Reform group threatens to quit Conference of Presidents after J Street rejected

Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs. Credit: Ian Spanier.

( The head of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) on Thursday said the group would consider leaving the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations following the Conference’s rejection of a membership application by the self-labeled “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby J Street.

“We may choose to advocate for a significant overhaul of the Conference of Presidents’ processes. We may choose to simply leave the Conference of Presidents. But this much is certain: We will no longer acquiesce to simply maintaining the facade that the Conference of Presidents represents or reflects the views of all of American Jewry,” stated URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, a former member of J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet.

J Street’s bid to join the Conference was voted down Wednesday, 22-17 with three abstentions. Other members of the 50-group umbrella were absent for the vote, in which J Street needed two-thirds approval from the Conference’s total membership to join the organization. 

Josh Block, president and CEO of The Israel Project, told the Forward, “It is saddening to see decent people like the head of one of the Reform organizations distorting the diversity of the Conference.” 

“If the formal structures of American Jewry split between those backed by the centrist establishment and the J Street-led left, this won’t advance the cause of Israel or the interests of American Jews,” wrote Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor of Commentary magazine. “Dividing the Jews in this manner will only serve the cause of those who wish to wage war on Israel’s democratically elected government and to widen the splits between Jerusalem and Washington. That isn’t something that any group that calls itself ‘pro-Israel’ should want.”

Posted on May 1, 2014 .