The rejection of JStreet’s application for membership in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations is odd. Never mind what some may consider JStreet’s controversial Mideast positions, or its separately incorporated political action committee – the rejection speaks worlds about the Presidents’ Conference itself.
Curiously, the vote was by secret paper ballot. But votes at the Presidents’ Conference aren’t the same as when individual citizens vote for school board members. The concept of one man one vote doesn’t apply here. Rather, the Presidents’ Conference is more akin to a parliamentary body. Votes are cast by representatives of the Presidents’ Conference’s constituent member organizations. In this context, the voters are answerable to the membership of their own organizations for the votes they cast on their behalf at the Conference.
Why do so many of these representatives not want their memberships to know how they voted in their names?
Commendably, some organizations, such as Ameinu and the ZOA, were public about their voting intentions. But why won’t all of the 22 organizations opposing the JStreet application state their opposition publicly? It is in this context that I appreciate the Union for Reform Judaism’s principled reconsideration of its Presidents’ Conference membership.
JStreet’s views and outlook may be controversial and distasteful to some. It is also clear that JStreet represents a large stratum of American Jewish opinion. The URJ’s potential withdrawal from the Presidents’ Conference belies the Conference’s claim to represent organized American Jewry.
The Presidents’ Conference always was a rickety Rube Goldberg contraption, co-founded by a most unlikely pair of statesmen: John Foster Dulles and Nahum Goldmann. Are its pieces now falling apart?