Synagogue Massacre: Liberal Jewish Group Sends Out Mobilization Email With ‘Donate’ Button

By Patrick Goodenough | October 30, 2018 | 4:25am EDT
Tammy Hepps, Kate Rothstein and her daughter, Simone Rothstein, 16, pray near the site of a mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood on October 27, 2018.(Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

( – The liberal American Jewish organization J Street sent out an email on Monday, using the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting as a peg to encourage supporters to mobilize against Republicans in next week’s election – and carrying a “Donate” button.

The Republican Jewish Coalition called the move “a disgrace.”

After telling recipients of the email that “our first duty is to come together in support of the victims, their loved ones, the congregation and the entire city of Pittsburgh” and “to grieve and to comfort one another, standing together in solidarity,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami shifts direction.

In bold type, he writes, “As that work continues, we must also do all that we can to challenge the nightmarish proliferation of hatred, white nationalism and anti-Semitic tropes that helped create the context for this attack.”

Asserting that the man accused of killing 11 worshipers on Saturday, Robert Bowers, was “motivated in part” by the view that liberal Jews were promoting immigration to subvert white Americans, Ben-Ami charges that “this kind of anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic thought has been spread not only by far-right groups, but by President Trump and some of his allies in the Republican party.”

(J Street’s email is silent on the question of Bowers’ view of Trump. Judging from the material he posted and reposted on social media, the accused shooter reviled the president and believed him to be controlled by Jews, whom he evidently despises and blames for the world’s ills.)

J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. (Screen capture: Facebook)

The J Street president then lists several statements by Republican lawmakers, including criticism directed at the liberal Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish.

Soros’ Open Society Foundations has denied claims by conservative critics that it or Soros are funding the “caravan” of Central American migrants making its way through southern Mexico in a bid to reach the United States.

Soros has a long history of generous funding of liberal causes in the U.S. and elsewhere, and pledged in 2016 to invest $500 million in support of European migrant resettlement.

At the height of the European migration crisis a year earlier he urged E.U. governments to “absorb and integrate more than a million asylum seekers and migrants a year.”

In its email J Street – as do other Soros supporters – suggests that criticism of Soros’ financial support for liberal causes amounts to spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories.

Although neo-Nazis and white supremacists are among Soros many detractors, others include the Israeli government, which in July last year stated that Soros “continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself.”

Beneficiaries of Soros’ funding include Human Rights Watch, which has been accused of anti-Israel bias, and J Street itself.

The self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group’s policies include enthusiastic backing of the Iran nuclear deal, and support for Hamas inclusion in a Palestinian unity government (even as it condemns Hamas for calling for Israel’s destruction.)

‘An insult’

The J Street email, with the subject line “Activate against hate,” carries a click-on “Donate” button, and also encourages supporters to volunteer for the campaigns of candidates endorsed by J Street. (The organization’s PAC has endorsed 16 Senate contenders – all Democrats bar independent Sens. Bernie Sanders and Angus King – and 136 hopefuls in House races, all Democrats.)

“The best and most important way to respond to this nightmare is to do everything we can to defeat these fear-mongers at the polls,” Ben Ami writes. “By supporting candidates who share our values in competitive races across the country, we can vote out the president’s enablers and strike a massive blow against their ideology.”

“J Street is soliciting donations on an email about the victims of the Tree of Life Congregation shooting,” the Republican Jewish Coalition said on Twitter on Monday. “What a disgrace.”

“This is an insult to the memory of the victims,” it added. “We hope J Street does the right thing and retracts their insensitive email.”

In an earlier J Street email to supporters, sent out on Saturday in response to the Pittsburgh shooting and signed by the group’s director of rabbinic and community engagement Shaina Wasserman, it did not include a “Donate” button.

In his email on Monday Ben Ami, after criticizing Trump “and his defenders” for blaming incitement on the media, turns his attention to Israeli targets.

He criticizes Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer for praising Trump’s response to the Pittsburgh shooting, and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government for giving “praise and cover to Trump and those who spread the ideology and rhetoric of the far-right.”

Wading into controversies between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform streams of Judaism, Ben Ami calls it “outrageous” that Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, David Lau, refused to refer to the targeted Tree of Life – a Conservative Jewish congregation – as a synagogue.

In fact, Lau’s remarks about the Tree of Life were not a repudiation of the Conservative congregation targeted in the shooting, but on the contrary a rebuke to those raising denominational differences at such a time.

Ben Ami also says in the email it is “profoundly disappointing” that the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Avi Gabbay, responded to the attack by calling on more Jews to immigrate to Israel.

Aliyah – immigration of Jews to Israel – has been a priority of every Israeli government since the founding of the Jewish state in 1948.

“The government will make the issue of Aliyah and immigrant absorption a top priority and will work decisively to increase immigration from around the world,” says the current government’s fundamental policy guidelines.

In a 2014 survey 91 percent of Israeli Jewish respondents said aliyah was an issue of importance.

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