Canary Mission has been known to send activists to college campuses dressed in canary costumes, a tactic that was decried as “troublesome” and “unproductive” by a Hillel executive at the University of Michigan. (Photo/SJP of George Washington University)
Canary Mission has been known to send activists to college campuses dressed in canary costumes, a tactic that was decried as “troublesome” and “unproductive” by a Hillel executive at the University of Michigan. (Photo/SJP of George Washington University)

Canary Mission funding was ‘one-time grant,’ says S.F. Federation

In response to the revelation that the Helen Diller Family Foundation had provided major funding to a controversial pro-Israel organization, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation asserted that the donation was a “one-time grant made in 2016” and that no more support would be forthcoming, according to a written statement.

An Oct. 3 story on the Forward website revealed that the S.F.-based Diller Foundation had given $100,000 to Canary Mission, a 3-year-old entity that identifies alleged anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist individuals and organizations as part of its mission to combat anti-Jewish and anti-Israel hate in North America. So far the group has posted the names, photos and supposed affiliations of hundreds of college students, professors and organizations on its website.

The organization has been criticized by other pro-Israel voices, including UC Davis professor David Biale, an occasional contributor to J. who published a piece on the Forward website today called “I’m a Zionist: Canary Mission Targeted Me Anyway.”

An October 2016 piece by a group of anti-BDS academics in Tablet magazine called Canary Mission’s tactics “McCarthyite.” And in April, more than a hundred pro-Israel student activists published an article on JTA, opposing the organization and writing that its tactics were “counterproductive“ and “morally reprehensible.”

Though neither board officers of the Diller Foundation nor the Federation replied directly to J.’s requests for interviews, the written statement declared that “a one-time grant was made in 2016 by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Federation, to the Central Fund of Israel and earmarked to support the work of the Canary Mission.”

According to the Forward, the Central Fund of Israel is a New York-based charity “that serves as a conduit for U.S. taxpayers seeking to make tax-exempt donations to right-wing and extremist groups in Israel.”

The Federation statement continued, “In 2017, we strengthened the implementation of our review process and determined that the Central Fund of Israel is not in compliance with our guidelines … Both the Helen Diller Family Foundation and the Federation will not support the Canary Mission in the future.”

The Helen Diller Family Foundation is a major charitable institution in the Bay Area, best known in Jewish circles for its work with Jewish teens, most notably the Diller Teen Fellows program and the Tikkun Olam Awards, which honor enterprising youth around the country doing innovative community work.

The foundation has given major grants in many areas, including $50 million in April to the Technion. It is a supporting foundation of the Federation, which means the Federation handles all accounting, grant payments, and investment, tax and audit matters, according to the Federation’s website.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.