Founded in 2012 through the merger of two other far-left American Jewish organizations, Bend the Arc campaigns for progressive political causes by organizing protests and demonstrations, lobbying public officials, and training activists. Sean Cooper, in a detailed report on the organization’s structure and history, explains:
Headquartered in Manhattan with a staff of 70 employees in satellite offices in California and Washington, DC, as well as staffers managing a mix of volunteer and part-time organizers in cities around the country, Bend the Arc provides a national infrastructure whose primary function is to activate mass protest groups that march and demonstrate with Bend the Arc banners, slogans, and clearly defined political positions, . . . making them the “Jewish section” of a national [progressive] movement.
In doing so, the group has managed to establish a high profile, providing quotes, interviews, and soundbites for journalists, making sure its activists appear in press photos—often bearing the accoutrements of Jewish ritual—winning praise from left-leaning politicians, and bringing its messages to synagogues and local Jewish organizations. Then there is question of its funding:
[According] to Bend the Arc’s own financial filings, almost none of its annual revenue is generated from within the Jewish community itself. Rather, its financial backing comes from a small cohort of foundations and wealthy patrons—some of whom otherwise have no active philanthropic role in American Jewry and in some cases seem actively hostile to key points of collective American Jewish identification and interest.
From 2005 to 2013, Bend the Arc received annual donations totaling $1.5 million from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, for whom support of a Jewish organization is unusual. A review of the $20.3 million [the Rockefeller Brothers] spent on domestic programs in 2013 . . . found that, while active in its support with hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to Asian, black, and other minority community groups, it provided funding to no other Jewish organization.
What, then, has made Bend the Arc such a singular and attractive investment worth tens of millions of dollars for elite philanthropists who, according to their own financial records, are otherwise unengaged with the well-being of American Jewry? A close look at Bend the Arc’s work over the years would suggest that such an investment was designed not to advance American Jewish life, but rather, to obtain and to cement Jewish-branded support for progressive political causes.
While Bend the Arc itself generally stays away from Israel-related issues, Cooper notes that it has close ties with the anti-Israel group IfNotNow, and that the Rockefeller fund has been a major supporter of the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement.