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U.S. Jewish coalition rejects lobbying group

NEW YORK (Reuters) - An umbrella organization of major U.S. Jewish groups voted this week to reject a membership bid by the liberal group J Street, prompting a frustrated response on Thursday from the lobby that describes itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace.

An array of other moderate and liberal Jewish groups spoke out as well in opposition to the decision by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which said it had been reviewing J Street's application for months.

Washington-based J Street is more supportive than many other Jewish groups of a "two-state" Middle East agreement that would lead to an independent Palestinian state and a secure Israel.

Releasing the results of its formal vote in New York on Wednesday, the conference noted that inclusion requires the backing of two thirds of its fifty members.

Some of its member groups applied multiple times before winning the necessary support, it said.

"The present membership of the conference includes organizations which represent and articulate the views of broad segments of the American Jewish community and we are confident that the Conference will continue to present the consensus of the community on important national and international issues as it has for the last fifty years," Chairman Robert Sugarman and Chief Executive Malcolm Hoenlein said in a statement.

J Street, formed six years ago, said the conference had accomplished just the opposite with its decision and was choosing "to bar the door to the communal tent."

"In many ways the vote illustrates one of the key reasons that J Street was created in the first place and why we continue to grow: a large segment of the American Jewish community feels that it does not have a home or a voice within its traditional structures," J Street said in a statement.

The head of the National Council of Jewish Women, Nancy Kaufman, called it "a sad day for pluralism in the American Jewish community."

"It is unfortunate that it seems to be more difficult for Jewish organizations in the United States to respectfully disagree about policies on how to build a strong, vibrant, democratic Jewish state of Israel, than it is for people who live in Israel," she said in a statement.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Andre Grenon)

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