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U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has reportedly caused “a lot of frustration” among Jewish leaders in New York who claim she has refused to meet with them.
The self-described Democratic socialist representing portions of The Bronx and Queens has left prominent members of New York’s Jewish community scratching their heads as she has seemingly rebuffed their attempts to meet with her. The Jewish leaders find Ocasio-Cortez’s lack of action more confusing as she is seeking reelection in November.
“We’re now on the verge of October 2020, and I have yet to meet with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” Michael Miller, executive vice president and CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, told Jewish Insider on Wednesday.
“There is a lot of frustration,” he said, sharing how he had reached out to the political newcomer to meet in October 2018 shortly before she became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
“I requested a meeting with her and it has not come to fruition,” Miller told the New York Post. “A meeting has been requested on more than one occasion. It hasn’t happened. I’m still interested in meeting with her.”
Rabbi Joe Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, shared that he had had a similar experience, telling the outlet that while he has crossed paths with Ocasio-Cortez, a meeting has never materialized.
“The first response was, ‘Yes, we will.’ We’re still waiting,” Potasnik said.
“We were prepared to meet, but there was no reciprocity,” he recalled one incident in speaking with Jewish Insider. “When I spoke to her she was like, ‘Of course.’ But when it came to arranging a meeting, no response.”
“I don’t know what her reasoning is,” he added. “I think she has to explain why, as a member of Congress who meets with all different kinds of groups, she’s not willing to meet with us.”
The freshman congresswoman, who turns 31 this month, has openly been critical of the nation of Israel and recently was part of a group of progressive congresswomen who warned that Israel’s planned annexation of portions of the West Bank would “lay the groundwork for Israel becoming an apartheid state.”
Last week, Ocasio-Cortez opted to withdraw from attending an Americans for Peace Now event that was to honor the late Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister who was assassinated in 1995.
“We’re disappointed that she withdrew from the APN event because it was a lost opportunity,” Matt Nosanchuk, president and co-founder of New York Jewish Agenda. “We feel that there is space for someone like AOC to demonstrate solidarity.”
The founder and executive director of the liberal feminist organization Zioness said it was a “bummer” when the congresswoman opted out of attending the event.
“There’s so much about her that really has awakened the progressive roots of our community, but at the same time, it’s really painful that when we want to celebrate her on something like that and say thank you for standing up for us as women, we have to hesitate and think that she doesn’t stand up for us as Jewish women,” Amanda Berman told Jewish Insider.
The group issued an open letter to Ocasio-Cortez last week.
Our open letter to @AOC @RepAOC share w #ZionessSpeaksForMe
“We are deeply troubled that you have decided to pull out of event honoring the life & legacy of former Israeli PM Rabin, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who paid the ultimate price for his commitment to peace & justice” pic.twitter.com/fYqqTDGLvF
— Zioness (@ZionessMovement) September 26, 2020
But the New York lawmaker does appear to have met with selective members of the Jewish community.
Local leaders for the political arm of Jewish Voice for Peace, which is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, have apparently scheduled and successfully met with Ocasio-Cortez in her district. The senior government affairs manager at Jewish Voice for Peace Action, Beth Miller, noted that the group has been been in contact with Ocasio-Cortez’s office offering thoughts on “initiatives to protect Palestinian rights.”
Yonah Lieberman, a co-founder of the far-left Jewish group IfNotNow, shared that they have also been able to meet with Ocasio-Cortez since she was elected.
“We have had ongoing conversations with her office since she was elected in 2018, about a number of issues,” Lieberman said.
According to Jewish Insider, Ocasio-Cortez appears “to have only participated in three publicly known Jewish events in New York” over the last two years.
But Michael Miller explained that the congresswoman “hasn’t completely distanced herself” from the Jewish community, noting her involvement in the anti-Semitism march over the Brooklyn Bridge in January. She told a reporter at the time that it was “incredibly important” for her to be there and “make a very strong and unequivocal stance against the rising tide of antisemitism.”
Democratic campaign strategist Hank Sheinkopf was blunt about Ocasio-Cortez’s lack of commitment to the Jewish community in her district.
“She doesn’t need them,” he told the Jewish Insider. “The movement that she’s creating has nothing to do with Israel, and really doesn’t need members of the pro-Israel community for funding,” he said. “She can’t do anything that would upset her own applecart, and being too close to Israeli issues or Jews who are on the right or center-right would in fact interfere with parts of her movements.”
But a senior member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations thinks the congresswoman’s views are too extreme. He also explained that “there was no interest demonstrated” by Ocasio-Cortez when his group reached out to her after she was elected.
“I would not dignify her now by having a meeting,” Malcolm Hoenlein, the group’s executive vice chairman, said.