Setting the record straight

Months have passed since the Jewish Film Festival's screening of Rachel and emotions continue to run high. The Jewish Community Federation has been frequently implicated and targeted in the controversies surrounding the film. We have learned a great deal from this experience and should have more clearly articulated our position sooner and elaborated on steps the Federation has been taking. Although the Federation's allocation, made many months prior to the 2009 Festival, provided 1.7% of the Film Festival's funding, some in our community saw the Federation's participation as having a greater significance. We are committed to improving our communication, transparency and responsiveness. So, given the barrage of misinformation, let us set the record straight:

  • We are unwavering in our commitment to Israel. Last year, $9.5 million was allocated in support of Israel. We were the first Jewish federation to establish its own office in Israel. For more information on our Israel programs, please see
  • We oppose the boycott/divestments/sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. We do not affiliate with or fund groups that advocate for the BDS movement.
  • We value the contributions the Film Festival has made to Bay Area Jewish life. The Rachel event should not overshadow the Film Festival's successful 29 year history.
  • We believe that the Film Festival made significant mistakes in its handling of the Rachel event and have conveyed our concerns accordingly.
  • We strongly disagree with the Film Festival's choice of Rachel Corrie's mother as the event speaker as well as the co-presenters and deplore the rancorous and offensive behavior of anti-Israel attendees at the event.
  • The Federation does not, nor should it, participate in the planning of Film Festival programming or in the choice of films. The Federation is a separate legal entity, funding the mission of the Film Festival. We are one of more than 115 organizational contributors to the Festival, including KGO and the Consulate General of Israel.
  • We have urged Film Festival leadership to adopt new policies and procedures to ensure that the specific problems associated with the Rachel event do not happen again, including policies addressing choice of co-presenters and speakers.
  • We believe that the Federation's many stakeholders can share diverse opinions on how best to support Israel as a secure Jewish democracy, while remaining civil and connected as a community.
  • The Federation is surprised and concerned by the counter-productive assertions of a relatively few community members, who, in the name of a pro-Israel campaign, have urged the broader community to discontinue support of the Federation. We have received letters filled with personal insults, some even accusing the Federation of anti-Semitism, Nazism, or anti-Zionism. If successful, this campaign will seriously undermine the critical programs we support both here and in Israel.

We ask you to join us in ending divisive accusations and rhetoric. The abiding mission of the Federation remains a positive and hopeful one: to build and strengthen Jewish education, culture and identity here in the Bay Area and in Israel. With the needs being more acute than ever during these unpredictable economic times, together, and only together, can we rise to the challenge. Jim Koshland President, Jewish Community Federation F. Warren Hellman Chair, Jewish Community Endowment Fund Jennifer Gorovitz Acting CEO, Jewish Community Federation

Categories: Israel


October 14, 2009


The Federation