TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Ahead of June’s Jewish Leadership Conference, where Gov. Ron DeSantis will reportedly be a speaker, the New York Museum of Jewish Heritage has banned the governor from its grounds. The ban was first announced in an editorial written for the Wall Street Journal by two of the organizers of the event.
Elliott Abrams and Eric Cohen are leading members of the Jewish non-profit Tikvah Fund. Abrams is the chairman, while Cohen has been executive director of the organization since 2007, according to biographies of them on the Jewish Leadership Conference website.
The Tikvah Fund is a philanthropy organization, founded to support the “intellectual, religious, and political leaders of the Jewish people and the Jewish State.” According to the Tikvah Fund, the organization “invests in a wide range of initiatives” around the world, including in the United States and Israel.
In the Journal column by Abrams and Cohen, the two Tikvah Fund leaders say the conference is “hosted by Tikvah, a 20-year-old Jewish educational and cultural institution whose main activity in America is teaching young Jews about Jewish history and civilization.”
Tikvah invited DeSantis to speak at their conference on June 12 to “discuss how the ‘Florida model’ has contributed to the growth and vitality of Jewish life” in Florida, according to their editorial.
The two writers said staff from the museum had told them that DeSantis was banned while the Tikvah Fund was still planning out the event details. Museum staff reportedly told Abrams and Cohen 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.
As Abrams and Cohen tried to get more information about the reported ban of DeSantis at the museum, they say the CEO told them the museum doesn’t “do politics…whether left or right.” They claim “this was false” and that the museum had featured Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a speaker in 2018. The museum has also “has hosted other politicians, including then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and then-Mayor Bill de Blasio.”
Abrams and Cohen wrote in the Journal that they will not cancel the Jewish Leadership Conference, and the governor of the U.S. state with the third-largest Jewish population will still speak in June.
The governor’s office responded to WFLA.com’s request for comment, saying “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 saying “We hope that this is all a misunderstanding, and the museum leadership will rectify the situation, because a Holocaust memorial should never be politicized.”
WFLA.com has reached out to the Jewish Leadership Conference, The Tikvah Fund, and New York’s Museum of Jewish history to confirm the reported ban and for further comment.