The Forward Covers Tikun Olam Story on Harassment of Jewish Progressives

This blog has been mentioned in the New York Times (OK, it was just the real estate blog–but still), the Financial Times, and other publications. But today’s coverage in The Forward really means a lot to me. Both because it is a publication I generally respect a great deal. And because its independent-minded Jewish audience is precisely the type of readers I’m trying to reach here.

Rebecca Spence wrote a penetrating article about the assault on liberal Jews by American Jewish organizations. In it, she covers a blog post I wrote about Adam Horowitz, who does Mideast peace work for AFSC in Philadelphia. Adam was subject to what I call the Rowen Taylor harpie treatment (and lest you accuse me of overdoing it–this is the same person who accused Jimmy Carter of “being in cahoots with Islamofascists”). Here’s how Spence describes it:

Privately, left-wing Jewish activists say they have been the targets of acts designed to intimidate them. Tikun Olam, a liberal Jewish blog, reported that an anonymous e-mail message was sent last spring to Adam Horowitz, an employee of the American Friends Service Committee — which has strongly condemned Israeli policy — with the subject line “Why do you hate being a Jew, why are you in favor of murdering Jews?” According to the blog, Horowitz discovered that the e-mail had been sent by Allyson Rowen Taylor, who is the new associate director of Stand With Us, a pro-Israel advocacy organization active on California campuses. At the time that the message was sent, Taylor was an assistant regional director at the West Coast office of the AJCongress.

In an interview with the Forward, Taylor confirmed that she had indeed sent the message. “I shouldn’t have done it,” she said. “But the things they were saying were so disgusting that I basically lashed out.” Taylor explained that she had been monitoring some of Horowitz’s e-mail chats without his knowledge. She also said that she sent the message from her personal account and did not do so in the name of any organization.

What the hell does this mean: “She had been monitoring some of Horowitz’s e mail chats without his knowledge?” Sounds to me like someone Horowitz was e-mailing bcc’ed Rowen Taylor to include her in the loop of the conversation. Very naughty Allyson.

Yesterday, I interviewed Gary Ratner, west coast AJ Congress director about the Horowitz-Rowen Taylor exchange. He used to be the latter’s boss. I asked him if he approved of what she’d written and done. “Absolutely not,” he replied. I asked him if she wrote the e mail from work. He said, “She couldn’t have done this more than once or twice before I’d find out about it.” I think he was trying to say that he kept a pretty close lid on that sort of behavior and thought it highly unlikely she would’ve done so. But he did leave the interpretation open to the possibility that Rowen Taylor might’ve engaged in some of this sort of harassing behavior while at work. And I assure you that someone like Rowen Taylor does not just harass a single person. She’s probably a serial harasser. All Ratner has to do is check the logs of her e mails to find out if he’s interested.

And on a related matter, I queried Ratner about AJ Congress’ involvement with the Israel Campus Coalition (the group which recently voted not to expel the Union of Progressive Zionists for hosting an Israeli refusenik tour). He and Rowen Taylor penned a resignation letter to ICC which was later rescinded by AJC’s national director. Ratner told me that AJ Congress may still resign. But that if it did so, it would resign for a different reason. Instead of blaming the ICC for not expelling UPZ, AJ Congress will be examining whether its involvement with ICC “coincides with AJC’s goals as an organization.” If it doesn’t, then AJC will leave. I pointed out to him that the public might wonder why the explanation for the departure would’ve changed so dramatically. He replied by saying people will always doubt what you do or say.

I think there is one enormous benefit to articles like Spence’s. There used to be such homogeneity of thinking in American Jewish organizations that such behavior might’ve been either tacitly or overtly accepted. But now that Jewish publications and progressive Jewish blogs like Muzzlewatch are taking Jewish communal staff like Rowen Taylor to task, they must begin to realize that they are accountable. By this, I mean not just accountable to their lay boards which agree with their behavior in any event. They are also accountable to Jews who read about their actions in blogs or the media. They are accountable to a much broader slice of Jewish public opinion. They will have to clean house or risk being “called out” for such shenanigans.

This story is yet another example of the power of blogs to democratize communities. Thanks to Muzzlewatch (thanks again Cecilie!)–where I first read about this story–and Tikun Olam, people who cross over the line in assaulting their fellow Jews for their opinions will be having to watch what they do and say more carefully.