By: Shoshy Ciment  | 

Founder of Jewish Watchdog Group Accuses YU of ‘Malfeasance of the Highest Order,’ Protests Center for Jewish History

Richard Allen, the founder of the Jewish Watchdog group that organized a protest at the Center for Jewish History on October 18, has been rebuffed by Yeshiva University for support.

The protest, co-sponsored by Americans For a Safe Israel and, was originally in response to an upcoming event in which the Center would be hosting the anti-Zionist organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) on Oct. 26 in a lecture entitled, “The Balfour Declaration: Support for a Jewish Homeland or Jewish State? Is there a difference?” Though the event has been canceled, the protest is calling for the dismissal of the newly instated President and CEO of the Center for Jewish History, David Myers, who Allen says “is working diligently to assist groups that push the BDS agenda.”

BDS, or Boycott Divest and Sanctions, is an economic campaign led by non-governmental organizations that supports a boycott against Israeli goods and companies to help end the occupation in the West Bank.

Jewish Voice for Peace was named one of the ten most influential and active Anti-Israel organizations by the Anti-Defamation League in 2013. When Allen reached out to Yeshiva University to support the rally against the Center for hosting the BDS-supporting JVP, he was met with what he called, “a deafening silence.”

“We are very disappointed at the fact the YU has not taken a public stance and has allowed these nefarious activities against the state of Israel to take place in silence,” Allen remarked.

To Allen, the anti-Israel events at the Center for Jewish History are all symptoms of the main problem that stems from the President and CEO, David Myers, who was announced as president of the Center in June.

“He fosters the climate that allows these programs to be planned, accepted and promoted,” Allen said. “He must go.”

David Myers is a highly regarded scholar in the field of Jewish intellectual and cultural history. In addition to his position at the Center for Jewish History, Myers is the Sady and Ludwig Kahn Professor of Jewish History at UCLA and an elected Fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research. Although Myers claims he opposes BDS, he is on the board of directors of the New Israel Fund, which does not oppose BDS, and is on the advisory board of J- Street, which does not oppose BDS that advocates for a two-state solution.

The Center for Jewish History is composed of five organizations and includes the Yeshiva University Museum. Each organization is involved with the selection of the President of the Center for Jewish History. Allen voiced his displeasure with Yeshiva University’s involvement with the selection of Myers as President, claiming that the board of Yeshiva University must have known about Myers’ anti-Zionist tendencies before they voted him in.

“For them to allow him to take that position is malfeasance of the highest order,” said Allen. “They can’t say they didn’t know.”

The Yeshiva University Museum released the following statement in regards to the appointment of David Myers:

“Yeshiva University Museum joins its fellow partners in the Center for Jewish History in expressing confidence in Dr. David Myers as its new president and CEO. Dr. Myers is an eminent and widely respected historian and scholar whose academic work and expertise in modern Jewish intellectual and cultural history make him the right person to lead the Center to fulfill its mission.”

The Board of Directors of the Center for Jewish History has publicly reaffirmed its support for Myers on the Center’s website. The website also features statements of support for Myers from world-renowned scholars in the US and Israel.

“We call on all who believe in the importance of Jewish history to join us in us in supporting the Center and its distinguished President,” reads the Board’s statement.

Despite it’s support for Myers, Yeshiva University openly embraces Zionist ideals and a close connection to Israel. In his investiture address on September 10, President Ari Berman, an Israeli citizen, spoke about the importance of building the modern state of Israel.

“We certainly encourage students to move to Israel and we encourage those who live outside of Israel to devote their time and resources to help Israel further its role as a shining light to humanity,” Berman said in his address.

Further, the Yeshiva University Museum is hosting Dr. Daniel Gordis, senior vice president and Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem, to discuss the meaning and significance of the Balfour Declaration on Monday, October 30.

While some view this as evidence of the same anti-Zionist agenda that seems to be a common phenomenon in the mainstream media and on college campuses today, Gordis, whose lecture will take place in the Center, will discuss a time where Zionism had the backing of the world.

“We are so used to Israel being on the defensive that we forget that there is an era where it wasn’t like that,” Gordis commented.

Regarding the rally that will take place at the Center, Gordis did not comment on the perceived anti-Zionist agenda of the Center.

“All important issues deserve to be looked at in a variety different directions,” said Gordis. “The value of discussion helps you see viewpoints on both sides that matter.”


This article has been updated since being published.