Presidents Conference rejects J Street membership bid

Ron Kampeas

Jeremy Ben-Ami is J Street's president.

“Jeremy Ben-Ami is J Street’s president.”
(Courtesy J Street)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — J Street failed to gain admission to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

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The vote of conference members Wednesday was 17 in favor, 22 against and three abstentions, according to four sources.

J Street needed a two-thirds majority of the entire membership, 34 out of 51, for entry.

A number of leading Jewish groups had come out in favor of the dovish Middle East policy group’s entry into the Jewish community’s foreign policy umbrella, including the Anti-Defamation League, arms of the Reform and Conservative movements and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the community’s domestic policy umbrella.

These groups had argued that the Presidents Conference needed to include what they say is the community’s diverse opinions on Israel.

The Presidents Conference said in a statement issued after the vote that its current membership reflected the community’s diversity.

“The present membership of the Conference includes organizations which represent and articulate the views of broad segments of the American Jewish community and we are confident that the Conference will continue to present the consensus of the community on important national and international issues as it has for the last fifty years,” it said.

J Street is a strong critic of the peace policies of the current Israeli government and backs the Obama administration’s policy of engagement with Iran, which many pro-Israel groups oppose.

Opponents said J Street too often opposes other Jewish groups in the broader public arena and not just within the community.

In its statement announcing the rejection of J Street, but not breaking down the vote, the Presidents Conference noted that other groups have failed to gain admission on the first try in the past.

“A two-thirds affirmative vote of the member organizations is a significant threshold,” the statement said. “Some present member organizations did not initially achieve the necessary support but subsequently re-applied and are now members.”

It also said that the process leading up the vote was transparent.

“The process included three meetings of the Membership Committee, including one at which representatives of J Street made a presentation and answered questions,” it said. “Membership Committee representatives held additional meetings with J Street representatives.”

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