Why Are These Peo­ple Try­ing To GET DAVID MY­ERS FIRED From The Cen­ter For Jewish His­tory?

Forward Magazine - - Fore­ground - By Josh Nathan-Kazis

The emails started early in the morn­ing one Wed­nes­day in Septem­ber. The first one pinged into David My­ers’s in­box at 7 a.m.

“You Can [sic] al­ways re­sign be­fore protests start and donors are tar­geted,” the Septem­ber 6 email read. “Do you want this to be your legacy? I know a tad about pr and shap­ing is­sues.”

The sender was Ronn Torossian, the high-pow­ered pub­lic re­la­tions ex­ec­u­tive who, days ear­lier, had launched a very pub­lic ef­fort to get My­ers, a prom­i­nent aca­demic, fired from his new po­si­tion lead­ing the Cen­ter for Jewish His­tory over his ties to lib­eral groups.

“Mr. My­ers you can still re­sign and not al­low this to be­come your legacy,” Torossian wrote at 2 p.m. that day. “This is­sue will de­fine your ca­reer.”

Over the next two months, Torossian sent My­ers more than 70 emails. While roughly half were blind car­bon copied links to sto­ries and columns re­lated to his cam­paign against CJH, the rest were ei­ther per­sonal emails to My­ers or emails to small groups that in­cluded My­ers.

All told, the body of emails ob­tained by the For­ward re­veal a hid­den cam­paign of email ha­rass­ment that op­er­ated along­side pub­lic op-eds, ral­lies and ra­dio spots di­rected against the CJH.

“It’s never pleas­ant to re­ceive a large batch of emails call­ing on you to re­sign lest your rep­u­ta­tion be dam­aged,” My­ers told the For­ward. “My hope is that this prac­tice of bul­ly­ing and in­tim­i­da­tion not be vis­ited upon peo­ple in the fu­ture.”

Asked about the bar­rage of emails he sent to My­ers, Torossian re­sponded with a string of emails to the For­ward ask­ing, in part, why My­ers had not blocked mes­sages from him.

“Does my­ers [sic] ‘re­ply’ but­ton not work?” Torossian wrote. “Or does his ‘block’ func­tion not work? Hope he does re­sign!”

Torossian later sug­gested that My­ers’s help rais­ing money for the lib­eral Jewish ac­tivist group IfNotNow un­der­mined his claim that he had felt bul­lied.

“David My­ers, who praises [IfNowNow], which hosts ag­gres­sive sit-ins of Jewish or­ga­ni­za­tions and re­fuses di­a­logue, feels bul­lied be­cause of pri­vate emails?” Torossian wrote. “Rather than block emails, or ask one to stop email­ing them, he leaks them to the me­dia as his com­plaint about bul­ly­ing? Seems like a PR move by a man des­per­ate to save his job.”

In a fi­nal email to the For­ward, Torossian said that his goal was to keep sup­port­ers of boy­cotts of Is­rael from hold­ing po­si­tions of Jewish com­mu­nal lead­er­ship. My­ers op­poses the boy­cott, di­vest­ment and sanc­tions move­ment but has writ­ten that he could po­ten­tially sup­port a par­tial boy­cott of set­tle­ment goods.

Torossian’s cam­paign against My­ers is the lat­est in a wave of ef­forts by Torossian and oth­ers to push lib­er­als, and par­tic­u­larly sup­port­ers of the left-wing New

'It is never pleas­ant to re­ceive a large batch of emails call­ing on you to re­sign.’'

Is­rael Fund, out­side of the Jewish com­mu­nal con­sen­sus. My­ers is a mem­ber of NIF’s board. Pre­vi­ous cam­paigns have tar­geted for­mer UJA-Fed­er­a­tion of New York pres­i­dent Alisa Doc­to­roff, who has do­nated to NIF, and Rabbi Gordon Tucker, a prom­i­nent Con­ser­va­tive leader who made a do­na­tion to NIF through his White Plains, New York, syn­a­gogues’s rab­binic dis­cre­tionary fund.

The cam­paign to fire My­ers be­gan in early Septem­ber with an op-ed co-writ­ten by Torossian, pub­lic re­la­tions op­er­a­tive Hank Sheinkopf and Ge­orge Birn­baum, a for­mer chief of staff to Is­raeli prime min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu. Torossian has con­tin­ued his ef­forts against My­ers with a se­ries of op-eds on right-wing Jewish news sites, in­clud­ing Arutz Sheva and the Al­ge­meiner.

A net­work of lit­tle known Jewish ad­vo­cacy groups took up the cam­paign, hold­ing a se­ries of protests out­side the CJH’s build­ing on 16th Street in Man­hat­tan.

CJH’s board has stood by My­ers, though the board of the Amer­i­can Jewish His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, a con­stituent of the CJH, can­celed a play read­ing and a panel un­der pres­sure from Torossian.

Amid this pub­lic cam­paign, Torossian has kept up a steady pri­vate cam­paign of emails to My­ers.

“Start­ing to crack,” Torossian wrote to My­ers on Septem­ber 7 in his third email of that day. “Won’t take long. Re­sign.”

“All of it. Will be your defin­ing is­sue,” Torossian wrote Septem­ber 18. “And you wont [sic] last at CJH. Ads start soon. De­nounce NIF?”

“More to come,” he wrote at 10 p.m. that evening. “Time to re­sign.”

In mid-Oc­to­ber, Torossian be­gan to boast in his emails to My­ers that he had hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to spend on a cam­paign to dam­age My­ers and the CJH. “We will spend re­lent­lessly to tar­get your donors to stop giv­ing,” he wrote on Oc­to­ber 10. “Your en­tire ca­reer will be de­fined by this bat­tle.”

“We have six fig­ures ready to spend with more at our ac­cess to get you out,” Torossian wrote on Oc­to­ber 22.

It’s not clear what funds Torossian was re­fer­ring to, or where they came from. He has said that he is not be­ing paid for his work against My­ers and the CJH.

“Time to quit,” Torossian wrote on Oc­to­ber 12. “Save your­self the Shame of be­ing fired.”

Torossian’s email habits have made the news be­fore. In 2008, Gawker re­ported that he had sent a se­ries of vul­gar emails to a for­mer em­ployee with whom he was in a le­gal bat­tle.

My­ers has made lit­tle pub­lic com­ment since Torossian’s cam­paign be­gan. In an in­ter­view with the For­ward, he char­ac­ter­ized the cam­paign as a “learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“It’s been a par­tic­u­larly unique wel­come to the Jewish com­mu­nity in New York,” said My­ers, who has lived in Los An­ge­les and con­tin­ues to teach at UCLA. “I’ve dis­cov­ered the in­ten­sity of opin­ion in the New York Jewish com­mu­nity and the range of ex­pres­sion.”

GETTY IMAGES

UN­WANTED AT­TEN­TION: The Cen­ter for Jewish His­tory found it­self fac­ing crit­i­cism for hir­ing David My­ers to lead it.

SCARLETT FREUND

BRIEF HONEYMOON: David My­ers of CJH has faced a bar­rage of rude com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

JUDA ENGELMAYER

WEAPON OF CHOICE: Ronn Torossian used email to tar­get his op­po­nents.

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