Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston assails ad that links it to funding of ‘anti-Israel extremism’

One of Boston’s leading Jewish charities assailed yesterday a full-page ad in The New York Times that urged readers to ask why the organization is “funding bigotry and anti-Israel extremism’’ by two left-leaning groups.

Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz also castigated the ad by the Emergency Committee for Israel, which he said quoted him without approval and distorted the funding role of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston.

The Emergency Committee for Israel, a critic of President Obama’s policy in that region, took aim at Media Matters for America and the Center for American Progress. Those groups, the ad read, “claim to be in the liberal mainstream. But is being anti-Israel a liberal value?’’


The ad listed the phone number of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, along with 10 other charities nationwide, which the Emergency Committee said had funded one or both of the organizations.

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The Center for American Progress is an influential liberal think tank, while Media Matters monitors and rebuts what it describes as “conservative misinformation.’’

“It’s a shame because the ad really badly distorts the reality,’’ said Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. “The people who put the ad in surely know that this was not a gift from CJP’s regular fund.’’

Instead, Shrage said, funding for the groups came from the charity’s Donor Advised Funds, which allow donors to direct where to place their money, and not from the philanthropy’s general account.

In any event, Shrage said, the groups met the standards for any funding from Combined Jewish Philanthropies. They do not support boycotts, divestment, or sanctions against Israel, and they recognize Israel’s right to exist as a democractic and Jewish state, he said.


“I can’t exactly figure out what’s in the minds of the people who put this in the paper, but it seems to serve a divisive purpose,’’ Shrage said.

“One begins to believe we’re in the middle of a very hot political season, and there’s a great deal of polarization between left and right.’’

The Emergency Committee, based in Washington, argues that the groups have been biased against Israel.

Media Matters has caused a firestorm with commentary from M.J. Rosenberg, a senior foreign policy fellow, who criticizes “Israel-firsters’’ who support Israel’s policies over those of the United States.

In addition, two people associated with the Center for American Progress caused a controversy about messages from their private Twitter accounts.


One writer’s post referred to “Israel-firsters,’’ and another described a US senator as being more loyal to a pro-Israel lobby than to his constituents.

The authors apologized, and the messages were deleted.

“This is just another baseless right-wing attack aimed at distorting the work of the Center for American Progress. We are pro-Israel and pro-peace, and we have a zero-tolerance policy on anti-Semitism,’’ said Andrea Purse, a spokeswoman for the center.

Emergency Committee officials defended the ad, which featured an illustration of a menacing wolf taking a sheep mask off his face.

“Every quote in ECI’s ad was accurate, in proper context, correctly attributed to its source, and taken from widely read publications,’’ said Noah Pollak, executive director of the committee.

Michael Goldfarb, a committee spokesman, said that charities such as Combined Jewish Philanthropies should rethink their funding guidelines.

“I would say that they’re on the other side of where that line should be,’’ Goldfarb said. “We’re simply asking CJP to reassess. There’s nothing to stop that donor from going outside the CJP to give that money. For people like us, it’s a head-scratcher.’’

The committee believes that Combined Jewish Philanthropies is supportive of Israel, he said.

“The assumption of our ad is that these are good foundations, and good charities, and they are acting in good faith,’’ Goldfarb said. “You can be anti-Israel; it’s a free country. But I wouldn’t expect Jewish Philanthropies to support that kind of activity.’’

In an interview, Dershowitz said that “I did not authorize the use of my name or the quote,’’ in which he said that the groups “are so virulently anti-Israel and anti-supporters of Israel that they’ve gone over the line from anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism.’’

Dershowitz said he stands by his words on Media Matters, but believes that the Center for American Progress “has taken steps to remedy the problem caused by some of their staff.’’

MacQuarrie can be reached at