JCRC’s Agenda on Newsom Anti-Israel Letter Sharpens Division with Bay Area Jewish Parents

Jewish Parents Concerned about JCRC's political agenda
Jewish Parents Concerned about JCRC’s political agenda

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s March 21, 2024 letter to California’s Muslim, Palestinian American, and Arab American communities has sharpened division between leadership of Jewish Organizations and Concerned Jewish Parents (“CJP”) of the Bay Area. 

Governor Newsom’s letter appeared intended to express solidarity with the Palestinian, Muslim and Arab population, but it highlights a growing rift within the Jewish community over the perceived prioritization of progressive political agendas by organizations like the Jewish Community Relations Council (“JCRC”). JCRC claims that it is the “largest collective voice of the Jewish community across San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.”

The Concerned Jewish Parents are troubled by what they see as the JCRC’s soft-pedaling of Governor Newsom’s letter, which they interpret as veering into classic anti-Israel territory. While merely mentioning Hamas and the hostages towards the end of the letter, Newsom spent the vast majority of the letter praising Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians, and sympathizing with how they are being treated “unfairly.” 

Instead of addressing or responding to Newsom’s troublesome statements, JCRC misled about how anti-Israel Newsom’s position is. Not only did JCRC fail to condemn Newsom’s minimization of concerns of antisemitism, it ignored it entirely. JCRC’s Facebook post said “In response to the letter, California Jewish’s community has been in close communication with the Governor and his team[.]”

Adding insult to injury, JCRC’s latest weak response comes on the heels of JCRC recently being asked in an open letter by Concerned Jewish Parents to restore fighting antisemitism as the JCRC’s main agenda. JCRC refused to acknowledge or respond to CJP’s letter.

Newsom’s purported sympathy with how Muslims are being treated in response to the Hamas October 7 Massacre appears backwards. While empathy towards individuals facing discrimination is admirable, emphasis in the letter on the suffering of these communities in the context of an attack perpetrated by members of the same broader religious or ethnic group appears to overlook the victims of the attack itself. 

In doing so, this unacceptably shifts the narrative away from the victims of Hamas’ violence and the hostages, who are still in danger after six months in captivity. This is undisguised antisemitism by Newsom that goes entirely unaddressed by JCRC and other Jewish organizations who share Newsome’s progressive agenda. 

Concerned Jewish Parents would prefer their leaders advocate for stronger pro-Jewish and Pro-Israel stances that are willing to address the problem head on, especially in the face of Newsom’s letter. Politically loaded terms like “Islamophobia” in Newsom’s letter are used to overshadow the very real threats of antisemitism and terrorism faced by the Jewish community, particularly in relation to Israel. Jews who are legitimately concerned for their security after October 7 cannot be shamed as “Islamophobic.” This is a blatant slur by Newsom against the Jewish community that is facilitated and inexplicably joined by JCRC. 

Indeed, a Facebook commenter, Jeffrey Finn, responded on JCRC’s post, stating: “I have actually read the letter. It’s a malicious distortion of reality to highlight Islamophobia (which is horrendous) as the main hate problem we have in the state. All indicators show that antisemitism is the highest hate crime problem in the state and the country. The cases of antisemitism are 100 times worse and more frequent on all campuses than Islamophobia. Antisemitism is taught in state colleges and federal government is investigating it. State government says that it does something, but UC operates like a state within a state. The letter lists the hate crime groups like there is an evil force (usually referred to “white”) doing it to all minorities.”

This is part of a noticeable trend where concerns of antisemitism are demoted to a subset of identity groups experiencing discrimination. Collectively, discrimination faced by all groups at once is highlighted as part of the progressive agenda that interprets all discrimination as “anti-hate.” This approach, while aiming to address various forms of discrimination and inequality, dilutes the focus on unique challenges faced by the Jewish community, particularly in the context of Zionism and the Jewish right to self-determination in Israel. Repurposing the fight against antisemitism towards general “anti-hate” is a feature of both the Newsom plan on antisemitism and the national Biden plan. Every time antisemitism is mentioned in these plans, it is only in the context of hate against all minorities. Discrimination in the form of denying nationhood to one religion in Israel is considered free speech, not “hate.” The Concerned Parents have trouble understanding why JCRC would not only go along with these plans to “fight” antisemitism, but would issue unrelenting praise about such plans.

When incidents occur where Jews and Israel are singled out for attack, such as the October 7 Hamas massacre, a broad-brush approach that lumps together the struggles of various minority groups obscures the unique aspects of antisemitism. This is particularly concerning when the narrative shifts away from the historical and ongoing right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their homeland—a central tenet of Zionism. 

JCRC’s alignment with Governor Newsom’s progressive views, which emphasize America’s broader racial and minority issues, suggests a possible reluctance to assertively address instances where the Jewish community and Israel are targeted. This alignment could be seen as contributing to a perceived hesitancy to challenge narratives that undermine the legitimacy of Zionism or that fail to adequately address the unique forms of hostility faced by Jews and Israel.

By adopting a wider lens of minority rights, without a thorough explanation of the Jewish indigenousness to Israel, the fight for Jewish self-determination and the broader Zionist cause might be weakened or left inadequately defended. JCRC cannot fully confront the implications of political rhetoric that may undermine Israel’s position or the broader fight against antisemitism.

Commitment to their progressive allies may keep JCRC from adopting a more assertive stance that unequivocally supports Jewish and Israeli interests. JCRC’s progressive affiliations impose constraints on its ability to vigorously oppose unfavorable positions from allied politicians, such as in the case of the Newsom letter that undermines the fight against antisemitism and compromises Israel’s security. 

Such a stance risks not only undermining the fight for Jewish self-determination and against antisemitism but also alienating segments of the Jewish community who feel that their opinions are not being adequately represented or defended. The Concerned Parents felt the need to speak out because they do not feel represented by many of these stances held by JCRC, the organization purporting to be advocating on their behalf.

Comments 1
  1. Antisemitism has long been festering and simmering under the surface in the US. Since October 7, it has come out into the open in some very scary ways. There is one major difference between the current period and the early 1930s – TODAY THE JEWS HAVE A STRONG AND PROSPEROUS HOME. If people – such as Concerned Jewish Parents – are truly bothered by the increasingly blatant antisemitism being exposed in the US (and they should be), fighting that antisemitism is vital. But it is not a battle that can ultimately be won. PLEASE come home. Send or bring your children home. Israel awaits you with open arms and a warm welcome.

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Parents Ask Jewish Organizations to Restore Fighting Antisemitism As Main Agenda
Tye Gregory of the Jewish Community Relations Council of San Francisco

Parents Ask Jewish Organizations to Restore Fighting Antisemitism As Main Agenda

In a poignant letter addressed to Bay Area Jewish leaders, hundreds of Jewish