Jewish Advocate Disappointed In Newton Synagogue's Cancellation

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When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there's no such thing as an easy conversation — not even in Boston.

In Newton this week, a reform synagogue abruptly canceled a speaking appearance by Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director of J Street, a lobbying group known for its advocacy of a peaceful, two-state solution.

In an interview Wednesday with WBUR, the rabbi at Temple Beth Avodah, Keith Stern, said he was "utterly blind-sided" by the anger from some of his congregants after he agreed to host the speaker.

In response to what the rabbi called a small but influential group, synagogue leaders decided to cancel the event. Steven Maas, editor of the Jewish Advocate, a Boston-based weekly newspaper, was going to conduct the conversation with Ben-Ami. Maas says he too was taken back by the reaction.

"I didn't expect this to happen with a reform synagogue. But when it comes to Israel, opinion in the Jewish community is very divided. People are very passionate," Maas said.

Ben-Ami joined WBUR's Deborah Becker during Morning Edition Thursday. He says it's not a good sign that a small number of influential members in the American Jewish community can shut down dialogue on American foreign policy toward Israel.

This program aired on November 18, 2010.

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Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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