(September 23, 2020 / JNS) The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the leading U.S. Jewish umbrella group, recently came to a decision to drop all “civility” complaints between factions headed by two longtime member organizations.
Last spring, HIAS, which had been formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, accused the Zionist Organization of America, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) and the Jewish News Syndicate of having made disparaging remarks about it, citing Conference rules against constituent groups disparaging one another. In particular, it noted that ZOA national president Mort Klein had accused the group of not being a Jewish organization. The complaint also accused Klein of racism in regards to his social-media posts concerning the Black Lives Matter movement.
In response, ZOA filed its own 114-page complaint against 14 Conference organizations for accusing Klein of “racism,” saying such accusations are “false and disparaging.”
CAMERA and JNS responded that HIAS’s allegations were “inappropriate and without merit,” even “ridiculous,” and in the case of JNS, which is not a member of the Conference, “anti-democratic, totalitarian and beyond the pale of appropriate conduct.”
Formed during the 1950s, the Conference of Presidents serves to bring together dozens of American Jewish organizations to form a consensus on important issues affecting the Jewish community and Israel.
In April, ZOA, CAMERA and other pro-Israel members of the umbrella organization had protested the election of Dianne Lob, former chair of HIAS and who has worked as head of global business development for the investment firm AllianceBernstein, to become the organization’s next chair. The subsequent fight over her selection, as well as the complaints and counter-complaints of two of its oldest members, have threatened the viability of a consensus organization during a time of increasing political polarization.
Finally, in a Sept. 14 memo to its members, the leadership of the Conference of Presidents said it was ready to move on from the internal battles, announcing that it had officially suspended the adjudication process and dismissed all pending complaints.
“These decisions reflect the recognition that while the statement’s goal of promoting organizational comity is laudable, as currently formulated, it is not practically enforceable by the Conference,” said William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents, in a statement. “In addition, the enforcement process results in more communal division than unity, and significant Conference time and resources are consumed by enforcement matters.”
The move to dismiss the complaints, however, came only after HIAS and other left-wing organizations had been on the receiving end of civility complaints—not when ZOA, CAMERA and JNS had been so.
When asked by JNS on the timing of the dismissal of civility complaints, Daroff declined to answer. Instead, he pointed to the existing statement, saying it “speaks for itself.”
Moving forward, the umbrella group said it intends “to explore other models to promote civil communal discourse over the months ahead.”
It noted that the rules concerning public discourse remain in effect.
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