The Simon Wiesenthal Center sponsors the Museum of Tolerance on East 42nd Street in New York City. The museum is dedicated to teaching the importance of tolerance – that is, the evils of bigotry against all races, religions, and ethnic groups. I have never visited the museum, but it has a fine reputation for living up to its mission.
Then there is another Jewish museum located at Battery Park Plaza in downtown Manhattan: The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust (MJH). The museum is a must-see for any Jew in New York and beyond. There are women in our shul – the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills – who have served as guides for the museum over the years. Our shul once had its annual dinner in their beautiful dining area.
However, recently the museum showed its dark side. In an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal last Friday, the authors describe how a great governor, who is very supportive of his Jewish constituents and of Israel, was rejected by the museum from speaking at their venue.
Elliott Abrams and Eric Cohen wrote how they are involved with a Jewish leadership organization called Tikva. It seems that Tikva booked an event at the MJH, but once the management realized that Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida was on Tikva’s program as a speaker, they reneged on the contract. The reason given was that Mr. DeSantis did not “align with the museum’s values and its message of inclusivity.” So, they excluded DeSantis. How rich is that?
What are the values that so irk the museum? They’re called family values. The governor refused to allow a bill that would force kids, without input from their parents, in the first and second grades, to learn about gender issues and the LGBTQ agenda. Naturally, they are bothered by his being a Republican and his conservative value system.
How dare the museum allow politics to creep into a Holocaust memorial!! Do you think the Six Million martyrs had values different from DeSantis or any normal person?
The museum responded that they never allow politicians to have a platform in their premises. Yet, as the authors point out, they had Israel-hating Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speak there in 2018 when she was running for office. They also had Senator Schumer and Governor Cuomo speak there.
Interestingly, an article appeared in The Jewish Week based on the JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency), which at one point attempted to defend the museum. They quoted the museum’s leadership as saying that no contract was ever signed; the whole story is a fabrication.
The article continues, however, by saying that they (The Jewish Week) saw a copy of the contract, although not signed. But then they go on to say that only after Cohen signed the contract was the museum informed of DeSantis’ attendance. I don’t think they realize that they just confirmed that the contract was indeed signed.
This is a perfect illustration of my subject in last week’s column (“Are We Complex or Comatose?”), where I wrote of secular Jewry’s adoration for leftist anti-Semites and their lack of loyalty to our true supporters. It also illustrates how those who preach tolerance are often the least tolerant. This museum preaches inclusiveness, yet they are rejectionists.
I will also add that this episode once again demonstrates how our own organizations refuse to publicly stand up for what’s right. Despite my pleas, our Orthodox organizations have been silent on this issue. To their credit, our CJV and the ZOA did issue strong statements.
I would suggest that you call the museum and leave a message of your great disappointment over their rejection of Governor DeSantis, a great friend of the Jews.
I cannot close without referring to the terrible terrorist attack that killed three Jewish husbands and fathers in Elad, Israel. The Palestinians did what they do best: murder.
I do have my opinion on the reason for the recent rise in Arab terror in Israel, but it is a very political one. I would rather keep politics out of the discussion at this time. We must mourn with our brethren in Israel and pray to Hashem that we no longer suffer such tragedies. We also need to be grateful to the IDF soldiers and Israeli police for capturing the two terrorists.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.