(JTA) – Supporters of Cecilie Surasky, a leader of a Jewish pro-Palestinian group, have rallied to her support after she was bumped from a national Jewish Heroes competition.
Backers of Surasky, the deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, have sent nearly 4,000 letters via e-mail to the leadership of the Jewish Federations of North America and its Jewish Community Heroes competition, Jewish Voice for Peace said in a statement. They also blanketed discussion on the Jewish Community Heroes Facebook page with posts in favor of Surasky.
Surasky was removed from the competition earlier this month because her organization is a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting investment in Israel, JFNA officials told JTA. Jewish Voice for Peace acknowledges being part of the BDS movement but says it supports only campaigns targeting Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
She had received 1,462 online votes out of the more than 100,000 cast and was within the top 10 at the time she was removed. In the competition, the public nominates and votes for the top 10 in two categories, and then a panel of judges chooses the winner, who gets a $25,000 grant toward the community project of his or her choice. Four runners-up each receive grants of $1,000.
"A central value of The Jewish Federations of North America is to support Israel, and the Jewish Heroes rules preclude us from accepting any nominees whose aims run counter to that mission,” Joe Berkofsky, the Federations’ managing director of communications, said in a statement at the time of Surasky’s removal. “Our Israel Action Network is working to challenge the boycott, sanctions and divestment movement and other efforts to isolate and weaken the Jewish state. We cannot therefore support a group that seeks to harm Israel through its support for BDS."
Another prominent supporter of BDS remains on the list.
This is the third year of the Jewish Heroes competition. Last year’s winner was Jay Feinberg of the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation.