NEW YORK (Jul. 23)
Five local chapters of the New Jewish Agenda (NJA) are now active members of their local Jewish Federations or Community Councils following the decision by the Jewish Federation Council of Greater Los Angeles to allow the Los Angeles chapter of the NJA to become an affiliate member. The bid for membership into mainstream organized Jewish community groups indicates an apparent shift from earlier policy by the NJA. From its establishment some four years ago, the NJA has sought to work for change in the Jewish community on various issues, but from outside the structured community.
Its successful admission into the Federations or Councils, nonetheless, does not change the NJA’s position on policies with regard to the West Bank, the Palestinian issue or United States domestic policies. Richard Silverstein of the Los Angeles NJA chapter, said that membership in the local Jewish Federation provides the NJA with an opportunity to work from within the Jewish community establishment for policy changes.
“We feel it is important to have our message heard in the Jewish community,” Silverstein said in a telephone interview. “And we feel we have an important role to play in the Jewish community, to provide a broad range of views on vital issues such as the Middle East and social justice.”
The Los Angeles NJA chapter’s application for membership was approved by voice vote at a June 5 meeting of the Jewish Federation’s Board of Directors. The meeting was attended by more than 100 persons, including several officials of the local NJA chapter. The application for membership was submitted some 30 days prior to the Board’s vote and was reviewed by the Federation’s Admissions Committee.
REQUIREMENTS FOR MEMBERSHIP
Requirements for membership in a local Jewish Federation or Community Council include that the group is Jewish, works for Jewish interests, cannot have Communist affiliation and cannot have a record of illegal activities or advocate violence. When admitted, the group is requested to provide its membership list to the United Jewish Appeal for fundraising purposes.
Andy Rose, national co-chairperson of the NJA and of the Los Angeles NJA chapter, was pleased with the Board’s approval of the NJA application. “We’re glad that the Council has officially acknowledged that we, who are engaged in a constructive debate about the political and moral options facing American Jewry, are an integral part of the Jewish community. Stifling dissenting voices and limiting the range of debate is extremely unhealthy for all of us,” Rose said.
Los Angeles NJA joins chapters in Kansas City, New Haven, Ann Arbor and Santa Fe, all of which have been admitted as members of their local Jewish Federations or Community Councils. Rose said: “It is very significant that in Los Angeles, the second largest Jewish community in the United States, NJA has been admitted to the JFC. This will certainly set a precedent for other communities.”
One such community, according to the NJA, is Washington, D. C. where last summer NJA’s application for admission to the Jewish Community Council was narrowly defeated. The vote rejecting the NJA application to the JCC of Greater Washington followed by just a few weeks the JCC’s Executive Board’s vote in favor of admission of the Agenda.
The NJA has called on Israel to negotiate with the PLO on the basis of mutual recognition, supports the right of Palestinians to establish a state in the West Bank and opposes Jewish settlements there and in the Gaza Strip.