April 2, 2024

Michael Harris responds to Adina Poupko on funding guidelines

To the Editors:

Adina Poupko’s article “The Jewish Mainstream” is an important contribution to defining the role of our Jewish community organizations at this very challenging time. Catering to the fringe anti-Zionist element, in the perhaps well-meaning pursuit of Jewish unity, undermines the demonstrated overwhelming support in our community for the existence of the Jewish state.  Our institutions should be a model and a support system for individuals who, to an extent not previously seen in the US, are being actively intimidated, harassed, threatened, and even physically assaulted for declaring themselves proud Zionists.

In 2010, the San Francisco–based Jewish Community Federation adopted a set of funding guidelines, in response to a program put on by one of its beneficiaries which, in catering to anti-Zionists, created a public outcry. Those guidelines prohibit funding for “organizations that through their mission, activities or partnerships:

  1. Endorse or promote anti-Semitism, other forms of bigotry, violence or other extremist views;
  2. Actively seek to proselytize Jews away from Judaism; or,
  3. Advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in whole or in part.”

This is not a call for a Spinoza-style excommunication of anti-Zionist Jews. But in this moment of crisis, we should be devoting our limited community resources to the area of highest need, where the values of our organizations and the majority of our community align.

To my knowledge, no other Jewish community federation or similar funding body has adopted these guidelines. Perhaps it’s time they do so.

Michael Harris

Bodega Bay, Calif.