A New York City museum devoted to Jewish heritage told the Jewish leaders of a group hosting Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis, a fervent supporter of Israel and Jewish causes, that the governor should be disinvited from speaking or else the event was not to be held there.
Elliott Abrams, the chairman of Tikvah, and Eric Cohen, the group’s CEO, founded the Jewish Leadership Conference, an annual gathering discussing the Jewish people and Israel. They were planning to hold an event at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on June 12 at which DeSantis would speak.
“We thought it would be interesting to invite Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss how the ‘Florida model’ has contributed to the growth and vitality of Jewish life in his state,” Abrams and Cohen wrote in The Wall Street Journal.
“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,’” Abrams and Cohen continued. “Either we disinvite the governor, they said, or our event was unwelcome.”
The authors noted, “Throughout the modern age, Jews have suffered the consequences of this kind of intolerance,” citing college campuses, the boycott, divest and sanctions movement, and the U.N., “with its odious anti-Israel Human Rights Council and with Amnesty International’s ‘apartheid state’ calumny.”
“But we know things are bad when a Jewish institution—in this case, a museum whose purpose is to keep Jewish heritage alive by remembering the Holocaust—turns on its own and tries to make a virtue of its own intolerance,” they snapped.
“When pressed for a further explanation of why our event was canceled, the museum’s CEO adopted a common form of doublespeak: We don’t do politics, he told us, whether left or right,” the authors reported.
“Not surprisingly, this was false,” they pointed out. “In August 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, then a Democratic candidate for Congress, was a featured speaker at an event at the museum, sponsored by the Immigrant Arts Coalition. … The museum has hosted other politicians, including then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and then-Mayor Bill de Blasio.”
The museum hosted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, in April. Thomas-Greenfield “recently described America as a society plagued by white supremacy and lauded America’s re-entry into the anti-Israel Human Rights Commission,” the authors stated.
DeSantis has been an extraordinary friend to the Jews of Florida and Israel; in May 2019, DeSantis signed a measure barring anti-Semitic speech in Florida’s public schools and universities. In July 2021, DeSantis called on the State Board of Administration (SBA) to immediately place Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever on the Continued Examination Companies that Boycott Israel List and to initiate the process to place both companies on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.
In 2021, DeSantis secured $4 million in the state budget for additional security for Jewish day schools.
Abrams and Cohen concluded, “The Jewish Leadership Conference won’t be canceled, and the governor of the state with America’s third-largest Jewish population will speak. We will hold our event as planned, at a different, secular venue. But it is sad to see that the misguided leadership of a Jewish museum won’t allow alternative ideas a seat at the Jewish table.”