Category Archives: Letter from the Director

A Two-State Solution is Still the Answer

Much has and will be said about the meeting this week between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu. There are elements of this important engagement that should receive broad welcome in the organized Jewish community, such as the strong affirmation by the President that the United States will work to prevent Iran from ever developing a nuclear weapon. There are also elements that should provoke broad dismay, such as the President’s decision to once again sidestep the opportunity to clearly and unequivocally denounce the rising tide of anti-Semitism that has generated so much fear within the American Jewish community.

For now I’ll focus on one specific element of the meeting –the President’s assertion that he can “live with” a one-state peace agreement “if Israel and the Palestinians are (both) happy.”

The organized American Jewish community – and the U.S. government - has long been committed to achieving, through direct negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, a durable peace via a two-state solution. This framework is rooted in two guiding principles:

  1. That we – as a community and a country - share the Zionist and national aspirations of the Jewish people for a state of our own – Jewish, secure and democratic – in the land of Israel.
  2. That only the Israeli people – not the global Jewish community or world bodies - through their own democratic process, can decide what risks they will accept for this peace, what borders they can live with, what security guarantees they need.

The hard truth is that Israelis are justified when they worry about security guarantees in a two-state agreement. Just this week we were reminded that 24 Hamas members have died in the last year alone while building tunnels under Gaza. This serves as a stark reminder that securing the far longer border and preventing attacks from a West Bank state will be a serious challenge.  Advocates for a two-state solution need to address this challenge if we expect the Israeli majority to embrace an agreement. But those who resist a two-state agreement also have to answer a question: Is there any other realistic option, over the long term, that ensures Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state?

This is not to say that a two-state agreement can be reached tomorrow or even in the near future, but it is urgent that the potential for achieving it not be lost to the dustbin of history. We certainly believe that the solution cannot be imposed on the people who will have to live with it. But to anyone who will not say, definitively, that the goal of a durable peace can only be achieved with two states, we must ask:

So then what?

If you aren’t working for two-states, then you’ve opened the door to one-state. If that is a state that the Palestinians would be “happy” with, per our President’s framing, i.e. presumably a democratic state – then you’ve opened the door to an option that would hasten the end of the Jewish state. If that one-state solution would be an undemocratic state, then presumably it would not make the Palestinians happy, nor would it bring the peace that President Trump says he wants to achieve (not to mention the opprobrium it would receive from much of the world and much of the global Jewish community).

Make no mistake: The President opened the door to a U.S. policy where he would be “happy” with an outcome that is nothing less than a departure from the national aspirations of the Jewish people – a state of our own, Jewish, secure and democratic.

Thankfully, major voices within the organized American Jewish community are not accepting this departure. The ADL responded to the meeting by saying that a “mutually negotiated two state solution is critical to ensure Israel remains a Jewish and democratic state. (The) One state approach undermines this.”  AJC said that “the alternative of a one-state reality is simply untenable and, therefore, a non-starter – an abrogation of the Zionist ideal of a Jewish and democratic state.”

We will not and cannot let the door to a two-state solution slam shut. We will continue to act, as a pro-Israel community, in support of the two-state solution. And we will support Israelis and Palestinians on the ground who are working to maintain the viability of this option.

Last November, I said that the recent election has not changed the shared values of our Jewish community and JCRC.  Those values include our commitment to the national aspirations of the Jewish people. We will keep working for two-states because the alternative is not an option for us, even if it is an option for the President.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Moving Beyond the Chaos: Guidelines for Action | A Message from our Senior Synagogue Organizer

While Jeremy is in Israel for professional development opportunities, we offer some post-election reflections from our Senior Synagogue Organizer, Rachie Lewis.

Since the election, we at JCRC have been immersed in conversations across our community as we struggle to understand the meaning of this political moment. We have reached out to JCRC board members, rabbis, synagogue leaders long involved in the work of social justice, and young adults who have generally shied away from traditional, Jewish institutions, but now realize the power of doing so. We’ve listened to the concerns of our organizational partners as they address emerging threats on the ground. Together, we are writing a new chapter in the story of who we are as a community, and how we act in the world.

In this new chapter, we can sense that the stakes are higher and that, as Elliot Cohen - a former member of the George W. Bush administration - wrote, “it’s not getting better.” That means this work isn’t going to be comfortable, and it’s certainly not going to be easy. But these days, our community appears ready to do more than we have before. We are showing up in unprecedented numbers to participate. We are resisting the familiar need to know every answer and every outcome before we act. Our social media feeds simply announce a public gathering, and we spring into action.

But amidst the chaos, we know we need to focus. We cannot fight every battle. But how do we decide where to focus our energies? How, in this moment, can we as a Jewish Community Relations Council best represent our community’s values and interests, and meet our responsibilities to our partners in the broader community?

Here are some suggested values to guide our actions.

Many of us feel a deep kinship with today’s marginalized communities. Our instincts tell us that no matter where our ancestors came from, our histories are tied up with those of the Central American immigrants taking tremendous risks in search of a better life for themselves and their families; they are tied up with the histories of refugees fleeing war-torn countries in the hope of the protection and promise of the United States; they are tied up with the stories of those directly threatened by the erosion of civil rights. And, we must also acknowledge that, along with other minorities, we now share the experience of heightened vulnerability, as expressions and acts of hate spike, and as bomb threats to Jewish institutions have become a fact of daily life. So, any action we take must reflect the immediate and pressing needs of our own Jewish community and those of our partners.

We know, deep in our bones, that Jewish life depends on laws, it always has. Our history has shown that Jewish life thrives in a functioning democracy that extends freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of due process to all its residents. When these freedoms fail, we are at risk of going down with them.

The outrage that so many of us feel is not limited to isolated acts of injustice and discrimination; it is a reaction to the flurry of nails thrown into the machinery of our republic, threatening the whole system.  Our acts of kindness matter, we know we must be our most generous selves these days. But we also feel an urgent need for bolder and more ambitious action, with more far reaching results, when we sense our democracy being threatened.

Finally, we are drawn to action that will realize the potential to grow into a broader, and more diverse, Jewish communal base, that can act powerfully as one body, in pursuit of our common goals, especially when it matters most. This is a time to unite – a time to close generational gaps; for younger Jews to benefit from the resources, relationships and experience of our elders, and for more established leaders to learn new tools from the younger generation for the challenges we face.

We are writing a new story because, if we can unite across different interests and backgrounds, a bold and strategic Greater Boston Jewish Community will play a critical role in standing up to the threats of the moment. This work will not be easy, it will require some risk, but if we don’t do it, we know there are consequences to standing still.

Sign up for alerts about post-election engagement opportunities and join us in taking action.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rachie

End Discrimination in the Commonwealth

While Jeremy is in Israel for professional development opportunities, we offer some reflections on an important legislative priority from our Director of Government Affairs, Aaron Agulnek.

At the beginning of every two-year legislative session in the Commonwealth, upwards of 7,000 bills are filed by Senators and Representatives, covering almost every issue imaginable (and likely, many that you may not have known were even issues). Each year we consult with our partners, networks of allies and legislative champions to identify where to focus our attention amongst the competing priorities. Our process is guided by the interests of the organized Jewish community, the opportunities to deepen ties with our allies, and our mandate to move an agenda that promotes a more inclusive and just Commonwealth. This is often an imperfect science, and requires focus on what is moving and where our voice is needed.

This year, one piece of legislation we are supporting is HD779/SD922 An Act Prohibiting Discrimination in State Contracts (PDF). Filed by Senators Cindy Creem, Representative Paul McMurtry and Representative Steven Howitt, it is currently supported by a bipartisan coalition of over 50 co-sponsors. While we have a longstanding commitment to oppose discrimination in any form, this current political climate compels us to ensure that discrimination is not subsidized by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on the basis of who somebody is.

So, what exactly does this bill do? At it's core, this legislation is another step forward in Massachusetts' leading commitment to the principle of anti discrimination. First, that anyone seeking to do business with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must affirm that they are in compliance with the Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Laws, which prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, based on someone’s race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation; second, that they will not refuse to do business with someone based solely on these same immutable traits. To put it simply, if you want to enjoy business with the state, don’t discriminate.

Joined by 38 other local Jewish organizations, We recently issued a statement expressing our grave concern about recent Executive Orders on immigration and refugees, one of which banned refugees from seven targeted countries from coming to the United States. We all witnessed the incredible harm that discrimination based on national origin can wreak on individuals and society as a whole. The Anti-Discrimination legislation, if enacted into law, seeks to prevent the very damage such divisive acts inflict and would make it clear that people who seek to contract with the state cannot refuse to do business with another simply because of their nation of origin.

This bill also protects LGBTQ business owners who face threats of boycotts of their businesses, solely because of who they are. It protects women-owned businesses, Muslim-owned businesses, Asian-owned businesses, African-American owned businesses, and yes, Israeli owned businesses, from being discriminated against based on who they are.

In the face of bigotry, delegitimization, and forces that seek to define and judge people based on who they are, rather than what they do, we stand up and say that this invidious discrimination has no place in the Commonwealth.

Please visit JCRC’s Action Alert and let your Senators and Representatives know that our Commonwealth should not subsidize those who seek to tear our communities apart and thank those who have already signed on. We are stronger when we stand together.

Shabbat Shalom,

Aaron

A Visit with the People’s Lawyer

When I was just starting on my own path to becoming a Jewish communal professional, a JCRC director (from another city) patiently explained to me why the national Jewish community relations field organized our policy and advocacy work with one bucket being defined as “Jewish Security and the Bill of Rights.” It wasn’t that we, the organized Jewish community, only care about the Constitution as it applies to ourselves. It was that, simply put, we understand that our ability to thrive and prosper as a minority in this country is due in no small part to the civil liberties that our nation promises to all people, and thus, that we must fight to fulfill the promise of those freedoms for all.

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This has been a tumultuous week on the national scene, to say the least. So it could have not been more timely that we sat down with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey this past Tuesday, along with representatives from JCRC’s network of agencies. Our focus was on the Attorney General’s priorities, our community’s concerns and the role we can play in shaping local and national policy in this uncertain and fraught time.

We’ve worked with her team in the past, to advance transgender public accommodations and equal pay for women, to enforce our Commonwealth’s strong gun violence prevention laws and to protect immigrants and the poor from consumer fraud at the hands of predatory lenders – to name but a few examples. But it was clear at the table this week that the work required of all of us in the face of new threats and challenges must be bolder and more ambitious.

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Attorney General Healey talked about her role, as our - the people’s – lawyer to enforce not only state laws, but also to address federal laws when the federal government falls short. It was a lawsuit filed by our AG’s office that led to the striking down of DOMA. Now, her office is part of a suit to force Exxon Mobil to disclose their research on climate change.

Healey reaffirmed her team’s commitment to civil rights, combating hate and racism, protecting the hard fought rights of the LGBTQ community, and ensuring that Massachusetts remain a welcoming community for immigrants and refugees. We discussed ways that her office can work with local police departments and with the ADL, as partners, to deal with rising anti-Semitism and hate crimes right here in Massachusetts.

And, she told us how we can amplify our impact by working together with other communities – not just here but around the country - to develop a critical mass of people who encourage other state AGs to follow suit.

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Seven decades after JCRC was founded to provide our community with a collective voice to protect Jewish interests along with the values for our nation, and as we rise once again to confront hate and bigotry, to champion civil rights, and to fight for our own safety in an insecure world, I can’t think of a time – since those early years - when the mission of community relations felt more urgent than it does today. At its root, our work animates a simple but profound truth; that our security and self-interests are deeply intertwined with the protection of the constitutional rights and civil liberties of all of our neighbors.

We are called, once again, to recommit ourselves to these values - but now with the urgency to maintain protections hard won in decades past. As Healey urged us, now "we must do everything we can to fight the normalization of marginalization."

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

A Prayer for Our Nation

Last July, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York accepted an invitation to deliver the invocation at the Republican National Convention. Under pressure from some members of the Jewish community, he withdrew from the event. We share with you the invocation that Rabbi Lookstein had planned to deliver last summer, and we invite you to join us today in reflection on his words, their meaning, and the call therein to us and our nation.

 

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Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Our Tradition of Dissent

Dissent: The act of expressing opinions at odds with those officially held.

In the Jewish tradition, even God handles dissent with grace.

When God tells Abraham about the plan to obliterate Sodom, Abraham objects. He bargains. God listens and negotiates, but ultimately stays the course. The city is destroyed, but the relationship between God and Abraham endures and God fulfills the promise to establish Abraham as the father of a great nation.

In the wilderness of Sinai, the daughters of Zelophehad – Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah – come before Moses to object to God’s already announced plan for the allocation of the land of Israel. God tells Moses that “the plea is just,” and these women are given their share.

The rabbis of the Talmud also embraced debate and dissent. The houses of Hillel and Shamai vigorously argued the law. Almost always, the majority sided with Hillel. But the dissent was heard, honored, and recorded for posterity. And then the two houses would break bread together and marry their children to each other.

The examples of dissent as a valued and embraced Jewish tradition go on and on.

This weekend we celebrate the life and legacy of another great dissenter, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King’ leadership in the civil rights movement challenged America and all Americans to aspire to live to our potential and enact our expressed values. He taught - or more accurately reminded - us, that active dissent against an unjust law was an act of moral responsibility.

Dr. King affirmed his faith’s teachings on dissent through acts of love. He taught us to embrace and explore our capacity for empathy for the other in service to bringing about a more compassionate and just world.

A half-century later, we’re still learning to embrace that vision and message.

At a time when hate is ascendant in our discourse, when journalists are bullied for questioning those with power, and when the fractures that divide our communities seem almost unbridgeable, we are called to remember our Jewish tradition’s deeply held appreciation for the expression of dissent.

Dissent with love: work for greater empathy in ourselves and others; Listen to, honor and record for posterity the voice of the dissenter; Be open to change – as even God is. And then, when the debate is done for the day, invite each other to break bread.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

We’re Proud to Celebrate: #GBJCL20

Reading and education are essential to Jewish identity and to our perseverance as a people; they are the vehicles for transmitting our tradition and living a Jewish life. As Jews of the Diaspora, we understand that the gifts of education, knowledge and reasoning were - and still are - key to our survival. For centuries, we faced discrimination and worse. Shut out of many schools and locked out of educational opportunities, we built our own. Within our own communities, often segregated from the rest of society, we educated ourselves and our children. Now, generations later, we continue to value knowledge as power, and as a means to ensuring the vibrancy and future of our people.

Recognizing that education provides access to opportunity, President Clinton embarked on an initiative over two decades ago, called America Reads. He outlined a simple but audacious plan, issuing the call to recruit one million volunteer tutors from across the country to help students learn to read by the end of third grade. Legendary social justice pioneer Leonard (Leibel) Fein, z”l jumped at the opportunity to engage the Jewish community. The intellectual architect of liberal Jewish engagement over the past many decades, Fein was a prolific writer and thought leader for the burgeoning Jewish social justice movement. His writings appeared regularly in The Forward and Moment Magazine, which he co-founded. But Fein’s work transcended the theoretical; his passion demanded that Jews act on our values in the world. He founded Mazon, a non-profit that has raised millions of dollars from the Jewish community to combat hunger.

Fein seized on Clinton’s initiative as an opportunity to mobilize the Jewish community in acting on our most cherished value; igniting the love of reading and learning. With no plan, and not a single volunteer on board, he impulsively promised to deliver the first 10,000 tutors from the Jewish community. In 1997 he approached my predecessor, Nancy Kaufman, with a bold proposal; for JCRC to be the pilot for a new National Jewish Coalition for Literacy, recruiting Boston’s primarily suburban Jews in tutoring weekly in high need urban elementary schools. Nancy sprang into action and the Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy (GBJCL) was born. Our program grew quickly, as JCRC identified leaders at area synagogues to recruit teams of volunteers within their community to work with young students throughout Greater Boston. Twenty years later, we are honored to carry on the legacy of these Jewish social justice giants and to fulfill our commitment to education as we enrich the lives of our Commonwealth’s children.

Today GBJCL continues to be a powerful vehicle; providing needed services to students and meaningful experiences to our community members, as we serve some 500 students each week of the school year, in 24 schools throughout Greater Boston. The service of our 322 volunteers extends way beyond their required weekly sessions with their assigned students. Our tutors support the whole school community in multiple ways including helping with science and book fairs, doing “read-alouds” and organizing book drives.

As we reach GBJCL’s 20th birthday, I am excited to let you know about JCRC’s year-long celebration to mark the program’s achievements and ensure its robust future. In the coming months, we will be sharing stories of the volunteers and students whose lives have been transformed through this remarkable program. We will also be hosting opportunities throughout the school year to recognize our partnerships, honor our volunteers and thank our supporters. And, we will celebrate GBJCL20 at JCRC Celebrates this spring (save the date for May 24th!)

And, if you want to experience GBJCL firsthand, visit our website for information about volunteering or setting up a team at your synagogue or company.

Wishing you a 2017 filled with the joy of reading!

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

Times of Israel: After the speech: investing in peacemaking

This article was originally published on the Times of Israel Blogs.

Since the U.S. abstention at the UN Security Council and the speech by Secretary of State John Kerry, much has been said about the prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I am among those who take issue with the U.S. approach this past week. Nonetheless, for those of us who share the belief that the only way to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state is through the establishment of two states, one Jewish and one Palestinian, we must ask ourselves: What are we able to do today, tomorrow, and in the near term to promote and expand the potential for this outcome?

As we begin 2017 – the year marking the 70th anniversary of the UN partition that envisioned two states for two people, and the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War that reunited Jerusalem and brought the West Bank under Israel’s control – the path to peace is long and difficult. While Secretary Kerry did not offer a meaningful way forward in this moment to help make a two-state solution achievable, there is in fact plenty of activity going on in here in Boston and in Israel that needs our support if coexistence and cooperation are to thrive in a manner that expands the potential for peace:

  • The Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow (MEET), created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, set out to answer the question: “What if the next generation of Israeli and Palestinian leaders had a history of working together, using innovative problem solving to make positive change in the Middle East?” They bring together young Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurs for education and empowerment. MEET is incubating and investing in a bi-national cohort of innovators to lead social change.
  • The Yad B’Yad (Hand in Hand) schools are serving thousands of Jewish and Palestinian students in six Israeli cities, offering an alternative to the separate public school systems, thereby building a generation of students and parents who are committed to an environment of co-existence. Their work, including bilingual co-teaching from the earliest years, is paving the way toward a shared society for kids who are “learning together, living together.”
  • Our Generation Speaks (OGS), at Brandeis University, recognizes the deep frustration of both Israelis and Palestinians as extreme voices and opinions dominate public discourse. OGS is identifying change agents amongst youth who have not lost hope, and who want to build shared prosperity. Their high impact ventures are intended to inject optimism back into the public discourse and promote a more productive conversation regarding Israeli-Palestinian affairs.
  • Shorashim (Roots) is a grassroots joint movement in the West Bank focused on building trust and empathy between two peoples – Jews and Palestinians -currently living in that region. In just their first two years they’ve reached 13,000 people as they “endeavor to lay the groundwork for a reality in which future agreements between our governments can be built.”
  • The Peres Center For Peace, founded by Israel’s former President, of blessed memory, seeks to realize Shimon Peres’ vision for a prosperous Israel at peace with its neighbors. The Center builds economic partnerships to deepen mutual interests while encouraging cross border partnerships and interactions including agricultural projects, regional water initiatives, and technological entrepreneurship.

These examples are just a few of the many initiatives I have had the privilege to witness and experience at home in Boston or during my travels to Israel and Palestinian areas in recent years. There are many more efforts like these, each with a different focus, but a common purpose connecting them: The recognition that interaction, mutual understanding, and interdependence will support and strengthen peace when it comes, and that the potential for peace must be fostered by changing the lives of people today.

As concerned and engaged citizens we can, right now, build the foundation for a future of peace by expanding the social capital, the institutional strength, and the political space for these groups and others like them. Instead of demanding that the current political leadership negotiate in the absence of trust, we can support those who are making a difference today by building lasting relationships for accomplishing bigger dreams tomorrow.

We cannot afford to lose the hope and the possibility of a two-state solution. By supporting the vision of groups like these, we can become partners in fostering an atmosphere that will expand the potential for peace. There is no alternative.

May we bring peace in our time.

Times of Israel: Misguided Inaction Makes Peacemaking Even Harder

This article was originally published on the Times of Israel Blogs

There is one question I’ve been asked consistently this weekend: Why – given my own firm commitment to a two-state solution and my publicly expressed concerns about the coming administration’s views on this – would I so strongly reject and abhor the U.S. abstention this past Friday on UN Security Council Resolution 2334?

My disagreement with our government’s action, or lack thereof, on Friday rests in matters of policy, politics, and practical outcomes.

As a matter of policy it is true that the Obama administration’s opposition to Israel’s expansion of settlements is broadly consistent with US policy across administrations of both parties going back four decades. But this administration has pressed that opposition with a particular fervor that has been ill-placed. In 2009 the then-young administration sought and received from the Netanyahu government a ten-month freeze on construction, which the Prime Minister described as “a painful step that will encourage the peace process.” Then the Palestinian leadership once again failed their people through objections and foot-dragging (even approaching the Arab League to encourage a new invasion of Israel in 2010) thereby closing yet another window for negotiations. But still, our administration remained focused on settlements as a singular obstacle to resolving the conflict.

Many in our community have been broadly supportive of the Obama administration’s agenda in other areas. Still — even as U.S.-Israel security cooperation and aide are, today, at an all time high — I was hopeful that the next administration, of either party, would be more evenhanded in articulating the obstacles to peace. I hoped that the U.S. would vigorously address not only the actions of Israel’s government, but the failures of the Palestinian leadership: The incitement to violence and rewarding of ‘martyrs’ families; The continuous rejection in international venues of any Jewish legitimacy in our attachment to our ancient homeland; The rampant corruption and postponement of elections as the Palestinian Authority has failed at even the effort to develop a civil society in service to their people in areas under their own control.

Even in the focus on settlements the Obama administration and its allies have painted a too-broad and unproductive brush. Yes, some settlements threaten the contiguity of an envisioned Palestinian state. And every family that would need to be evacuated for peace is another traumatic and expensive task – as seen in Sinai and Gaza when Israel evacuated Israelis from those post-’67 areas in pursuit of peace. But not all areas over the Green Line are the same and the continued characterization in American and international rhetoric of them as being equal is unproductive. The Jewish Quarter of the Old City, Gilo, Gush Etzion, Ariel and Amona are very different places, with differing meaning for the Jewish people and differing impact on a future peace. The failure to address this complexity with nuance and differentiation makes the entire anti-settlement policy too readily dismissible, a caricature of oversimplification in one of the most complicated regions on earth (And the same ought be said for Israel’s government and those of us who are resolute in our commitment to this nation – we do a disservice by characterizing and defending all settlement expansion as equally valid and valuable for Israel’s future).

Politically, Friday’s action was a failure of leadership by the Obama administration, and a betrayal of its own legacy. For nearly eight years, this administration has vetoed biased and one-sided resolutions, including some very similar to this one. The 180 degree turnaround in policy – itself a rejection of a broad bipartisan consensus on the role of U.S. leadership in UN bodies – in a lame duck period, without any public advance communication of the intent, strikes many of us as motivated by something far lesser than strategic imperatives.

To judge by Ambassador Power’s own remarks after the vote, the administration knows that this resolution is unfair – thus the abstention. It comes in a body that has excelled only in its demonization of Israel above all other matters, thus making this action the fruit of a poisoned tree. That this action was ‘led’ by such exemplars of international human rights as Egypt and Venezuela only underscores the farce therein.

I appreciate that President Obama is deeply committed to advancing peace. But the way in which he has chosen to do so does no favors to the Israelis or Palestinians. The United Nations, with its biases and obsessions regarding Israel, is not the venue for advancing a solution. The failure to recognize Israel’s security concerns and legitimate connection to the land means that the resolution should not have passed. The failure to hold the Palestinian leadership explicitly and directly accountable for its role supporting terrorism will only encourage them to continue incitement and unilateral tactics.

The practical outcome of this action is that we are farther from achieving peace than we were on Friday morning. Palestinian leaders are talking of this as a launching pad for further international action against Israel, wrongly fueled by their sense that rejection and foot-dragging might actually serve their cause. Hamas is openly celebrating. Fatah is using bloody and violent imagery to thank the fourteen nations that voted for this. And in Israel, an enraged right is talking openly of annexation and pressing to take further actions to strengthen and expand settlements. Friday’s action has done nothing to move the parties closer and everything to exacerbate the conditions the next administration will face come January.

So where do we go from here?

For one thing, while we should not under-react, we don’t want to over-react either. Thoughtful analysts say that the resolution, of itself, doesn’t really change much, not least because it has no binding legal status in international law.

Further, much as I am dismayed, and even as I take note that President-elect Trump made clear his opposition to this action, we only have one government at a time and a lot can still happen in the next three weeks. Further, there have been many political leaders on both sides of the U.S. partisan divide who spoke out last week before and after the vote – and we need all of these people to stay with us in a bipartisan coalition of support for Israel’s future. Jewish activists wrongly calling President Obama an anti-Semite, or rapid and robust countermeasures by Israel, could very well have unintended consequences at a precarious moment. What is needed now is a calm and thoughtful approach; There will be time enough for reflection and lessons learned.

The path to peace seems longer and more difficult than it did just a week ago. Instead of fear and frustration, accusations and anger, the onus is on us to confront tirelessly the obstacles to peace. That UNSC Resolution 2334 is now yet another one of the obstacles to peace is itself a tarnish on the Obama legacy.

We must insist that the international community normalize relations with Israel and treat it with balance and respect. We must ensure that the strength of the U.S.-Israel bond remains a bipartisan commitment in this country. And we must never stop working, nor lose sight, or hope, for the realization of a two-state solution. The alternative is unacceptable.

No Roadmap in the New Year

 

Earlier this week I spoke to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about President-Elect Trump’s ambassador-designate to Israel. I told the reporter that “we’re all trying to figure out how to navigate this administration.” Here, in my final blog post of the calendar year and six weeks after November 8th, I would like to share some thoughts about where JCRC is thus far in handling this navigation.

In the last six weeks, JCRC has spoken out against the appointment of Steve Bannon and raised concerns about David Friedman. JCRC has worked with the ADL to convene our community and the political leadership of Massachusetts in a rally against hate. We worked with our partners in GBIO to bring 2,600 diverse participants from across Greater Boston together as one community. JCRC has initiated a series of meetings with our partners and our congressional delegation to discuss their thoughts and views on the specific challenges ahead and the most strategic opportunities for us to stand together in the coming years. In the next month, JCRC will convene a strategy team within the Jewish community to help us plan for the future.

All of JCRC’s actions during the last six weeks are rooted in the premise that the period ahead has unique and deep challenges for all communities, regardless of how we individually voted. We are entering an era where our duly elected President lacks a popular mandate (or even a plurality of the vote), yet is promising radical and disruptive change. Normally, we would find ways to embrace working with any administration – even when nearly 80% of our own community voted for different candidates – whereas today, we are entering an era of unusual and significant challenges to the norms of our constitutional democracy. As Evan McMullin recently wrote:

“We can no longer assume that all Americans understand the origins of their rights and the importance of liberal democracy. We need a new era of civic engagement that will reawaken us to the cause of liberty and equality. That engagement must extend to ensuring that our elected representatives uphold the Constitution, in deed and discourse — even if doing so puts them at odds with their party.”

In this unprecedented time, JCRC and all of us as individuals are navigating without a road map – without any guidance beyond our values and principles. In meeting after meeting with our member agencies, with national Jewish organizations, and with partners, we have heard the same refrain from our colleagues; they have no precedent to guide their organizations in this moment.

In cases where JCRC is opposing a position or appointment by the new administration, we will sometimes be asserting our institutional voice beyond the norms of traditional Jewish communal politeness. Whatever position we take, JCRC will strive to set an example of civil discourse, even whilst the President-elect sets a new bar for intemperate discourse. We will inevitably make some mistakes along the way and for those we will need to apologize after the fact.

At JCRC, we will take the time to remind ourselves and our community that many of our own members are supportive of some of the positions and actions of the new administration. We believe that as a whole, we play a role in fostering the creation of a ‘new center’ mindset that will help move our country away from the deeply partisan fractures that brought us to this point. To do this, JCRC will aim to support bipartisan efforts on Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill, both of which will contribute to the national discourse.

As we move forward, JCRC will continue to confer with our Council and our network of member agencies to guide our efforts. We are particularly mindful that as we must navigate these uncharted waters, so too, must our member organizations. While the choices and positions of our member organizations in the coming years will be different than those of JCRC, we will reaffirm our respect for their choices. Finally, while the majority of our community did not support the President- elect, JCRC stands firm in our belief that we should not demonize those who voted for this direction.

Again, McMullin:

“Those who can will need to speak out boldly and suffer possible retaliation. Others will need to offer hands of kindness and friendship across the traditional political divide, as well as to those who may become targets because of who they are or what they believe. Those who understand the cause are called to the work, which I hope will unify and bless our nation in time.”

JCRC believes that we must recommit ourselves to those values which we hold dear and to maintaining our vigorous public efforts to defend them. Our community and our nation depend on all of our efforts and all of our continued vigilance. On behalf of all of us, I thank you for your partnership and welcome your participation as we move forward together.

Shabbat Shalom, Happy Chanukah and an early Happy New Year!

Jeremy