With anti-Semitic hate crimes on the rise, veteran pro-Israel activist Charles Jacobs says the organized Jewish community in the United States is asleep at the wheel.
Jacobs, who has spent four decades at the forefront of the Jewish human rights world, says establishment Jewish organizations are led by "people who refuse to fight for Jewish interests" and contribute to the dangerous climate Jews face in the United States by appeasing far-left, anti-Israel forces. The American Jewish community’s alphabet soup of establishment organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Jewish Committee (AJC), and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), among others, "have failed to inform the community of the dangers of Islamic radicalism and anti-Semitism and instead have vouched for radical Muslims posing as ‘moderates,’" according to Jacobs.
That’s why he and several other likeminded Jewish activists have joined together to form the Jewish Leadership Project (JLP), which adopts a more right-leaning philosophy and seeks to undo the damage the group says has been caused by the mainstream Jewish world's near total embrace of Democratic Party politics. The JLP, Jacobs told the Washington Free Beacon, "will demand that major Jewish organizations—including the JFNA, the ADL, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs—cease subordinating the safety and welfare of the Jewish-American community to partisan ideology."
The JLP intends to wage an internecine war with the mainstream Jewish communal world to drag it away from "the progressive’s assault and demonization of the Jewish state and its supporters," said Jacobs.
Organizations like the ADL, which is currently led by Obama administration alum Jonathan Greenblatt, have drifted away from their original mission statements to defend Jewish interests in the United States, instead embracing liberal ideologies that paint Israel as a pariah state. These groups, Jacobs said, "have accommodated, rather than battled the insidious and harmful ethnic studies and critical race theory ideologies that are teaching American students that Jews are undeservedly privileged, ‘white-adjacent’ people who support the ‘racist’ state of Israel."
For years, organizations like the ADL have faced accusations that they isolate conservative-leaning Jews and are overly deferential to Democratic Party politics. These groups, critics say, behave more like Democratic advocacy organizations than protectors of the Jewish people. And while a plurality of American Jews are Democratic voters, Jacobs and his allies say there is a silent and more marginalized segment of the American-Jewish community that is concerned by the party’s leftward lurch.
"These so-called leaders have painted us into a corner," Jacobs explained. "They have no idea of what to do. They are like deer in the headlights, as we face a tsunami of hatred. They have enthusiastically embraced Democratic Party policies, prioritizing them above the needs of the community while ignoring the views of more conservative and observant Jews."
The Black Lives Matter movement, for instance, which is infected with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attitudes, has been embraced by leading Jewish community groups. The desire by the Jewish world to partner with organizations that push anti-Israel policies is contributing to the rise of anti-Semitism and warrants an all-hands-on-deck response, according to Jacobs.
JLP will take a different approach, according to Avi Goldwasser, who leads the group alongside Jacobs. Goldwasser says a large number of American Jews "are frustrated by ineffective Jewish leadership, which seemed more concerned about non-Jewish issues." The JLP will court this disaffected population to help dethrone the liberal legacy organizations and flip the power structures within the American-Jewish world.
"We will organize, connect, and mobilize them to educate the community and especially donors about the massive failure of Jewish leadership to counter the growing hostility to Jews in America," Goldwasser said. If the organization can convince wealthy donors that their money is not being well spent, the JLP could galvanize a shift in the American-Jewish community.
Education, Goldwasser said, is key to this effort. Jewish communal leaders and synagogues primarily receive educational resources from the Jewish Federation, a massive umbrella group established in Jewish communities across America. These resources, Goldwasser and other JLP leaders say, mimic Democratic Party talking points and are not sufficiently pro-Israel.
"We'll provide resources and training so [more moderate Jewish community members] can challenge their rabbis, federations … and other local Jewish leadership and even enact change at the highest levels of organizations like the ADL and AJC," Goldwasser said. "Jewish leaders need to be held accountable for their failures to protect the Jewish community."
Karys Rhea, a JLP fellow who also has served in roles at mainstream Jewish organizations, said younger American Jews are being indoctrinated with anti-Israel propaganda—some of it coming from self-professed Jewish, pro-Israel organizations.
"Jewish organizations are jeopardizing the future for young Jews," Rhea said. "Some are actually platforming anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic voices in an effort to be ‘inclusive’ and ‘diverse,’ thus abandoning the community they were meant to serve and alienating myself and countless other young Jews and Zionists, who feel increasingly unsafe."
The massive uptick in anti-Semitic violence is a sign that the legacy Jewish organizations in America have failed to keep their communities safe.
"It is clear that whatever these organizations have been doing is simply not working," Rhea said. "JLP is long overdue, determined to hold our leaders accountable and keep the next generation of young Jews from suffering the same fate."