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A synagogue's lame evasive maneuver on
J Street

Posted by Jesse Singal  November 17, 2010 01:55 PM

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The Globe reports that "Temple Beth Avodah, a Reform Jewish synagogue in Newton, has abruptly canceled an event with the president of J Street, a lobbying group that supports liberal positions on Israel, because of vociferous objections from some members of the congregation about J Street’s politics."

It looks like the number of these dissenters wasn't all that high:

Rabbi Keith Stern, who has led Temple Beth Avodah for more than 13 years, said a “small, influential group’’ within the congregation voiced strong opposition to hosting the event. Synagogue leaders decided to cancel after “an agonizing process,’’ he said, because they felt the controversy would “threaten the fabric of the congregation.’’

“The understanding was that it was going to be what I considered to be an honest and open conversation with a liberal Jewish organization, but I clearly did not understand how deep the antipathy is among a group within the Jewish community toward J Street and toward Jeremy Ben-Ami,’’ he said.

I'm sympathetic to a lot of what J Street does, but, the merits of the organization aside, this strikes me as a cop out. J Street isn't some fringe organization — it's received all sorts of major media coverage and doesn't espouse particularly radical viewpoints.

If a mere conversation featuring the head of a group that has become, for better or worse, part of the mainstream conversation on Israel would "threaten the fabric of the congregation," it says more about the congregation than it does about J Street.

Ben-Ami may have lost the Temple Beth Avodah engagement, but he's still still speaking at Tufts tomorrow.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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