Originally published May 18, 2022
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld has a new role after his scheduled departure from the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills: He will be leading an organization that represents over 2,000 Orthodox Rabbis in issues of American public policy, the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV).
Founder and Executive Director of CJV, Rabbi Yaakov Menken, is elated with the appointment. “His leadership, sober judgment, and dedication to our mission have been evident throughout,” said Rabbi Menken, “and we are truly fortunate that upon stepping down as leader of the YI Kew Gardens Hills he agreed to become our President.”
Rabbi Menken founded CJV when he saw that modern Jewish groups and movements were not representing Orthodox Torah Judaism, rather espousing political ideology while using Judaism as a cover. “American liberal Jewish movements have long abandoned Jewish tradition as their final arbiter of morality,” says the CJV website, “and today declare that ‘Judaism’ requires support for positions at odds with the Bible itself.” These include positions on topical political issues like abortion, which Rabbi Menken wrote about in this week’s issue of Newsweek.
Rabbi Schonfeld is succeeding founding President Rabbi Pesach Lerner, who is taking a more active role in the World Zionist Congress and the Party he founded, Eretz HaKodesh. “I’m honored and excited to step into this new role,” said Rabbi Schonfeld in the CJV press release. “CJV has grown phenomenally during Rabbi Lerner’s tenure as President, and I know that no one could truly fill his shoes. But I still eagerly anticipate the progress we will make in the years ahead.”
Rabbi Schonfeld has been with CJV in a Vice President role, and Rabbi Menken says that he has been integral in that position. “He has been a constant source of sound advice when deciding which issues to address and what to say.”
CJV is looking to be a voice for the politically-conservative Orthodox community, which Rabbi Schonfeld claims is a “niche” but one that does not have much representation in the political sphere. “On most issues of the day, you name any orthodox organization, they are mum, they are silent,” laments Rabbi Schonfeld. “Sure, they’ll issue a statement on a huge story like Roe, but on issues with Israel, for example Ben & Jerry’s [endorsing BDS], all the organizations are mum.”
People are clearly hungry to have representation in the public arena, as CJV has spheres of influence and officers not just from New York and Israel, but smaller Jewish communities like St. Louis and Manchester, England.
Rabbi Schonfeld is proud of the work that Rabbi Menken is doing. “He’s writing in Newsweek; Newsmax, and Fox News are paying attention to us. The mainstream media is not comfortable with us, and that’s a hurdle.”
Legacy media outlets tend to go to Liberal and Leftwing groups like the ADL on Jewish issues, which is why many believe that Judaism writ large is far more leftwing on political issues. CJV is looking to change all that, to show that there are marked differences between those that are Jewish by birth, and Orthodox Jews who espouse traditional and conservative values. That group is far smaller, yet no less vocal.
“We are the mouse that’s roaring, and we’re roaring loudly,” says Rabbi Schonfeld.