What Happened When a Conservative Jewish Group Invited DeSantis to Speak

The Tikvah Fund, a conservative Jewish organization, was held in June at the Museum of the Jewish Heritage in New York, when months of planning were suddenly derailed by its last-minute addition : the Republican governor of Florida.

The fund had invited Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss the vibrancy of Jewish life in Florida, a topic the fund wrote about in the April issue of its magazine, one month after Mr. DeSantis signed legislation that prohibits sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools. Opponents have called the law “Don’t Say Gay.”

Tikvah signed a contract and sent it to the museum before Mr. The governor updated his program to include the governor.

“Thanks for sharing this with me,” read official email from Trudy Chan, the official with the museum. Ms. Not stated that providing security for the governor would not be a problem, but she added: ” Please stand by. ”

The next day, Ms. According to emails. Eric Cohen, the chief executive of Tikvah, was informed that the event with Mr. DeSantis could not be held at the museum, which describes itself as “a living memorial to the Holocaust,” because the “Don’t Say Gay” bill does not align with its values ​​of inclusivity, Mr. Cohen told The Times.

The museum did not allow political speakers or events at its museum, He said, despite recent events featuring Democratic politicians like Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“The museum has implied that Tikvah wanted to host a partisan political event,” Cohen said. “Our event endorses or candidates and serves no political party. It is all about ideas, just like every conference we have held at the museum. ”

The museum’s chief executive, Jack Kliger, has declined several requests for this article, but the museum has need. A spokesman for the Museum of Jewish Heritage emphasized that the museum had nothing to do with the event outside the rental of its space to the Tikvah Fund.

Politics have been challenging for Jewish institutions in recent years, as Americans become divided over issues like LGBTQ policies and the results of the 2020 presidential election. New York City is no exception. Neighborhoods with a large population of Reform Jews voted decisively for President Biden in the 2020 election, while those with many ultra-Orthodox Jews overwhelmingly voted for Donald J. Trump.

That has put institutions like the Jewish Heritage Museum in a very difficult position.

“As American domestic politics has become more and more ferociously polarized, and because people see conservatives, it is not, but difficult,” said Peter Beinart , a writer and editor-at-large for Jewish Currents, a progressive magazine, who also writes for The New York Times.

“Any institution that is built today on the need to serve both conservatives and progressives, whether it is the NFL or a Jewish museum or anything else, is finding that work harder and harder to do,” They said.

The Tikvah Fund first made its complaints against the museum in an opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal, written by Mr. Cohen and Elliott Abrams, a national security official in several Republican presidential administrations and a special representative in the Trump administration.

In it, they accused the museum of engaging in culture and speculation that its leaders may have been left out of protests because of “a lot of dislike people. DeSantis. ”

“In the name of inclusivity, a Jewish museum sent us a clear message: Some people are to be excluded,” they wrote. “In the name of fighting hate, the museum decided that the DeSantis support millions – including many Jews – are so hateful that they don’t even merit a voice in the great American conversation. A museum of tolerance has become intolerant. ”

After the opinion piece was published, the article published “contains many factual inaccuracies,” and described the decision as “simply a contractual and logistical decision.”

It invited Mr. DeSantis to “visit” the museum as a tourist and accused Tikvah of “trying to create a fight where none exists.”

“No one was banned or canceled,” the statement said. “The fact is that the Tikvah Fund has never been signed for this event, and no deposit was ever made.”

The Tikvah Fund has not yet signed the contract, according to the Tikvah Fund. . DeSantis would be joining the lineup.

In a letter to The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Kliger accused Tikvah of “political bullying” and duplicity, saying he signed the contract just so he could accuse the museum of canceling it.

He has written that the situation is in vogue because the fund has not provided the museum with details of the conference, which appears to have violated the museum charter.

“When we declined to host the event, Tikvah resorted to threats, saying we had created an enemy,” Mr. Kliger wrote. “Tikvah knew that this wasn’t about banning anyone but talking to make the false claim anyway.”

In a subsequent statement to The Times, Mr. Kliger emphasized yet another reason. “Late in discussions” with Tikvah, the museum realized the event “warranted significant additional security,” he wrote. “The intensity of those security requirements is clearly implied and the level of activity around the conference is not standard practice for the museum.”

Mr. Kliger emphasized this point in his letter to The Wall Street Journal. “This was not about banning or canceling Governor DeSantis,” he wrote. “The museum must consider the safety of visitors and staff.”

Governor DeSantis declined to comment, although his office chastised the museum for what he described as the politicization of a sacred space. “A Holocaust memorial should never be politicized,” he said, adding that the governor was committed to keeping Florida “a safe and welcoming home for the Jewish people.”

The Tikvah Fund will still present the 2022 Jewish Leadership Conference. Appearing at Pier 60 in Manhattan this June alongside Governor DeSantis will be several prominent speakers, including Mike Pompeo, secretary of state under President Trump, and John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine.

Topics will include “How to Fight Back Against Wokeness: A Jewish View” – a conversation between Mr. Podhoretz and Bari Weiss, a former Times opinion writer – and “On Jewish Exceptionalism.”

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