“The Jewish community’s so-called big tent when it comes to Israel is large enough to include Alpha Epsilon Pi, the college fraternity, but it may not be big enough for J Street, the dovish pro-Israel lobby group…. [A] move is now on to keep J Street from gaining admission to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which counts the fraternity as one of its 51 member organizations.” – New York Jewish Week
The time is May 2014. The scene opens in the dilapidated headquarters of J Street, a notorious Jewish communal organization. Various members of the organization—Shtarker, Six-Day, Herring, Blatter, Bane—are sprawled on couches. Beer cans litter the floor. A tattered “pro-Israel, pro-peace” banner hangs from one wall.
Enter Benno, a leader of the organization. He wears a tattered sweatshirt over a gray suit and neatly knotted tie.
Benno: Hey! What’s all this laying around stuff? Why are you all still laying around here for?
Shtarker: What the hell are we supposed to do, ya moron? We were all voted out of the Presidents Conference. There’s nothing to fight for anymore.
Six-Day: [to Benno] Let it go. War’s over, man. Wormlein dropped the big one.
Benno: What? Over? Did you say “over?” Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over for the Zealots when they were trapped on Masada? Or for Bar Kochba when he was killed at Beitar?
Blatter: [to Bane] Um, actually it was…
Bane: Forget it, he’s rolling.
Benno: And it ain’t over now! ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough…
[thinks hard of something to say]
Benno: …the tough reapply next year according to the Conference of Presidents’ vague but secretive by-laws! Who’s with me? Let’s go!
[Benno runs out—no one follows. He returns]
Benno: What the f**k happened to the J Street I used to know? Where’s the ruach? Where’s the kishkes, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Benno, we’re no longer part of the ‘consensus.’” “The big tent isn’t big enough to support a broad discussion on a Jewish and democratic Israel.” “ZOA calls us an extremist group.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Wormlein, he’s a dead man! Klein, dead! Emunah Women…
Blatter: Dead! Benno’s right. Abrasive and occasionally disingenuous… but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards! Now we could do it with conventional weapons: news releases, press conferences, perhaps a panel discussion at the 92 Street Y with Alan Dershowitz, Peter Beinart, and Abe Foxman. But that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!
Benno: We’re just the guys to do it!
Ariella-o: And women!
Benno: And women!
Six-Day: [stands up] Yeah, I agree. Let’s go get ‘em.
Bane: Let’s do it!
Benno: [shouting] I’ll arrange the conference call!
[all of J Street stands up and runs out with Benno]
Next scene: Dean Wormlein’s office. The dean and an aide sit across from one another at a large walnut desk.
Dean: What is the most controversial organization within the normative Jewish community?
Aide: That would be hard to say, sir. They’re each outstanding in their own way—
Dean: Cut the horseshit, son. I’ve got their news clippings here.
Who strongly opposed a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran?
Who echoed the call of many Israelis—including Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, MKs Nachman Shai and Michael Eitan, and others—for an independent Israeli investigation into the allegations in the Goldstone Report?
Who argues that, without a two-state solution, Israel is risking its future and its values as it moves toward permanent rule over millions of Palestinians without equal rights?
Aide: You’re talking about J Street, sir.
Dean: Of course I’m talking about J Street, you shmendrick! This year, it’s gonna be different. This year we’ll grab the bull by the beitzim…and keep those punks out of the conference!
Aide: What do you intend to do, sir? There’s already been a secret vote to keep J Street out of the conference.
Dean: Then as of now, we’ll have a double secret vote to keep them out of the conference!
Next scene: Large classroom; members of J Street gather for hearing in presence of Dean Wormlein and other conference officials to discuss their fate.
Blatter: Point of parliamentary procedure!
Bane: [whispers] Don’t screw around, they’re serious this time!
Blatter: Take it easy, I’m pro-Israel.
Bane: I thought you were pro-peace.
Blatter: What’s the difference?
[Addressing the room]
Blatter: Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll be brief. The issue here is not whether we challenged a polity whose consensus boundaries are contained within a time-honored yet possibly obsolescent umbrella organization, or took a few liberties with Republican Party members—we did.
[winks at Dean Wormlein]
Blatter: But you can’t hold a Jewish membership organization responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole Conference of Presidents? And if the whole Conference of Presidents is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our Jewish communal institutions in general? I put it to you, Dean—isn’t this an indictment of our entire Zionist enterprise? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the Jewish state of Israel. Gentlemen!
[J Street members exit hearing, all humming “Hatikvah.”]
Andrew Silow-Carroll is the editor in chief and CEO of the New Jersey Jewish News, an award-winning weekly newspaper published in four editions and on the web. He was previously the managing editor of the Forward. He blogs here.