BY NATHAN DUKE
An independent investigation by the Queens Museum’s board into the cancellation of an event commemorating the state of Israel’s 70th anniversary has concluded that the museum’s executive and deputy directors used poor judgment and “knowingly misled the board.”
The museum came under fire in August after it cancelled a historic recreation of the 1947 vote that established the state of Israel. Daniel Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said that he had been by contacted Laura Raicovich, the museum’s executive director, to notify him that the event had been cancelled, citing a decision by the museum’s executive board not to hold a “political event” as outlined in the institution’s policies.
Danon complained to the museum regarding its decision, numerous Queens leaders blasted the cancellation of the event and the Queens Tribune ran a front-page story and editorial on the incident. The museum eventually reversed its decision and the event was held in November. Vice President Mike Pence and more than 50 UN ambassadors, senior diplomats and Jewish leaders from around the world attended the event.
An independent investigation of the incident was detailed in a new report by law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman. It noted that Raicovich and David Strauss, the museum’s deputy director, “misled” the board and “otherwise failed to comport themselves with the standards consistent with their positions.”
According to the report, the board offered both Raicovich and Strauss the opportunity to resign. Raicovich resigned on Jan. 26, citing differences with the board that prevented her from taking political stands. Strauss was terminated by the board, according to the report.
“This was an extraordinary abuse of not just Laura Raicovich’s administrative authority, but of her moral authority as well,” said Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest), who was among Queens’ elected officials who originally blasted the board’s decision to cancel the Israel commemoration event. “Her support for the anti-Semitic BDS movement and her anti-Israel animus guided her efforts to block the commemoration of Israel’s independence in the very building in which it was realized, and this is a profound intellectual and moral failing. The executive director of the Queens Museum is supposed to represent Queens’ values and interests. Ms. Raicovich’s behavior was a breathtaking breach of that responsibility to us and for us.”
According to Katten Muchin Rosenman’s report, Raicovich “showed immediate hostility to hosting the event at the museum” and viewed Pence’s involvement as “problematic.”
The report references a 2017 book, “Assuming Boycott,” that Raicovich co-edited that includes essays in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), a pro-Palestinian campaign that attempts to increase economic and political pressure on Israel. Critics of the BDS movement have called it “anti-Semitic.” The report noted that Raicovich did not disclose her involvement with the book to the board.