Archive for March, 2013

Local press on “Is Israel a Democracy?” panel

March 20, 2013

Congregation Ansche Chesed, a prominent Conservative synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, prides itself on being a “diverse community” that offers its members a “rich array of programming.” But when its leader, Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky, learned that the synagogue had agreed to serve as the venue for a panel on Israel, he attempted to cancel the event lest it lead to a discussion of BDS.


The organizers wound up finding an alternate venue. Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, spiritual leader of CBST, had been a co-sponsor of the panel when it was scheduled to take place at Ansche Chesed. She offered to host the event at her synagogue, which is located on the far West Side.

“I am disturbed by the trend in the Jewish community to censor discussions about Israel and Palestine,” Kleinbaum said. “I feel like it’s my moral responsibility to make sure this burning issue that’s facing us as a Jewish people gets a complete debate and discussion.”


Below is the letter from the organizers addressed “to the Jewish Community: A Synagogue Tried to Shut Us Down.”

We are a group of progressive Jews deeply involved in Israel/Palestine and immersed in issues of democracy and justice. We are writing to advise you of a blatant attempt last week by leaders of a prominent New York synagogue to shut down a panel discussion on the subject “Israel-Equality-Democracy.”

Is Israel a democracy?

March 13, 2013


Jewish Perspectives:
Is Israel—or can it be—a democracy?
Is there—or can there be—equality in Israel? Can a Jewish state be democratic?


Cosponsors of this program are individuals with different perspectives on these questions, but all strongly defend an open exchange of views on issues of concern to our community and to people of conscience everywhere: Anita Altman, Elisheva Goldberg, Adam Horowitz, Rabbi David Ingber, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, Alice Kessler-Harris, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Hannah Mermelstein, Donna Nevel, Alicia Ostriker, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Michael Ratner, MJ Rosenberg, James Schamus, Dorothy Zellner.


Thursday, April 4, 2013 //// 7 – 9 PM
We are so pleased that the event is being hosted by
Congregation Beit Simchat Torah
57 Bethune Street (between Washington St. and West Side Highway) A, C, E to 14th St //// L to Eighth Avenue


JJ Goldberg //// Editor-at-large of the Jewish Daily Forward, formerly editor in chief for 7 years / author of “Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment”

Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark //// Co-host for the past 18 years of “Beyond the Pale,” a program of progressive Jewish politics & culture on WBAI radio

Kathleen Peratis //// Partner Outten & Golden LLP focusing on employment law; co- chair Middle East North Africa advisory committee Human Rights Watch; board member Americans for Peace Now

Rebecca Vilkomerson //// Executive director, Jewish Voice for Peace
Moderator by Lizzy Ratner //// Journalist; co-editor, “The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of

the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict”

Last year, at two panels on Jewish Responses to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), the questions above were among those that people asked. We are interested in continuing this discussion in the Jewish community and more broadly. This panel will reflect a range of perspectives among members of the Jewish community—all by people committed to peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. Our goal is to share different Jewish perspectives, including those often silenced within the Jewish community, and to move this discussion beyond the Jewish community itself.

We look forward to engaged and respectful discussion! All are welcome.


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