National Security

A Shavuot Faux Pas

J Street hosts dinner at Chinese restaurant on Jewish holy day

Palestinians commorate Nakba Day / AP

Jewish Democrats are upset with the liberal fringe group J Street for hosting a congressional dinner event on Wednesday evening during a major Jewish holiday.

J Street, a far left advocacy group that bills itself as "pro-Israel" and was founded by Jewish Democrats, is scheduled to hold a dinner discussion tonight with members of Congress at the Hunan Dynasty Chinese restaurant in Washington, D.C., according to a copy of the invitation obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The event is taking place during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which began Tuesday evening and commemorates the biblical day in which God is believed to have given the Jewish prophet Moses the Torah.

Observant Jews are required to obey the religious laws of the holiday, which include abstaining from work and other matters after sundown.

Observant Jewish Democrats told the Free Beacon that it is disrespectful and offensive for a supposedly pro-Israel organization to host an event during a major Jewish holiday.

"It’s in bad taste for an organization like this," said one Jewish Democrat, who dubbed the dinner offensive. "I don’t expect everyone to be observant, but there are very few organizations" that has explicitly Jewish ties.

"These kinds of organizations shouldn’t be doing events like this on Jewish holidays," the Democrat said. "There aren’t that many of them" and they should know better, the Democrat added.

The Chinese food dinner is scheduled to run from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at Capitol Hill’s Hunan Dynasty restaurant Wednesday. The holiday ends Thursday at sunset.

One former official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) said J Street is breaking a cardinal rule of pro-Israel advocacy.

"There’s a hard and fast rule about not doing events on holidays," particularly major ones, said the source, who recommended that J Street officials visit a website listing the days that Jewish holidays take place before scheduling events.

"As Jews in America and Israel and across the world celebrate the holiday of Shavuout, I’m glad to see J Street is engaging in a time-honored tradition of eating Chinese food," added the source.

Lawmakers attending the event are invited to talk about a recent trip to Israel they attended with J Street.

"The objective of the dinner is to share and discuss the insights of Members who participated in the mission [to Israel]—from thoughts on recent developments in the region to perspectives on advancing U.S. diplomatic leadership toward a two-state solution," reads the invitation, which is signed by J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami.

"This discussion will also provide an opportunity for Members to learn more and ask questions about [J Street Educational Fund's] 2014 Congressional mission," the invite reads.

"Nearly twenty Members of Congress (please see attached list) have participated in JSEF-sponsored delegations to the region and found them to be nuanced and valuable," it says. "JSEF's missions are designed to provide balanced insights into the roots and possible resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that are not generally available on other trips to the area."

Members attending the event will be able to discuss the Jewish state as they eat steamed meat dumplings, Imperial Shrimp, or Yaki Soba, a sautéed Japanese noodle dish, according to the restaurant’s menu. Adventurous eaters can enjoy squid or octopus.

J Street’s nonprofit arm will foot the bill, according to the invite.

"Dinner for each Member of Congress and one staff member will be paid for by the J Street Education Fund in compliance with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct ethics rules," the invitation says.

J Street spokeswoman Jessica Rosenblum declined to comment on Hill staffers’ concerns about the event being held during the Jewish holiday.

J Street routinely attracts condemnation from conservative and pro-Israel critics for its efforts to force Israel to concede land to the Palestinians.

J Street’s education fund is a nonprofit organization that works in tandem with its political advocacy and lobbying operation.

The J Street dinner is also being held on a day Palestinians and Arabs refer to as the Nakba Day, or the day Israel was created. Palestinians typically engage in violent acts against Israel to mark the day.