J Street, ahead of its March conference, which follows hard upon the annual AIPAC conference, has released a campaign that in some ways would not be out of the place at AIPAC.
AIPAC is chockablock with video testimonials like these, and it dotes on young faces and voices, like this one does.
But it’s more than just style: The speakers, explaining why they are "the future of pro-Israel," adopt arguments not out of place at an AIPAC conference: One cites J Street as a tool in countering anti-Israel activity on his campus; another says she hopes to make aliya. A young man says Israel is critical to his Jewish identity.
Here’s Mikey Pasek on why he feels connected to Israel, how it protects his Jewish identity, and how its security is critical to Jews overseas:
There’s also a repeated emphasis on keeping Israel a Jewish state, in itself not out of place for J Street, but for all that interesting in its emphasis.
You remember the ancient joke about the guy who goes to a psychiatrist and says, sometimes I’m a wigwam and sometimes I’m a teepee, and the shrink says, "Your problem is, you’re two tents."
I’m wondering if this is a case of J Street migrating from one broad tent (which, despite its insistence on being pro-Israel, had some non-and-anti-Zionists in attendance at its first two conferences) to another — the organized Jewish community tent, which does not easily accommodate non-Zionists.
There was evidence of this tension between these two tents in J Street’s decision not to join a community-wide condemnation of a campus BDS conference and instead to issue its own statement criticizing BDS. Rachel Lerner, the vice president of J Street’s Education Fund, explained the group’s decision earlier this month:
While I enjoy any email that contains words of Torah, I strongly take issue with your reading of our Penn BDS statement as a disregard for Rabbi Hillel’s wisdom. We are not trying to separate ourselves from the community. Even our statement noted that we shared the opposition of our colleagues in the Jewish community. And you should know that we tried to work with the Federation on language we could sign on to, and when we were asked not to release our statement before theirs, we abided. We are merely trying to be true to who we are – because that is the best and most effective way that we can combat BDS, and that is the most effective way that we can support Israel.
There is plenty of diversity in the Jewish community, as you well know. There are plenty of different interpretations of text and tradition and halacha. I do netilat yadayim before I make kiddush instead of the reverse. I wait three hours between meat and milk instead of six. I dip parsley in vinegar on Passover and not potatoes in salt water. But I still observe shabbat, and kashrut and Pesach, I just may do it differently than you.
We’ll know more at its next conference.
Also: I’m pretty sure I chowed down once on a cheeseburger in Rachel’s presence. Now I feel guilty.