Controversy Swirls as Jewish Group Says Invitation of Gov. Ron DeSantis Derailed Conference

A conference to be hosted by the conservative Jewish organization The Tikvah Fund is now derailed after the addition of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a speaker. And the alleged censoring group faces a loss of donations.

The June gathering was to be held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City. However, the late addition of a prominent guest speaker changed that. DeSantis was to discuss what the organization calls a renaissance of Jewish cultural life in Florida, but no more.

The Tikvah Fund signed the contract and returned it to the museum. However, the issue began when the group updated the program to include the conservative Florida governor. In an email, the museum initially said security for DeSantis was not a problem but they must check for conflicts.

Word came from the museum the next day to “pause” the $11,500 deposit for the event. In later phone calls, the CEO of Tikvah, Eric Cohen, was told the event could not be held at the site due to the presence of DeSantis. The governor speaking there does not align with its position of “inclusivity.”

The Jewish group could either disinvite DeSantis or hold the event elsewhere. How’s that for inclusivity?

At issue was Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, labeled by liberal opponents as “Don’t Say Gay.” This measure protects children from kindergarten through third grade from instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation.

The museum struck back, charging that the story is incorrect and an “opinion piece” about a “proposed rental event.” In a lengthy Twitter thread, it asserted that “no one was banned or canceled.” There was “no contract” and “no deposit.”

New York City councilwoman Inna Vernikov now says she is withholding a $5,000 donation for the museum that was planned. The reason? She cites the “exclusion” of Gov. DeSantis.

Tikvah leaders say they were told by the museum’s CEO that the site stays out of politics, “whether left or right.” Both, however, note a 2018 event sponsored by the Immigrant Arts Coalition. The featured speaker? Then-congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat.

An apolitical speech by a prominent leader over Jewish topics should not be an issue for the museum. Apparently, however, even Holocaust museums are caught up in the culture wars.