According to the non-profit Tikvah Fund, the New York Museum of Jewish Heritage has banned Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis from the museum, per an editorial in The Wall Street Journal.
Tikvah is a “Jewish educational and cultural institution whose main activity in America is teaching young Jews about Jewish history and civilization.” It had planned to have DeSantis speak at their conference to “discuss how the ‘Florida model’ has contributed to the growth and vitality of Jewish life” in Florida.
Instead, they were told that “DeSantis didn’t ‘align with the museum’s values and its message of inclusivity.’” Conference leaders were told that either the governor could be disinvited, or the event would not be welcome at the museum, according to the editorial. The organization claims they were told by the CEO told that the museum doesn’t “do politics…whether left or right.”
Yet, this claim is factually inaccurate. The organization has hosted other politicians, including then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and then-Mayor Bill de Blasio”, as well as Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who was a speaker there in 2018. Senator Schumer spoke there in 2019.
What none of these politicians are, however, is Republican.
A letter to the museum by Joseph Borelli, the Minority Leader of the New York City Council and New York City Council Member Inna Vernikov, a member of the Jewish Caucus of the City Council, noted that, “As a museum devoted to teaching the world about the horrors of the Holocaust, MJH is an institution with a deep understanding of the dangers of political censorship.”
They noted shock that the museum was “engaging in a form of “cancel culture”, prohibiting Florida Governor DeSantis, a duly elected government official representing 21 million people, including more than half a million Jews, from attending a Jewish Leadership Conference at the museum.”
Borelli and Vernikov further note that:
..choosing to refuse entry to members of one specific political party is, in fact, playing politics. Matters such as the Holocaust should not be used as tools to promote a political agenda. The lessons of the Holocaust are innumerable, but one of the most critical ones is this: intolerance in any form, breeds hostility, suppression, and ultimately discrimination. For a Museum that aims to educate against these exact evils, I urge a swift reconsideration of the intolerant practice of banning a Republican Governor for simply holding differing viewpoints.
Rightfully, these New York City Council members note that if this museum does not renounce this decision, they will urge others to stop financially supporting the institution.
Do donors to the Museum of Jewish History believe only Democrats should be allowed to speak? Or will New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul similarly be banned from New York’s Museum of Jewish History?
After the cancellation, Governor DeSantis’ office issued a statement stating: “Governor DeSantis has always been a steadfast friend of the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” praising the editorial by Abrams and Cohen regarding the “remarkable Jewish renaissance” happening in Florida under his leadership, and affirming that “We hope that this is all a misunderstanding, and the museum leadership will rectify the situation, because a Holocaust memorial should never be politicized.”
This decision must immediately be rescinded. Or Democrat New York politicians must also be banned from the grounds.
Freedom of speech shouldn’t be limited to Democrats. A call for comment to the New York Museum of Jewish Heritage was not returned.
Ronn Torossian is a New York City based entrepreneur.