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Academic Question

San Francisco’s Federation puts new restrictions on its grants, worrying Bay Area Jewish-studies profs

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Dwinelle Hall, UC Berkeley. (Photo by Cliff Mak; some rights reserved.)

At first glance, an open letter published in last week’s Forward seemed like business as usual. The letter, signed by about 70 Bay Area Jewish intellectuals including the biblical scholar Robert Alter and the poet Adrienne Rich, protests a decision by the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation to restrict its funding to groups and projects that hold what it deems to be acceptable views on the State of Israel. Given both the ongoing acrimony within the region’s Jewish community over Israel politics and the propensity of Bay Area Jewish intellectuals to sign open letters, one might suppose that not much was at stake for the signatories beyond the hardening of lines around their political camp.

But for many of the signatories, there’s much more on the line. The “Israel-related content” guidelines that the San Francisco Federation adopted in February grew out of a particularly heated debate that started last summer, after the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, a major annual event that receives Federation funding, outraged donors and community members with a film screening that many regarded as anti-Zionist. But though the festival was the stated impetus for and target of the new guidelines, some observers say there will be collateral damage: Jewish-studies programs at Bay Area universities including the University of California campuses at Berkeley, Davis, and Santa Cruz, and at Stanford University, which have received grants from the Federation and other Jewish donors for decades—and which routinely sponsor flagrantly left-wing professors and guests. Now academics at these programs, 17 of whom signed the Forward letter, worry that they could lose their funding as well—a particularly troubling predicament for those who teach in California’s financially collapsing public university system.

“It’s absolutely disastrous if we lose funding,” said Chana Kronfeld, who teaches Hebrew and Yiddish literature at Berkeley. “In times of huge cuts, we have no funding from anyone sometimes except Federation or community organizations. It’s clearly a campaign to control academic freedom.”

The University of California, widely regarded as one of the best public university systems in the country, was slammed last summer with a $637 million—or 20 percent—cut in state funding, as California itself has teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. Since then, the university system—along with California’s other, lower-tier public schools of higher education—have been struggling to stay afloat with drastic measures like mandatory furlough days (and accompanying pay cuts) for faculty and staff and a 32 percent undergraduate tuition hike planned for this fall. “Nothing is off the table,” the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this year.

Under these circumstances, the Federation, along with area Jewish-community donors like the Koret Foundation, the Helen Diller Family Foundation, and the Bernard Osher Foundation—all of which give money both on their own and through the Federation-operated Jewish Community Endowment Fund—have played a vital role in keeping the region’s Jewish-studies programs up and running. At Berkeley, for instance, according to the school’s budget office, the Jewish studies program’s entire $750,000 annual discretionary budget comes from private donations (that budget does not pay for tenured and tenure-track professors, who are loaned from other departments that do get state funding, and it also does not include some graduate student financial aid). The Federation isn’t the biggest donor in this group, but it is important for another reason as well: The philanthropy sponsors the Bay Area Jewish-studies Consortium, which for 20 years has worked to foster intellectual partnerships among Jewish-studies programs or professors at 11 colleges in the region.

That’s not to say that these Jewish-studies programs are powerless before their donors. Universities generally have strict rules that limit donors’ participation in day-to-day academic decisions, and thus far, even cash-strapped UC campuses will walk away from money that comes with too many strings attached. Likewise, Stanford University’s Taube Center for Jewish Studies has received extensive funding from Tad Taube, the Bay Area’s largest Jewish community donor, but Taube’s conservative politics are far from visible at the program that bears his name.

“Some of the gifts come from donors who are not happy with the political opinions of the faculty” at these programs, said David Biale, a professor of Jewish history at Davis (and a signatory of the Forward letter). “And to their credit, they have continued to support the programs on academic grounds and have not tried to impose their political positions on the programs. But my worry is that, as the atmosphere becomes much more politicized, that could change.”

Things aren’t easy for the Federation either. Pressure on the philanthropy began last summer when the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival presented Rachel, a documentary about a radical young American activist named Rachel Corrie who was killed under disputed circumstances in Gaza and invited Corrie’s mother to speak at the screening. The film festival stokes controversy almost every year, but Rachel caused the biggest fracas yet: A few days before the screening, the president of the festival resigned from her post, and two of the festival’s biggest donors, the Koret Foundation and Taube Philanthropies—both of which are run by Tad Taube—issued a statement condemning the festival’s “egregious error” in showing the film and announcing that funding might be withdrawn the next year.

Much of the anger over the screening was directed at the Federation, another major festival donor, which had offered cautious support for Rachel. On the eve of an Federation board meeting in November, a group of influential donors and community members (including Mem Bernstein, who sits on the board of Nextbook Inc., Tablet Magazine’s publisher) placed an open letter in the local Jewish newspaper, urging the Federation to adopt a proposal making groups “that demonize or defame Israel” ineligible for funding. This, the letter said, would, put the “Film Festival debacle behind us once and for all.” The Federation voted down the vaguely worded proposal but organized a committee to create the more elaborate guidelines that were eventually adopted.

The guidelines’ most specific restriction holds that grantees may not endorse any kind of boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against Israel. This type of campaign has garnered vocal support on the Berkeley campus and within some local leftist Jewish advocacy groups. Nor are grantees permitted to cosponsor programs with groups that do support divestment or that otherwise “undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel.” Within this boundary, though, the guidelines are fairly open-ended. Acceptable, for instance, are “presentations by organizations or individuals that are critical of particular Israeli government policies but are supportive of Israel’s right to exist as a secure independent Jewish democratic state.”

But even if the guidelines are applied forgivingly, they would seem likely to exclude from funding at least some of the Jewish-studies programs the Federation currently supports. Berkeley’s and Stanford’s programs each include a faculty member—respectively, the Talmudic scholar Daniel Boyarin and the Middle East historian Joel Beinin—who loudly self-identify as anti-Zionist. And several other professors at these schools, as well as the University of California campuses in Davis and Santa Cruz, have publicly supported some form of divestment campaign or belong to organizations that do.

Additionally, any number of staunch Israel critics have spoken or taught as guest lecturers at these programs, including Israeli writers and scholars flown in from the abroad. Berkeley’s Chana Kronfeld, who has sponsored visits by the Israeli novelist David Grossman and the poet Dahlia Ravikovitch, among others profoundly critical of their own country, put it bluntly: “All the major Israeli writers would probably be banned.”

On the subject of any individual writer or professor, it’s difficult to say whether Kronfeld is right. The Federation’s chief operating officer, Jim Offel, told Tablet Magazine that the Federation does not have a list of acceptable and unacceptable organizations and individuals, and that it will make each decision on a case-by-case basis. And the guidelines are too new to have had much effect thus far—they came out after the deadline for most 2010 funding. Grantees are welcome to call the Federation with questions about whether a potential program meets the guidelines, Offel said. “We didn’t invent this,” he added. “It’s general practice for a funding agency to ensure that fundees’ dollars are being used in ways consistent with the core values of the funder.”

But, because of university restrictions on donors’ relationships with the programs they fund, that practice is more complicated in an academic context. Offel maintained that the guidelines apply to all Federation grantees, but David Biale said that in December, while they were working on the guidelines, Federation officials had privately acknowledged to him that they understood “how things work at the university” and “wouldn’t try to meddle in issues of academic freedom.” But, he added, “That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t put pressure on us.”

Ironically, the Helen Diller Family Foundation, whose board members were prominently represented among the signatories of last fall’s open letter urging the Federation to adopt Israel guidelines, faltered in its own attempt to impose similar guidelines on the Jewish studies programs at Berkeley. According to Robert Alter, who teaches Hebrew and comparative literature there, when Bay Area philanthropist Sanford Diller expressed reservations several years ago about the number of leftist Israelis who had been invited for residencies at Berkeley’s Jewish studies program, a university vice-chancellor told him, “If you feel that way, we’ll have to give back the endowment because that conflicts with our academic standards.” Diller, he said, backed off. (Diller declined to comment for this story.)

A similar dispute at Davis, though, went the other way. In 2006, the Koret Foundation added language to its grant contract with Davis stipulating that grant money could not used “in connection with any program that includes anti-Israel sentiments or anti-Semitic elements, speeches, or positions.” Biale, who was chair of the program at the time, said that he sent the letter to the development office and that he believed it had been taken up for review by Davis’s lawyers, but the language has remained in each annual contract to this day.

Faced with this kind of standoff, it seems likely that the Federation would likewise have to choose between not enforcing its guidelines for academic grantees or cutting off funding to the Jewish-studies programs that are among its most prestigious causes.

“I think in the end the policy means they can’t really fund academic programs, because what they’re asking for is that they be the ultimate decider on programmatic issues,” said Charlotte Fonrobert, the co-director of Stanford’s Jewish-studies program. “At some point that decision will have to be made.”

The other option—the one predicted by the Forward letter—is that Federation grantees will simply avoid controversial subjects in order to circumvent the process of consulting with their funders. That can happen even before funders get involved. Diane Wolf, the chair of Jewish studies at Davis and another letter signatory, sheepishly acknowledged that she’s been “trying to get away from those hot-button issues” ever since her program came under attack from some professors in other departments for a panel it hosted two years ago on the 2006 Lebanon War. “It’s so difficult and so time-consuming and emotionally draining,” she said.

It seems unlikely that the Forward letter will lead to any official change in the Federation guidelines, which took so many months and compromises to produce. But it remains an open question whether the letter will damage the relationships between the philanthropy and the grantees who signed. Alter, who chairs the Bay Area Jewish-studies Consortium, said that Amy Rabbino, the consortium’s Federation liaison, called him, “quite upset,” when the letter came out online and asked him why he didn’t consult with her before he signed.

“Maybe I should have,” Alter said. “But then there was an odd turn of the conversation, where Amy said, ‘If Federation is supporting you, why should you attack the Federation?’

“I said to Amy that the same thing goes for Israel,” Alter said. “I personally support the state of Israel but object to some of its policies.”

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max says:

A question–How many of these Bay area critics of Israel are urging the USA to return California to the Mexicans? It was, after all, stolen in a war started by the US in 1848 specifically to seize the southwest from Mexico. Or maybe give it back to the native Americans. Why don’t you clean up your own house before you start trying to convince Israel to commit suicide, so that you will feel comfortable drinking latte with all your Berkley friends?

J. Arnon says:

I respect Robert Alter, but what makes Rich “Jewish?” This is from wikipedia

“Adrienne Rich was born in Baltimore, Maryland on May 16, 1929, the older of two sisters. Her father, the renowned pathologist Arnold Rice Rich, was a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Her mother, Helen Jones Rich, was a concert pianist until she married. Although Arnold Rich came from a Jewish family the girls were raised as Christians. Adrienne Rich’s early poetic influence stemmed from her father who encouraged her to read but also to write her own poetry. Her interest in literature was sparked within her father’s library where she read the work of writers such as Ibsen [2] Arnold, Blake, Keats, Rossetti, and Tennyson. Her father was ambitious for Adrienne and “planned to create a prodigy”. Adrienne Rich and her younger sister were home schooled by their mother until Adrienne began public education in the fourth grade. The poems Sources and After Dark document her relationship with her father, describing how she worked hard to fulfill her parents’ ambitions for her – moving into a world in which she was expected to excel [3].

Rich attended Radcliffe College where she focused primarily on poetry. In 1951, her last year at college, Rich’s first collection of poetry, A Change of World, was selected by the senior poet W.H. Auden for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award; he went on to write the introduction to the published volume. Following her graduation, Rich received a Guggenheim Award, which allowed her to travel across Europe, including a stay in England between 1952-1953.”

The lady is not Jewish and only pretends to be Jewish when she attacks the Jewish State.

She is an antisemite and doesn’t deserve support from the Jewish Community.

Joel Kramer says:

“Faced with this kind of standoff, it seems likely that the Federation would likewise have to choose between not enforcing its guidelines for academic grantees or cutting off funding to the Jewish-studies programs that are among its most prestigious causes.

“I think in the end the policy means they can’t really fund academic programs, because what they’re asking for is that they be the ultimate decider on programmatic issues,” said Charlotte Fonrobert, the co-director of Stanford’s Jewish-studies program. “At some point that decision will have to be made.””

I am for cutting off funding. It’s not as if these programs have made substantial contributions to Jewish self understanding.

ntamler says:

Hooray for the Jewish professors, many–if not most of whom–are ho’v’vay tzion–have lived in and visited Israel multiple times and who support the state and its people, but not necessarily its government. Chana Kronfeld’s quote about most of Israeli’s leading authors and poets would probably be banned under the Federation’s new guidelines. Tnis article is another good indication of how dialog about Israel must change in the U.S. if we are to raise a new generation of literate and caring Jews, who love Israel and who feel comfortable criticizing her, just as they might a family member who has made mistakes.

Asher says:

With friends like this, who needs enemies?

Rutie Adler says:

By the Federation’s criteria Martin Buber and other great Jewish scholars would have been blacklisted due to the fact they advocated a bi-national state.
You don’t have to be an anti-Zionist to condemn the Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, all you have to be is human and a true Jew.

jd says:

Rutie Adler says:
“By the Federation’s criteria Martin Buber and other great Jewish scholars would have been blacklisted due to the fact they advocated a bi-national state.”

This is disingenuous, Rutie, Buber was rebuffed not by the “Federation,” he was rebuffed by the Arabs who didn’t want a “bi-natinal” State. They wanted an all Arab State which is why they attacked Jewish communities in Mandate Palestine in 1947 and before. The Brits, btw, stood by and allowed Arab to kill Jews with impunity. It was only the determination of these communities to fight back which kept them alive, not Buber, not the UN, and not people like you.

This piece caught my attention because as the publisher of the New Vilna Review I often find myself wondering where the line is between legitimate criticism of Israel and the use of such criticism as cover for making Anti-Semitic remarks. I have not personally seen the film “Rachel,” but I have read press accounts of the events on which the film is based, and I have little difficult imagining why its screening was controversial.

Having spent a good deal of my adult life in various academic settings, I can fully understand the concerns being expressed by faculty about the influence such a decision might have, but at the same time, as a Zionist, I know that I would certainly not want a single penny of the money I gave to my local Federation to help fund the work of any of the cadre of self-hating Jews who go around bashing Israel without having any sense at all of the historical, political and security reality on the ground. It seems, from what I read, that the donors and the universities have managed to strike an uneasy balance on this issue, with donors being aware that when they give to an academic institution, they are giving up almost all control over how that money is spent. I would hate to ever suggest that people or foundations not help fund Jewish studies programs, but if I were a member of the San Francisco Jewish community, I think I would feel a lot better knowing that the money I gave was being handled with care, and not used to undermine the only Jewish (and democratic) country in the Middle East.

On the other hand, I do agree that there is a real danger that organizations will just avoid controversial topics, which I think would detract from the overall discourse relating to Israel and the Middle East. I do not envy the leadership of the San Francisco Jewish Federation having to make such decisions, but it seems to me that they have made the correct one, at least in the short term, and if they can truly maintain some flexibility, and deal with each potential allocation on a case-by-case basis, they will hopefully be able to set the right tone, without sacrificing the conversation.

I donate my hard earned money to the Jewish Federation for a reason. And that is not to help promote the hate of Jews and Israel. Already the Saudi’s and their oil money fund that all over the world. The taxpayer in the UK funds the BBC who spews Israel hate all over the world. If Jews cannot stand up to that overwhelming noise with a film festival that is not still another condemnation of Jews and Israel than they really have to think hard about what their guidelines are. Good for the donors who speak up. At least everyone has not gone nuts. If it were Germany 1930 these people and Naomi Klein would have joined Jews for the Third Reich if they could have.

Leah says:

The Federation there cut off all funding to Orthodox schools and synagogues years ago. They only approve of a very narrow slice of Judaism — their’s.

First of all, a clarification:

it was not merely the showing of the film “Rachel” by the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival last summer that sparked controversy. It was the decision to invite Cindy Corrie, who speaks around the country as a volunteer fundraiser for the International Solidarity Movement; and it was the decision to co-present the event with two organizations that have a long track record of opposition to Israel– the American Friends Service Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace. Both groups participate in anti-Israel demonstrations that feature support of Hamas and chants of “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” (ie free of Jewish national rights).

And while pressure from the community led to the invitation of a local Israel advocate to speak before the film (in the interests of full disclosure, that would be this writer), the event attracted a crowd that jeered loudly at what I had to say but cheered the mention of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. You can see the entire speech here: and a full presentation with background in two parts here: and

Issues regarding academic freedom are complex. Historically, it is the mission of a university to fund academicians without restriction upon their research or their teaching. However, donors (whether the Federation or private)obviously do not want their funds used for purposes in contravention to their own individual missions. They will have to work out with universities a mutually acceptable middle ground. Otherwise such funding may not be able to continue.

Not withstanding the above, what is rather remarkable is the apparent expectation that the Federation (or any individual donor) should be expected (or even required!)to fund activities, speakers or events that directly undermine its core principles. A core principle of the Federation is support of Israel– not 100% of everything Israel does, but certainly support against those who delegitimize it– and the core of the BDS movement is indeed delegitimization. So for those who engage in such activities to request– not even request, but DEMAND– that the Federation support them, the only appropriate descriptor is “chutzpah”.

Sam1am says:

To ADLER and NTAMLER and the REST of ISRAEL HATERS- I see no reason to finance people like you who are nothing but Israel haters.
You are Ho’avai Zion like the ‘Women in Black’ Ha’aretz and Anat Kamm are… shame on you.
You are entitled to your opinion but the Federation can better spent our hard earned donated money on causes that to do NOT delegitimize Israel and call for its demise.
As much as I am concerned I do not mind that your department get closed down and the bleeding heart teachers lose their jobs, could not happen to nicer people.

As Israelis working for a democracy here at home, we need more American Jews to support real democratic change in Israel/ Palestine and stop supporting institutionalized racism, the occupation and the seige of Gaza.

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions are vital and powerful nonviolent tools. According to the federation’s criteria, civil rights activists in the US south have “undermined the legitimacy of the state and did not support the right of the state to exist as a white democracy”.

amill says:

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions seldom work. They have not worked against Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, and won’t work against Iran. In reality, they did not work against South Africa, as anyone who follows the financial markets knows. Europeans were all to eager to lend money to SA, but Nelson Mandela and the ANC increasingly caused the risk premium to go up. The money never dried up; European greed made the cost prohibitive. If all the BDSers sold their GE stock, they would barely affect trading for a few hours. In fact, GE’s newest partner, Saudi Arabia, would be on the buy side of those trades. So why BDS. It is merely a propaganda tool to delegitimize Israel and gain access to the public agenda to showcase various mindless resolutions against Israel to make it appear that Israel is an Apartheid state engaged in human rights violations. To equate with the Jim Crow South the only state in the ME where a Bedouin woman can become a physician through an education in a major university and where an Arab woman, for the first time in history of the region, has become a high school principal is to frankly walk around with one’s head up one’s posterior. This is the mindless comment that one hears at the BDS hearings. Israel vacated Gaza. It was a test case. And what has happened since is what will happen if Israel vacates its defense perimeter. The Palestinians are now busy killing each other. What does anyone think will happen to the Israelis, if the Palestinians become militarily superior. The Palestinians have been offered the West Bank and East Jerusalem twice. Barak at Camp David and Olmert at Taba. Each time they have said, “No.” So, what do people like Dalit propose, BDS and to achieve what. Dalit you aren’t listening to the Palestinians. They told you that compromise is unacceptable. Get you head out of your posterior and listen to them. They have spoken.

George Iversen says:

The whining about academic freedom is just that – whining. There is no right to private grant money. If the recipient of the grant feels the conditions of grant are onerous then the proper response, the response showing integrity, would be to refuse the grant under those stipulated conditions. Then to search for a grant that was acceptable.

The donor foundation, in this case a Federation, needs to have some integrity as well. The Federation needs to have guidelines that fit within their mission. They have an obligation to the people donating to the Federation umbrella to make their mission known and to set up guidelines to achieve their mission and to enforce those guidelines. When guidelines are reviewed and change, donors should be informed. People donate to federations for various reasons. Not all people have the same requirements. The donors to the the Federation have choices to make as well. Is their money being used in a manner that meets their approval? What are the guidelines used by the Federation? Are they enforced? Are the guidelines important to them? If there have been no guidelines or the guidelines are not acceptable or the guidelines not enforced then the donors to Federations who believe the guidelines are important have decisions to make. Should they begin a process of making direct donations to charitable organizations bypassing the Federation umbrella? How long should they monitor the Federations expenditures before they resume using the Federation as a charitable gift giving tool. Is 3 years, 4 years, 5 years, or more of monitoring the Federation’s gift giving enough? The donor of funds, the recipient of the funds, and the conduit (the Federation in this case) all need to have integrity.

Toby says:

Leah says:
‘The Federation there cut off all funding to Orthodox schools and synagogues years ago. They only approve of a very narrow slice of Judaism — their’s.’

So? It’s their money, do Orthodox schools spend money on reform schools? Do “Jewish” anti Israel scholars give money to Zinoist causes?
There is really no story here.

Isaac Aaron says:

Private donors — whether individuals or institutions — are not obligated legally or morally to fund causes, organizations or institutions working in opposition to a given donor’s personal or institutional goals and beliefs. This is what the academics fail to understand. Free speech cuts in every direction. Academics have the right to say whatever they wish, and philanthropic foundations have the right to fund, or not fund, the institutions paying these academics’ salaries.

What this sounds like to me is a complaint arising from a sense of deep entitlement and elitism from these professors. If they are so concerned that the Jewish community will not fund their anti-Zionist proclamations, then may I humbly suggest that there is money available (by the tens of millions of dollars) from sources in Saudi Arabia that would be more than delighted to fund your salaries and research projects.

The labels “self-hating Jew” and “anti-Semite” are far too often applied these days. It’s possible to be stridently pro-Israel and critical of some Israeli policies, just as it’s possible to be a proud, patriotic US citizen who calls his congressional representatives and senators to voice criticisms of American policy. But there are individuals and groups deserving of those nasty labels, and these people often attach themselves to the Jewish Left in order to grant their hate the air of legitimacy. That’s a shame (and a reason for vigilance), but not a reason to dismiss the Jewish Left as naive fools or worse, as some of the commentors above seem to do.

On the issue of the SF Federation’s new restrictions, I agree completely with Isaac Aaron. No matter what your politics, “private donors are not obligated legally or morally to fund causes […] in opposition to a given donor’s personal or institutional goals or beliefs.” Does it bother me that some of the academics and thinkers who legitimately critique Israeli policy (visiting Israeli professors included) are losing a potential funding source because of the extreme, sometimes hateful rhetoric of another grant beneficiary? Of course, but the blame shouldn’t be put on the SF Federation, an organization trying to stay afloat. Rather, the burden of blame is on the big money that supports the SF Federation.

Tracy says:

Hungry Hyaena says:
“The labels “self-hating Jew” and “anti-Semite” are far too often applied these days.”

Sorry, they are not applied often enough.

Every scummy antisemite complains that he is being unfairly called an antisemite.

If you want to say and do antisemitic things then don’t complain when people call a spade a spade.

Michael Harris understates the case. The academicians are suffering from an astonishing sense of entitlement. In this case they seem to believe they have A RIGHT to somebody else’s money.

I would quarrel with the claim that these programs are all that “prestigious”. One-sidedness, bigotry, and propagandizing are all characteristic of mediocre minds. I doubt their scholarship is any more thoughtful than their politics.

Joseph Abdel Wahed says:

I gave money to the Federation for a specific purpose—-to help a Jewish refugee go to college. I would hate to see that money go to sponsor a film or a professor who demonize Israel and its people. Also, the left criticizes Israeli policies in the West Bank., but I have yet to hear them complain about all the Israelis (including babies) who were slaughtered by Palestinian suicide bombers.
Where were the Jewish leftist when nearly one million Jews were ethnically cleansed from nine Arab countries and Muslim Iran? One of the Women in Black told me: “we don’t care about you”. Neither did Human Rights Organization or the UN Security Council protest this crime against humanity.
Professors of Jewish studies at Berkeley, Davis and Santa Cruz need not always invite leftist-leaning speakers on their campus, neither do they need to teach their students only one side of the conflict. Maybe the SF Federation would not stop or reduce funding for their programs if they were more balanced in their programs.
Sad to say that many American Jews who are unabashedly critical of Israel, are not often familiar with the history of the Middle East conflict, especially going back to the 1920’s when Palestinian Jews were slaughtered by Palestinian Arabs. This is a complex story which did not begin in 2000 or with Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.
I’m an Egyptian Jews and remember when the Arab League issued the following statement in May 1948, the day before five Arab armies and the Palestinians under Haj Amin el Husseini:
“This will be a war of extermination that will be likened to the Mongolian Massacre and the Crusades”
This exhortation still rings in my ear. Although I fully realize that times have changed, I long to see the end of the vicious anti Semitic and Anti Israeli propaganda in Palestinian schools and in Egyptian and other Arab media.
Joseph Abdel Wahed

@ Tracy:

You write, “every scummy antisemite complains that he is being unfairly called an antisemite.”

Sadly, that’s not true. There are many outspoken and proud anti-Semites and “Jew-haters.” For that reason, the latter label, more specific and direct, is preferable. These bigots take pride in their hate.

But the rhetoric of that camp is a different monster from the sort produced by those that would speak ill of Israeli policies and then deny hate or cry foul when they’re called anti-Semitic. Some of those that speak ill are, as you suggest, Jew-haters, and their critique is motivated by poison. Others, however, many of them Jews (both from Israel and from the greater kehal Israel) are not motivated by hate of either Jews or the Jewish State. Israeli policy, after all, does not necessarily reflect a universal politics of world Jewry!

You suggest that the labels “self-hating Jew” and “anti-Semite” should be more often applied. Does any Jew who critiques Israeli policy then qualify in your book? Are American Jews to turn on any dissent within the community? Israeli Jews? The rest of diaspora Jewry?

Joseph Wahed is correct when he laments that “many American Jews […] are not often familiar with the history of the Middle East conflict.” The result of that ignorance rarely produces American Jews who are “unabashedly critical of Israel,” however, but rather apathetic Jews who don’t have a strong connection to the Jewish State or to their identities as Jews. Educating the next generation of Jews about the importance of Israel and the vital role that world Jewry plays with respect to Israel (even as non-citizens) necessitates a rigorous education about the history of the conflict. And, just as a comprehensive education about the history of the United States should include our country’s numerous moral lapses (atrocities, land grabs, executive corruption, and so on), so too must an education of Israel’s history include all the mostly grey, not black and white, facts. Looking at a conflict and history as objectively as possible does not amount to hating oneself.

Rachel Biale says:

A critical factor is missing from the discussion of what organizations ought to be funded by the Jewish Community Federation and Jewish Community Endowment Fund (JCE), and probably not understood by most commentators. The Guidelines have led to the removal of several organizations from the list of approved grantees for DONOR ADVISED FUNDS, held by the JCE. These are organizations specifically selected by donors for their support. Thus, there is no question of someone’s gift to Federation, like Mr. Joseph Abdel Wahed’s laudable targeting his donation to support immigrant children going to college, going to another cause. That, indeed, is where HIS donation will go. But donors who in the past have selected the following organizations for their support will no longer be able to direct their donations their way: Global Exchange, Madre, National Lawyers Guild, Jewish Voice for Peace and American Friends Service Committee (The latter 2 were the cosponsors for the screening of “Rachel” at last summer’s SF Jewish Film Festival). Meanwhile, organizations that support the settlements such as The Hebron Fund, The Central Fund of Israel, American Friends of Ariel, One Israel Fund/Yesha Heartland Campaign, Friends of the College of Judea and Samaria, Inc. and several funds supporting yeshivas in settlements in the West Bank, remain on the list of “kosher” organizations (the full list of organizations supported by of donor advised funds can be viewed at: The implication is clear: those organizations (and individuals) militantly advocating for the settlement movement and continued Israeli control of “Judea and Samaria” (AKA the West Bank) are not “undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” It strikes me as a case of incredibly blind denial to hold that ruling indefinitely over the 3.5 million and growing Palestinian population in the West Bank does not undermine Israel as BOTH a Jewish and democratic.

Look, I have little patience for hyperventilating anti-Zionists like Professor Boyarin. But the idea that the Federation is going to review organizations and individuals for ideological purity on a case-by-case basis is ridiculous: not only is it going to prevent the University from getting really worthy speakers (believe it or not, brilliant people sometimes have ridiculous politics), but the chilling effect caused by the University always having to look over its shoulder will prevent even individuals who pass the Federation’s ideological litmus test from coming. If the Federation doesn’t like the possibility that the discussion it funds might end up being a little too broad, then it should stop donating to universities, full stop, not have its politburo review every event.

And no, this has nothing to do with free speech. Yes, the university can choose to say what it wants. And yes, as many commenters have pointed out, the Federation can choose to donate to whomever it likes. And the rest of us can choose to call them pillocks.

Aron Gutman says:

I honestly don’t understand how a handful of programs raising issues critical of Israel among hundreds per year are used to characterize an organization as demonizing Israel. This rule is clearly being used to narrow the debate in exactly the place where it needs to be widened. How can the federation cut off funding to the film festival because of one film? Does this festival not serve an important cultural function in the Jewish community regardless of ‘controversy?’

nance says:

Is this just another way to label the new antisemites?

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San Francisco’s Federation puts new restrictions on its grants, worrying Bay Area Jewish-studies profs

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