Letter from Jewish liberals slams de Blasio over AIPAC address

New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, is taking some flak over his recent speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in which he promised “that City Hall will always be open to AIPAC, that when you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call, and I’ll answer it happily, ’cause that’s my job.”

The lefty mayor’s pledge to be a loyal ally to the pro-Israel lobbying group irked some prominent lefty Jews. In an open letter sent to de Blasio today, 58 Jewish liberals told the mayor that “your job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding when they call you to do so.”

“AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us,” they concluded. (The letter’s full text is pasted below.)

The letter’s signatories include a mix of rabbis, philanthropists, activists and cultural figures.

The list — while solidly left-leaning — has a bit of political diversity, with liberal Zionist journalist Peter Beinart signed on alongside Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of the far-left Jewish Voice for Peace. There are some significant Jewish communal figures, including Karen Adler, the president of the Jewish Communal Fund, Rabbis Rolando Matalon and Felicia Sol of prominent Upper West Side shul B’nai Jeshurun, and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of the city’s leading gay and lesbian synagogue. There are also a few semi-bold-face names, such as famed feminist Gloria Steinem, “Vagina Monologues” playwright Eve Ensler, and novelists Anne Roiphe and Erica Jong

The letter’s signatories are not the only ones criticizing the de Blasio’s AIPAC appearance. The absence of the engagement  from de Blasio’s publicized schedule and the ban on press at the event has drawn criticism for being inconsistent with the principle of open governance. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the former president of the Union for Reform Judaism, wrote in Haaretz that de Blasio and AIPAC had, with their secrecy, “managed to take a routine political event intended to promote support for Israel and turn it into a mini-crisis and a major embarrassment for all concerned.”

Here is the text of the letter:

January 29, 2014

An Open Letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio:

We are Jewish residents of New York who read, in the leaked transcript of your private speech to a meeting of AIPAC leaders, the following:

“City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily ’cause that’s my job.”

We understand that the job of mayor of New York is a complex one that often calls for your participation on the international stage, and we would not presume to define your job for you. But we do know that the needs and concerns of many of your constituents–U.S. Jews like us among them–are not aligned with those of AIPAC, and that no, your job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding when they call you to do so. AIPAC speaks for Israel’s hard-line government and its right-wing supporters, and for them alone; it does not speak for us.

Sincerely yours,

Ruth J. Abram
Karen R. Adler
Arlene Alda
Anita Altman
Esther Ann-Asch
Emanuel Ax
Peter Beinart
Andrew Berger
Loren Bevans
Martin I. Bresler
Kenneth David Burrows
Howard Clyman
Rabbi Rachel Cowan
Barbara Deinhardt
Barbara Dobkin
Eugene Eisner
Laurel W. Eisner
Daniel Engelstein
Eve Ensler
Danny Goldberg
Sally Gottesman
Linda Gottlieb
Laurence Greenwald
Jane Hirschmann
Erica Jong
Peter A. Joseph
Alice Kessler-Harris
Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
Gil Kulick
Martha Weinman Lear
Bobbie Leigh
Jonathan Leigh
Alan H. Levine
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon
Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark
Donna Nevel
Kathleen Peratis
Letty Cottin Pogrebin
Bertrand B. Pogrebin
Michael Ratner
Anne Roiphe
Betty Rollin
Al Ruben
Marlene Sanders
James Schamus
Dan Silverman
Beverly Solochek
Carla Singer
Rabbi Felicia Sol
Alisa Solomon
Gloria Steinem
Herbert Teitelbaum
Rebecca Vilkomerson
Rabbi Burton Visotzky
Peter Weiss
Jack Willis
Eugenia Zukerman

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