Annual Jewish Leadership Conference moves to different venue after museum objects to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
By David Hellerman, World Israel News
Manhattan’s Museum of Jewish Heritage forced organizers of a June event to reschedule an event in June elsewhere in objection to the scheduled presence of Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis.
In a Wall St. Journal op-ed on Thursday, Elliott Abrams and Eric Cohen wrote that they were organizing an event for their annual Jewish Leadership Conference. Abrams has served in a number of foreign policy positions for several U.S. presidents and is currently a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Cohen is the chairman and CEO of the Tikvah Fund, a conservative Jewish think tank.
“We were working closely with the museum on the details for the June 12 event—until, out of the blue, we were told by the museum staff that Mr. DeSantis didn’t ‘align with the museum’s values and its message of inclusivity.’ Either we disinvite the governor, they said, or our event was unwelcome,” the op-ed said.
The op-ed explained that they invited DeSantis because Jewish schools and synagogues have been expanding in recent years. His address was to be titled, “The Florida Model: Why It’s Good for the Jews.”
Rather than disinvite the Florida governor, Abrams and Cohen moved their event to Pier 60.
Museum officials did not respond to media queries, but they did post a statement on Twitter saying the Journal op-ed “contained many factual inaccuracies, including fictionalized quotes.”
“No one was banned or cancelled. The fact is that no contract with the Tikvah Fund was ever signed for this rental event to be held at the Museum and no deposit was ever made,” the statement said.
“This is not a free speech or censorship issue. The Tikvah Fund is trying to create a fight where none exists. This was simply a contractual and logistical decision.”
The statement added, “We welcome Governor DeSantis and elected officials from across the spectrum to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust for a tour of our new exhibition, The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do, when it opens this summer.”
However, the New York Jewish Week obtained a copy of the contract which Cohen said he had signed.
According to the Jewish Week, “That contract explains that museum facilities cannot be used for advancing a particular religious doctrine, political fundraising or activity that is advocating for a political candidate, group or ideology.”
The Jewish Week added, “It was after Cohen signed the contract that the museum learned DeSantis was a scheduled speaker, Cohen said. Cohen said he had spoken by phone with the museum’s CEO, Jack Kliger, who told him that the museum does not welcome political speakers of any ideology.”
But Abrams and Cohen disputed that assertion, noting in their op-ed that the museum has hosted politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, U.S Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Jewish activists and organizations denounced the museum.
Dov Hikind, a former Brooklyn state assemblyman, told the New York Post, “If this happened to someone on the left, they would be outraged.”
The Coalition of Jewish Values, which represents 2,000 American rabbis, also criticized the museum.
“It is hard to see this decision as anything but politically motivated, and directly contrary to Jewish interests as well,” said Rabbi Moshe Parnes in a statement. “As a Floridian and a rabbi, I can say that one would be hard-pressed to find an elected official more attentive to the Jewish community than Ron DeSantis.”