When J Street is feeling sad, the Jewish Daily Forward is there. The paper, which has served as J Street’s virtual therapy session after the group’s rejection from the Conference of Presidents, ran yet another article attempting to paint the vote as “right wing” and attack groups that said "no" to J Street. AEPi was the latest victim of the paper's bullying on Tuesday morning.
In an article titled “Jewish Fraternity With Right Wing Ties Helped Block J Street Bid,” Josh Nathan-Kazis asked, “Why is AEPi in the Presidents Conference Anyway?” and elevated irrelevant information regarding the fraternity in an attempt to frame the organization as unworthy and irresponsible.
Nathan-Kazis began by describing J Street as the “dovish lobby” while AEPi was relegated to “an organization better known for throwing beer-fueled parties.” He then pointed out that the right wing Zionist Organization of America thanked AEPi in its press release following the vote. He asked “So how did AEPi get into the Presidents Conference when J Street’s way was blocked?
The article included a list of irrelevant allegations raised against different AEPi chapters and attempted to highlight various conservative figures connected to the organization specifically Elan Carr and Sheldon Adelson. Absent was any mention of various J Street U members' reckless behavior and programming on college campuses across the country.
Liberal Democrat Gary Ackerman once said that J Street is "so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out." One liberal student at Boston University even declared J Street pro-war and stated that "J Street erodes the quality of the desired healthy environment for Jewish students."
JNS.org responded directly to the Jewish Daily Forward’s question regarding AEPi’s inclusion:
Conference of Presidents Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein—who the Forward said didn't respond to its request for comment—answered that very question in our profile of AEPi, published in March.
As a national organization with affiliates on campuses across the country, and with 10,000 members plus many alumni "who are very active," AEPi "brings an important constituency into the Conference and emphasizes our desire to get more young Jews involved," Hoenlein said.
Similarly, University of California, Berkeley student Avi Levine, Jewish Identity Chair and Alumni Relations Chair at that school's AEPi chapter, said the fraternity "truly has something to offer that no other Jewish organization does, and that’s the youth."
"We hear all this talk about the Pew study and that Jewish youth is losing its Jewish identity and affinity toward Israel, and the Conference of Presidents, by taking in this organization of Jewish youth and Jewish collegiate members, shows the complete opposite. This is an organization of thousands of active brothers, and way more alumni, that strongly support Israel," Levine said.
The Forward story described those who "questioned why AEPi, which does little work on Israel policy, was able to get into the Presidents Conference while J Street, an Israel policy group that supports a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, was not."
Yet AEPi over time has worked to shed the typical fraternity "party image" and make its mark in Israel advocacy, according to our story. It is "the only fraternity that defines itself as a Jewish organization, that fights assimilation, that produces the Jewish leaders of tomorrow, and that fights for Israel,” said AEPi International President Elan Carr.
Levine noted that when the UC Berkeley student government held Israel divestment votes in 2010 and 2013, AEPi brothers "went out and gave speeches and played an integral role in helping the rest of the Jewish community, and AEPi served as a space in which people were able to organize and help other students write speeches they wanted to give during [the time for] public comment."
In Europe, meanwhile, Jewish college students describe how safe they feel at AEPi given the increasing anti-Semitic climate on that continent, according to Carr.
AEPi has made it a national goal to raise money for charity through its members and chapters across the country. According to the organization's website, "One of our most important goals as the premier Jewish Fraternity is to give back to others through philanthropic endeavors and community service. Alpha Epsilon Pi men practice "Tikkun Olam," or "Repairing the World", contributing not only to their local communities but the global community as well."
"At the fraternity's 2010 summer convention, Alpha Epsilon Pi brothers unanimously voted to make a 7-year, $700,000 philanthropic commitment to 7 extremely worthwhile charitable organizations: Sharsheret, Save A Child's Heart, Keshet, Elem, Leket Israel, Friends of the IDF, and JNF" according to the fraternity's website. AEPi has raised $547,479 to date.
The Jewish Daily Forward has made a habit of attacking those with whom the paper disagrees. In March, J.J. Goldberg described Caroline Glick as “militant” and classified her as a “fiery right-winger.” Similary, staff writer Jay Michaelson encouraged students to leave Hillel on campus saying the "Institution is beholden to donors, not students" and "they don’t give a damn what you say."
Zach Stern of J Street Watch took issue with Nathan-Kazis’ characterization of J Street as dovish and told TruthRevolt, “Ignoring obvious facts on the ground to sign a dangerous agreement is not "dovish." Ignoring PA war crimes and demonizing the only Jewish state is not "dovish." Partnering with BDSers is not "dovish." The term "dovish" implies "pro-peace," but J Street's policies will only lead to more violence. J Street is not "dovish"...it's naive and idiotic."
The Jewish Daily Forward also was silent following the incident when J Street U students were revealed wearing shirts that stated "resistance is not terrorism."