The story is already only just a little old already, but it’s worth chiming in about the Tikvah Fund and Gov. Ron DeSantis at The Museum of Jewish Heritage, which bills itself as A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. About moral and political boundaries, cancelling Ron DeSantis and the Tikvah Fund Jewish Leadership Conference marks everything that is right about the organized Jewish community. Because at the Tikvah Fund, the “Jewish ideas” are now promoting a radical anti-gay and anti-trans agenda as part of a full-on rightwing Christian assault against liberal values and American democracy. The Tikvah Fund is attaching its star to the up-and-coming Ron DeSantis. Unlike his more normal colleagues in the politically compromised GOP, DeSantis could not bring himself to condemn a Nazi march in Orlando Florida. His example shows the degree to which the GOP is a Nazi adjacent political part. As if condemning Nazis is some kind of a gotcha for Republican Party office holders. The Jewish right represented by the Tikvah Fund wants to draw the Jewish community into that orbit.
The Tikvah Fund has always been duplicitous about the culture and politics they promote, even today when it is more than clear that Tikvah is a rightwing outfit. That’s what they said about the their university programming, the Jewish Review of Books, and so on. Here again, they insist that the event at The Museum of Jewish Heritage was not a political event. Maybe snagging DeSantis was a last minute coup. Or maybe the Tikvah Fund deliberately did not inform the museum about the DeSantis appearance. As reported here, “It was after Cohen signed the contract that the museum learned DeSantis was a scheduled speaker, Cohen said. Cohen said he had spoken by phone with the museum’s CEO, Jack Kliger, who told him that the museum does not welcome political speakers of any ideology.”
Indeed you can see the familiar evasion that is the hiding behind “ideas” that has been a part of the DNA at Tikvah since its founding. In his response, Eric Cohen of the Tikvah Fund claimed, as reported here, that “The museum has implied that Tikvah wanted to host a partisan political event.” But Mr. Cohen said. “Our event endorses no candidates and serves no political party. It is all about ideas, just like every prior conference we have held at the museum.”
“All about ideas” is a lie. This piece here at the JTA gives something of the feel of and hearty applause given to the anti-gay and anti-trans consensus at the conference. “‘The age of Jewish liberalism is ending,’ Tikvah Fund CEO Eric Cohen said in his opening remarks. He added that conservatism is good for the Jews, as it fights for religious freedom, school choice and an independent Jewish state.” About the anti-gay ideas, you can find a report about DeSantis’ speech in this piece here, Lastly, and for his part, “Tikvah Fund Chairman Elliot Abrams, a former foreign policy official under Presidents Trump and George W. Bush, told the New York Jewish Week that he would “not discuss politics” when asked to respond to criticism that DeSantis’s rhetoric threatens LGBTQ people.”
About DeSantis speaking at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, it is worth noting an earlier refusal on his part to condemn and offend a significant part of the GOP base. The story relates to a small Nazi rally in Orlando, FL in early 2022. It would have been an easy thing to condemn, except maybe it isn’t in Republican circles. About the controversy reported here, his press secretary deflected by way of tweeting: “So – If the governor himself does not issue a public statement of specific condemnation of whoever this group is, within a time period that the Left deems acceptable, he is smeared as a Nazi sympathizer by default?” As reported here, a few days later, “DeSantis said those critics were trying to ‘use this as some type of political issue,’ adding: ‘We’re not playing their game.’” The remarks are in line with the ones about commemorating the Jan. 6 Trump Insurrection/Coup, as per here.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage was right not to play the “game” put on by the Tikvah Fund.
Museum director Kliger wrote here in response to an op-ed at the Wall Street Journal by Cohen and Abrams complaining about being cancelled. (I’d post the link but it’s behind a paywall.) In this letter he made it sound more like a logistical problem when the initial reporting suggested the decision was based on values of inclusion. But his remarks sum up a lot about Tikvah and the regnant culture of hatred on the political right. “When we declined to host the event, Tikvah resorted to threats, saying we had created an enemy. Tikvah knew that this was not about banning anyone from speaking but decided to make the false claim anyway. We will not respond to such political bullying.” And then, Kliger concludes, “We welcome Governor DeSantis and elected officials from across the spectrum to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust for a tour of our new exhibition, The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do, when it opens this summer.”
About what hate can do and the spillover these “ideas” take into the actual world, there is this article here about current spikes in anti-gay and anti-trans violence.