Formed during the Eisenhower administration as an umbrella for the various U.S. Jewish groups lobbying for policies more favorable toward Israel, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations receives less public attention than the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), but has proved itself no less influential over the years. Now, the nomination of Dianne Lob—a businesswoman and the former head of the left-leaning Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)—to be the Conference’s new chairwoman has generated controversy, with some member groups questioning her devotion to the pro-Israel cause. Jonathan Tobin observes:
No one should buy into the conceit that [the Conference of Presidents] speaks for everyone; . . . it has generally represented the views of that minority of American Jews who are active and ardent friends of Israel. It is telling that J Street was rejected by the Conference for membership, even though it is likely far larger than many of those groups already affiliated with it, because the left-wing lobbying group was viewed as outside of the pro-Israel consensus.
If elected, Lob deserves the chance to prove them wrong. But what this dispute could demonstrate is that the Jewish right and left are now so divided that the entire concept of an umbrella group like the Conference is no longer viable.
If so, then it’s a sad ending for a group that played a part in some of the greatest moments of modern American Jewish history. While no one should expect liberals and conservatives to give up their principles or even like each other, the point of the Conference of Presidents was that ideological and denominational differences could be transcended by a common love for Israel. If that’s no longer possible, then the consequences are far more serious than a seemingly insignificant organizational squabble.