ZOA Response of American Jewish Leadership – Jewish Link
Op-Ed
August 23, 2023

By Alan D. Jay

(AUGUST 10, 2023 / JEWISH LINK) I had mixed emotions after reading Lee March Grayson’s letter to the editor in the most recently published Jewish Link entitled “Time for a Change in American Jewish Advocacy Leadership” (July 26, 2023). I agree with the premise of Mr. Grayson’s letter; leadership in most Jewish advocacy groups does need to change. In fact, there is a recently published, immensely powerful book on this very subject, “Betrayal: The Failure of American Jewish Leadership,” by Dr. Charles Jacobs and Avi Goldwasser. I agree with Mr. Grayson that most of the legacy Jewish advocacy groups don’t do enough and, as Mr. Grayson suggests, some even do harm to Israel and the Jewish people. But as Dr. Jacobs and Mr. Goldwasser point out, of the legacy Jewish establishment leaders, only the ZOA and its president, Mort Klein are NOT failing the Jewish people.

Mr. Grayson asks excellent questions “… what do any of these groups do beside elaborate fundraising …” and “… Who will raise their powerful voice to combat Jew hatred?” Here I need to paraphrase “… What did ZOA do to challenge and rewrite the current hateful narrative that Israel is racist, apartheid and Nazi-like.’”

A simple search on the ZOA website (www.zoa.org) will reveal a storied history and a long list of ZOA articles, media appearances, news releases and action alerts demonstrating continuous testimony to ZOA’s powerful pro-Israel, pro-Jewish activism. Here are just a few examples of the work ZOA investors support:

ZOA President Morton A. Klein impactfully testifies in front of the U.S. Congress on the Judiciary hearing entitled “Hate Crimes and the Rise of White Nationalism.”

At the crux of the question about the false accusations that Israel is an apartheid, racist country is the tolerance for holding Israel to a different standard than any other country in the world. ZOA supports and advocates for the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism which recognizes that applying a double standard to Israel is antisemitism, and we encouraged President Biden to accept it universally. When the administration published its “Strategy to Counter Antisemitism,” which infamously “welcomes and appreciates” the flawed Nexus definition, ZOA was the only major Jewish organization to strenuously criticized the plan.

The ZOA Center for Law and Justice (CLJ) led the successful fight to get the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to reinterpret Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to protect Jewish students from antisemitic harassment and discrimination.

ZOA’s Title VI action against Rutgers University triggered OCR’s decision to begin using the IHRA working definition of antisemitism when it assesses antisemitic bias in Title VI cases, giving OCR much-needed guidance about how antisemitism is expressed today so that OCR can more effectively address the problem.

ZOA helped trigger a Department of Education (DOE) investigation into whether a Middle East studies program, operated jointly by Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, misused federal funds allocated under Title VI of the Higher Education Act. ZOA’s complaint led each university to enter into a resolution agreement in which they agreed to take several remedial steps under DOE’s supervision and monitoring.

ZOA filed an amicus brief with the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, supporting Fordham University’s decision to deny Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) formal recognition as a university-sanctioned club, based on SJP’s record of creating a divisive and hostile campus environment for many students. Reversing a lower court ruling, the Appellate Division decided in Fordham’s favor.

In December 2022, ZOA filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging that social media companies be legally accountable when they recommend antisemitic content to their users.

ZOA is currently addressing antisemitism and anti-Israelism in the New Jersey Education Association, the largest trade union in the state of New Jersey.

Our ZOA government relations division sits in Washington, working continuously to educate members of Congress and others in the government and capitol community. Specifically, ZOA executes multi-faceted strategies and resources to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapon capability; ZOA is the only major Jewish organization working to stop funding to the Palestinian Authority, UNESCO and UNRWA; ZOA was instrumental in getting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee; ZOA assisted Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) in introducing H.R. 3773, the “Stop Antisemitism on College Campuses Act,” to prevent universities from sponsoring antisemitic programs; we are pressing the Department of Education to be more responsive to antisemitic formal complaints.

ZOA Campus operates on more than 70 college campuses, with ZOA Campus fellows on more than 30 of those campuses: UC Berkeley, Columbia, Duke, Emory, Binghamton to name a few, where ZOA advocates for Israel and successfully engages with the greater campus communities. ZOA Fellows partner with other pro-Israel student group organizations to host guest speakers, film screenings, and other important pro-Israel programs focusing on critical topics such as strengthening Jewish identity, raising awareness about Israel’s complex security challenges and Palestinian-Arab terror and incitement. Apply to be a ZOA Fellow or to join our ZOA Campus Advocacy Mission to Israel. The trip is free to the select students who qualify. Apply at www.campus.zoa.org.

Mr. Grayson and anyone else who would like more information about ZOA’s ongoing work is welcome to visit our website or call me directly.

Alan D. Jay is the national executive director of the Zionist Organization of America.
This article was originally published in the Jewish Link and can be viewed here.

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