update deskU.S. News

Elder of Ziyon: Many JCCs ‘quietly’ stripping Israel from their missions

“These were conscious decisions to remove Zionism as a core value in various JCCs,” the pro-Israel writer reported.

Pencil erasers. Credit: joslex, Jeff Weese/Pixabay.
Pencil erasers. Credit: joslex, Jeff Weese/Pixabay.

The pro-Israel writer who uses the pseudonym “Elder of Ziyon,” had the sense that Jewish community centers were downplaying Israel programming compared to what they had done in the past. So he started looking at JCC websites at random to see if his impression was correct, the writer told JNS.

“I saw lots of progressive-friendly events and very few Israel-centered events,” he said. “Then I decided to look at the mission statements.”

“Most of them never had any mention of Israel, although the programming from 20 years ago was definitely more Israel-centered,” he added. “But, as I showed, some did mention Israel and took them out.”

Elder of Ziyon published a blog post on the subject on Thursday, noting what he called the “worrying trend.”

In the article, he noted that the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco’s mission stated, in part, to “enrich life, build Jewish identity, promote the development of meaningful bonds within our community and facilitate connections with Israel and Jews worldwide” as recently as Nov. 26, 2016.

The center’s “seven core values” in its current mission don’t mention Israel, Elder of Ziyon noted.

JCCs in Los Angeles, near Seattle and in Phoenix have also scrubbed Israel references from their mission statements. 

“Of course, this is not a comprehensive list. There are over 100 JCCs in the U.S. and Canada. However, I’m not seeing too many counterexamples of JCCs that still incorporate Israel in their values and mission statements,” Elder of Ziyon wrote.

“Indianapolis JCC is one of the rare ones, still saying it is ‘Incorporating our Jewish values and ties to Israel.’ The Delaware JCC says they ‘enrich our members and families of all backgrounds about Jewish life, culture and Israel,’” he added. “But they seem to be in the minority.”

“Mission statements would go through committees,” Elder of Ziyon told JNS, “which means that these were conscious decisions to remove Zionism as a core value in various JCCs.”

The JCC Association of North America, which leads the movement of more than 170 JCCs and JCC camps in the United States and Canada, told JNS that “mission statements of individual JCCs” can evolve when they change leaders or rebrand, it is a core value of the JCC movement that “Israel is an eternal birthright of the Jewish people, linking us to our past and to Jews around the world.”

“As North American organizations, JCCs do not always mention Israel within their mission statements, but as seen on the websites of all JCCs, Israel is a key part of their principles and values shown through daily work, programs and leadership messages,” a JCC Association spokesperson told JNS. “JCCs demonstrate support to Israel through many other means than language on their websites.”

The JCC Association runs a Center for Israel Engagement, in Jerusalem, which “strengthens the North American Jewish community’s connection and commitment to Israel, building pride and knowledge through authentic and varied Israel experiences.”

And the umbrella group’s “statement of principles” notes that JCCs are “a primary destination for Jewish engagement,” including where individuals and families “encounter Israel and explore the ideal of Jewish peoplehood in their lives.”

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