great tunes for centuries.
I’m talking about basic prayer. and what was with the organ
and the female cantor in a performance?)
I was bewildered by the situation…
and then it seems to be an epidemic:
Ben Sales went hungry at the J Street Conference.
No kosher food.
Some people say J Street is too far to the left; others complain that it’s too far right. But there’s another, more basic reason for Jews to doubt J Street’s kashrut:
Its food is literally not kosher.
Of course, plenty of Jewish organizations serve non-kosher food at their events, and that’s fine. Given that the vast majority of Jews don’t keep strict, certified kosher, there’s no reason to foot that bill. But almost all Jewish organizations, and certainly all major ones, make the effort to provide kosher options for those Jews who do require a hekhsher. At the very least, they would offer kosher food for purchase.
Not so with J Street.
When I arrived at the conference this morning, before 8 a.m., I asked a staff person if the breakfast would include kosher options. She told me it would. But when the food arrived, there was nothing kosher to be found–not even fruit. I sufficed with coffee and decided to wait for lunch, when–with an hour of free time–I could rush on the metro to a kosher restaurant.
When that time came, I got ready to hurry out of the conference room only to be told by multiple J Street staffers that there were sandwiches for purchase across the building and yes, some of them were kosher.
You can guess what happened next. I arrived at the sandwich cart and requested the kosher option. I got a blank stare in return, and when I asked the manager she told me she had no idea what I was talking about. She hadn’t heard anything about kosher sandwiches. The best they could do, they said, was a regular turkey sandwich with the cheese taken off. No good. I bought a Clif bar, a Nature Valley, a Kit Kat, an apple and a banana. I filled the feast out with some mini Twix I found at a conference table.
Maybe I’m making too much of this, but I think that an intentionally Jewish organization that bases its platform on Jewish values should make more of an effort to respect a basic traditional Jewish practice. This is especially true for J Street, which emphasizes pluralism and acceptance…
My, my. There was this in September 2009:
…The average age of the dozen or so staff members is about 30. Ben-Ami speaks for, and to, this post-Holocaust generation. “They’re all intermarried,” he says. “They’re all doing Buddhist seders.” They are, he adds, baffled by the notion of “Israel as the place you can always count on when they come to get you.”
I guess they are also baffleds by the concept of “kosher”.
But, to be pluralistic, there’s this clarification:
The “Buddhist seders” meme comes from NYT article about J Street where Jeremy Ben-Ami is cited as saying “We all hold Buddhist seders” and “We are all intermarried”. Ben-Ami is not intermarried. His wife, Sara, is a daughter of a Rabbi and descendant of a family which co-founded Petah Tikva more than 120 years ago. And of course “Buddhist seder” was just a joke.
Alana Goodman reports at contentions that Republicans were a No-Show at the J Street Gala.
J Street doesn’t like to describe itself as a “left-wing” organization, but its gala dinner last night failed to attract a single Republican member of Congress. The only two GOP lawmakers listed as attendees at the gala — Rep. Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Jeffrey Fortenberry — have both clarified today that they didn’t actually go to the event.
The Washington Jewish Week’s Adam Kredo published a list earlier today of 56 members of Congress who attended…
-Representative Tammy Baldwin
-Representative Xavier Becerra
-Representative Howard Berman
-Representative Marsha Blackburn
-Representative Bruce Braley
-Senator Sherrod Brown
-Representative Lois Capps
-*Representative Russ Carnahan (Couldn’t attend)
-Representative Andre Carson
-Representative Wm. Lacy Clay
-Representative Steve Cohen
-Representative Gerry Connolly
-Representative John Conyers
-Representative Jim Cooper
-Representative Danny Davis
-Representative Susan Davis
-Representative John Dingell
-Representative Lloyd Doggett
-Representative Donna Edwards
-Representative Keith Ellison
-Representative Anna Eshoo
-Representative Sam Farr
-Representative Bob Filner
-Representative Jeff Fortenberry
-Representative Charles Gonzalez
-Representative Raul Grijalva
-Representative Martin Heinrich
-Representative Rush Holt
-Representative Sheila Jackson Lee
-Representative Marcy Kaptur
-Senator Herbert Kohl
-Representative Dennis Kucinich
-Representative Barbara Lee
-Representative David Loebsack
-Representative Betty McCollum
-Representative Jim McDermott
-Representative Gregory Meeks
-*Senator Jeff Merkley (Couldn’t attend)
-Representative Brad Miller
-Representative Gwen Moore
-Representative James Moran
-Representative Chris Murphy
-Representative Bill Owens
-Representative Bill Pascrell
-Representative Donald Payne
-Representative Chellie Pingree
-Representative Jared Polis
-Representative David Price
-Representative Nick Rahall
-Representative Jan Schakowsky
-Representative Jackie Speier
-Representative Chris Van Hollen
-Representative Maxine Waters
-Representative Peter Welch
-Representative Lynn Woolsey
-Representative John Yarmuth
-*Senator Maria Cantwell (Didn’t RSVP, but attended.)
-*Representative Earl Blumenauer (Didn’t RSVP, but attended.)
-*Representative Charlie Rangel (Didn’t RSVP, but attended.)
I’ll update and amend this list as need be.
It’s also worthwhile to note that on Tuesday, more than 700 J Street activists took to Capitol Hill to cap off the four-day conference by lobbying lawmakers on several pro-Israel fronts.
During 240 separate meetings with lawmakers, J Street’s citizen lobbyists urged their members of Congress to keep U.S. funding to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority robust.
UPDATE: Soon after posting this list, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s office called me up to clarify his inclusion. They say he neither RSVP’d for, nor attended J Street’s conference.
Amy Spitalnick, J Street’s spokesperson, maintains that Fortenberry’s office said he’d attend. (There was no e-mail confirmation, as I incorrectly indicated earlier.)
04 November ’10
Back in July, the Jewish Telegraph Agency was reporting that J Street saw Sestak as an important test for J Street:
Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s director, acknowledged that the Pennsylvania race is a test for his group.
“There’s no question that this race is a very important test of what kind of support J Street and its supporters can deliver,” he said. “We will show a substantial amount of money can be raised from our political action committee, and that a substaintial amount of money can be raised for a candidate that opposes the right wing on these issues.”
Donors thus far have dedicated $100,000 to Sestak’s race through the J Street PAC — a hefty chunk of the $650,000 the organization has raised this cycle.
At the same time, Ben-Ami was hedging his bets:
(Read full post)