Henry Street Settlement Responds to Linda Sarsour Controversy with Bialystoker Synagogue

Posted on: May 17th, 2017 at 5:17 am by

When the Henry Street Settlement invited Palestinean-American activist Linda Sarsour to participate in a panel discussion last night, the nearby Bialystoker Synagogue was not pleased. The schul – considered the largest Orthodox congregation on the Lower East Side, took issue with providing a platform to an active supporter of BDS against Israel, and sent a sharply-worded email to the Settlement.

The letter, penned by Rabbi Zvi Romm, asked that the organization announce that it does not endorse her views, and also issue a statement “celebrating the State of Israel, the only full democracy in the Middle East.”

The organization responded, stating that “Because of our internal policies and practices to comply with restrictions as a tax-exempt charitable organization, we abstain from any partisan political statements, which includes any public office (international, federal, state, or local). Therefore, we cannot release the statement you have requested. However, we are happy to graciously extend the use of our facilities and resources to you and your congregation in support of any activities you plan to celebrate the 69th anniversary of Israel.”

The Henry Street Settlement provided the following statement to us just before the “Lillian Wald Symposium” last night:

Since its founding, Henry Street has been an institution characterized by its openness to all voices and a place where ideas, some considered controversial, are exchanged. We fervently believe that if we only speak to ourselves, without listening to other viewpoints, learning will not occur and progress will not be made. In fact, the opportunity to learn from diverse perspectives is one of the intentions of the Lillian Wald Symposium.

The decision to include Linda Sarsour as one of the panelists at our upcoming Symposium, Immigrant New York, the New Majority:  Policy, Politics and Programs is being challenged by some individuals and groups.  They are calling for us to rescind our invitation to Ms. Sarsour.  That would be anathema to our history as a champion of freedom of speech.

An invitation to participate in a program or forum at Henry Street is not an organizational endorsement of the views held by any of our guests … selected based on their experience with respect to one or more facets of immigration and/or immigrant communities.

The Symposium’s topic – immigrant New York – will not include discussion of Israel, Zionism, the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement,  and will be focused on the subject of immigration.

The Lillian Wald Symposium, our second annual, is intended to create a forum for meaningful discussion on a topic that is relevant to our constituents and stakeholders.  We will also be providing immigration services resource material directly to the community at the event.

Recent Stories

Tough Slog for ABC No Rio and its Passive House on Rivington Street

The redevelopment of ABC No Rio into an environmentally friendly passive house is again dogged by delays. In an appeal for donations on Giving Tuesday this month, ABC No Rio director Steve Englander provided an update on status of the new development. Another setback; this time it’s the necessary redesign of the foundation and plans […]

International Center of Photography Readies January Reopening at Essex Crossing with Ginormous Photo Display

Another big-box occupant at Essex Crossing goes live in just a few weeks. In January 2020, the International Center of Photography will unveil its “new, fully integrated” facility at 242 Broome Street. A ginormous, three-story photograph is currently hanging in the windows facing Essex Street as teaser ahead of launch. Shot by school alum Rochelle Brock, […]

Services Now Offered to Chinatown Seniors at Confucius Plaza

A new retirement community program is headed to Confucius Plaza on the Bowery. Earlier this week, Councilwoman Margaret Chin joined Confucius Plaza Management, Hamilton-Madison House staff, and local seniors at the 44-year-old complex to unveil the new Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) entity. The facility is aptly named The Joy Peace Center, and offers social […]

At 60% Occupancy, 196 Orchard Taps LES Gallerist for Revolving Lobby Art

The synergy between high-end condos and galleries is on full display at Ben Shaoul’s Lower East Side condoplex. It is here, in the lobby of 196 Orchard Street, that local gallerist Lesley Heller has been tapped to curate a revolving placement of art. The residency began this week. Heller – who runs her eponymous showroom […]

Sunshine Cinema Office Development Hit with Stop-Work Order over Excavation

The city halted construction on the commercial office development set to replace the former Sunshine Cinema. Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, Department of Buildings deployed inspectors to the project site and subsequently issued a full stop-work order due to excavation activities. Public records show that “foundation work with excavators” caused “structural cracks” in both the […]