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By Sahalie Donaldson
December 2, 2022

It’s a tale as old as time – or at least since Abraham Lincoln visited Paris in 1858. Elected officials have long been drawn to different parts of the world for conferences, educational tours, cultural exchanges and pseudo campaign stops, often at the bequest of special interest groups. Over the years, these trips have ranged from wildly controversial to encouraged.

New York City leaders are certainly no exception – a dozen City Council members recently stood by the Sea of Galilee and met with leaders on a longstanding study tour of Israel with the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. They’re expected to return to the city Dec. 6. If they looked to the skies, they might have seen Eric Adams’ plane. The mayor just left Athens where he headlined a summit on antisemitism, and flew to Qatar, for the World Cup.


The semiannual JCRC educational trip has spurred some controversy over the years. During the 2021 City Council elections, the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America asked candidates who pursued their endorsement to promise not to go to Israel on one of the annual trips if elected, according to the Forward.

Some on the Jewish left have particular criticism for the Israeli government, and feel the longstanding trip should be abandoned entirely.

“This is an ongoing practice of pressuring local lawmakers to travel to Israel on these trips and to use that participation as a proxy for support for the Jewish community,” said Audrey Sasson, executive director or Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. “It’s not why we elect our council members. And all New Yorkers deserve elected leaders who are going to focus on the challenges right here in our city.”

Sasson said neither Adams nor council members should be leaving the city at this time given the important things going on. She feels that the city’s attention and resources should be centered on the diverse, multicultural coalition of Jews already living in New York instead of turning to the state of Israel for questions about Jewish identity. As for Adams’ time at the antisemitism conference, Sasson pointed to organizer Combat Antisemitism Movement’s ties to dark money and far-right fringe anti-Muslim hate groups. “Yes, antisemitism is a real threat. We need to talk about it, we need to figure it out, but there is a very intense conversation happening right now where conservative factions, including Trump supporters, are trying to define antisemitism on behalf of Jews. That’s part of what we are seeing at this conference … We don’t see this as Adams taking antisemitism seriously. If he wants to talk about antisemitism he can talk to us right here.”

Still, Sasson stressed she and other advocates don’t believe that elected officials should never go on trips.

“We certainly have other things to learn from other cities,” she said. “I think there’s a really important distinction of what’s the goal. Are they learning something that they are going to take home and improve New Yorkers’ lives? Or are they advancing a different agenda?”

Read the full article at City & State