Congregation Ansche Chesed, a prominent Conservative synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, prides itself on being a “diverse community” that offers its members a “rich array of programming.” But when its leader, Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky, learned that the synagogue had agreed to serve as the venue for a panel on Israel, he attempted to cancel the event lest it lead to a discussion of BDS.
The organizers wound up finding an alternate venue. Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, spiritual leader of CBST, had been a co-sponsor of the panel when it was scheduled to take place at Ansche Chesed. She offered to host the event at her synagogue, which is located on the far West Side.
“I am disturbed by the trend in the Jewish community to censor discussions about Israel and Palestine,” Kleinbaum said. “I feel like it’s my moral responsibility to make sure this burning issue that’s facing us as a Jewish people gets a complete debate and discussion.”
Below is the letter from the organizers addressed “to the Jewish Community: A Synagogue Tried to Shut Us Down.”
We are a group of progressive Jews deeply involved in Israel/Palestine and immersed in issues of democracy and justice. We are writing to advise you of a blatant attempt last week by leaders of a prominent New York synagogue to shut down a panel discussion on the subject “Israel-Equality-Democracy.”