Two views | We must maintain healthy boundaries for civil discussion

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Jewish organizations should not try to control discourse by cutting funds

We are fortunate to live in a remarkably diverse community that is politically engaged and enormously varied in Jewish identity and expression. The San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund holds a deep belief that varied viewpoints and lively discourse are essential for the Bay Area Jewish community to thrive.

We are committed to nurturing this diversity and discourse. Several years ago, we saw a significant spike in polarization in our community concerning Israel, which resulted in a stifling of discussion. In response, our community worked collaboratively to arrive at consensus guidelines to ensure a safe space for our community’s broad spectrum of responsible views from left to right. These guidelines have been welcomed by our partners for their clarity.

Consistent with our core values, our federation funds a spectrum of organizations that sustain and grow our community through their wide-ranging perspectives, affirming the inclusive tent that is vital to a strong, dynamic Jewish community. But the federation does not fund organizations that, through their mission, activities or partnerships:

• Endorse or promote anti-Semitism, or other forms of bigotry or violence, or other extremist views;

• Actively seek to proselytize Jews away from Judaism; or

• Advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through participation in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

This policy supports constructive debate in our community while aiming to ensure that discourse is civil and works toward the goal of building community. Our federation, along with federations around the country, did not open its doors to Meir Kahane in the mid-1980s because he espoused racism and violence — a reminder that reasonable boundaries have always existed for institutions that affirm a set of values as we do.

We believe that Israel is a vital part of our global Jewish peoplehood. For many of us, Israel is a profoundly meaningful and important part of our Jewish identity. It is a safe haven for Jews, a diverse hub of Middle Eastern and global Jewish culture, and a reflection of our history and tradition that have survived millennia against all odds. Whatever our views on the current policies of Israel’s government, our baseline is that Israel is and must continue to be part of our world as a Jewish and democratic state, and Israelis part of our community.

In both the Bay Area and Israel, the community that we believe in and work toward each day is an inclusive and open one, rooted in tradition and Jewish knowledge but open to new and different ways of expressing it. This community finds meaning in connection to Jews and others around us. This community looks after and connects to our family in Israel, Ukraine, France and wherever Jews live. And this community produces an amazing number of positive, creative, generous, dynamic people and organizations that are changing the world around us.

We are truly blessed to live in such a beautifully creative community, positively engaged in lively and civil discourse.


Danny Grossman is the CEO of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. Rabbi Doug Kahn is the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Bay Area.