Why We Still Oppose the New Leader of the Center for Jewish History
Since our criticism last week of David N. Myers — the new CEO of the Center for Jewish History (CJH) — more controversy has ensued. The leadership of the CJH has expounded on what a brilliant academic he is, and — in private messages from the staff at CJH — we have been told that Myers has the right to free speech. In an op-ed in The Forward, Professors David Ellenson and Jonathan D. Sarna advised that Mr. Myers is “not a radical.”
Allow us to further clarify our position:
We are confident that Mr. Myers is a great academic, and we agree that he has the right to free speech. Yet we further reiterate that someone with viewpoints that are so extreme must not hold any position of Jewish leadership.
Here is some further information that we would like to share:
We were unaware when writing our initial op-ed that Myers was named in a March 2016 Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) strategy brief as a member of the group’s Academic Advisory Board. The Anti-Defamation League has identified JVP as one of the ten most influential and active anti-Israel organizations. Also, JVP recently called for a boycott of Birthright Israel.
(Editor’s note: In a public statement on Monday, JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson said, “David Myers has never been in any way affiliated with any Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) leadership body.”)
Further, Myers condemned a report issued by the UC Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion about Jewish students coming under siege on campus byanti-Israel forces. In an open letter that was signed by numerous academics, Myers was part of a group that instead claimed that the ADL is a “well-known rightwing group,” that “..has become known for accusing critics of Israel of being anti-Semitic and denouncing Palestinian rights supporters, including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace.”
Last year, Simone Zimmerman — the founder of the group If Not Now — was fired by Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign for posting an expletive-filled and offensive rant that was critical of the Israeli government. Zimmerman wrote on Facebook, “Bibi Netanyahu is an arrogant, deceptive, cynical, manipulative asshole. F— you, Bibi, for daring to insist that you legitimately represent even a fraction of the Jews in this world…”
Myers responded with an impassioned defense of Ms. Zimmerman, detailing her as “the future of American Jewry,” a “beneficiary of the best Jewish education our community offers” and someone with a “deep and abiding connection to Judaism and Israel.”
It’s also worth further examining Mr. Myers’ fundraising appeal for If Not Now — an organization that, according to Haaretz, holds “…sit-ins in the lobbies of buildings housing Jewish groups” to protest their ‘not loud enough’ condemnation of Israel’s West Bank “occupation.” The group’s members have been arrested while holding sit-ins at the ADL, Hillel International, AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization and the Jewish Federation.
The future of American Jewry is not — and must not — be Simone Zimmerman, and people like her, who stand against the Jewish state. The Center for Jewish History must not allow Mr. Myers’ radical support for extremist organizations to redefine Jewish history, regardless of how strong of a historian he is.
He should be fired.
Hank Sheinkopf, CEO of Sheinkopf Communications, is a leading political strategist who has worked on campaigns in four continents. His clients have included former president Bill Clinton. Ronn Torossian is CEO of one of America’s largest privately-held public relations firms, and the award-winning author of “For Immediate Release.” George Birnbaum is a former chief of staff to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.