J Street not really underground


Walking into the Science Club in downtown Washington, D.C. early Sunday evening, the sign at the entrance stated that the J Street inauguration party was "underground."

"Underground," though, was referring only to the section of the bar the bash was occurring, not the organization. While the "pro-Israel, pro-peace" group has been under fire in the past few weeks from some prominent Jewish leaders — particularly Union of Reform Judaism president Rabbi Eric Yoffie — for its criticism of Israel’s Gaza operation, there were a number young Jewish adults who were willing to vocally proclaim their support for the newest voice in the  D.C. pro-Israel community.

Dan Scarvalone, 22, who recently finished a stint as an Obama campaign field organizer, noted that Judaism has always encouraged a "multiplicity of viewpoints" and "American Jews are tired of hearing one viewpoint" on the Israel issue.

"The fact is, Israel’s not a perfect state — I don’t feel everything the Jewish state does is perfect," he said. "I respect Eric Yoffie," he said, but he didn’t think J Street "crossed the line in any way" in their criticism of the Gaza operation.

"J Street provides a voice that needs to be heard," said Jason Rosenbaum, 24, who blogs at theseminal.com and works for a D.C. non-profit, adding that his generation of Jews have "simply learned to think for ourselves" and formulate their own positions on the issue.

Of course, some of the 75 or so revelers were more interested in a place to celebrate the inauguration than Middle East policy. As one partyer said when asked why she was there, "My housemate’s friend works for J Street." 

J Street also had a closed-to-the-press wine-and-cheese party earlier in the day for its top donors and the members of Congress it endorsed. Peter Yarrow, apparently making the rounds of Jewish groups on inauguration weekend, also stopped by and did some songs.

Recommended from JTA