Earlier today, an article in Haaretz reported that J Street withdrew their sponsorship of last week’s Boston solidarity rally in support of Israel’s defense of innocent civilians. After initially accepting an invitation to be a sponsor of last Thursday’s event, J Street Boston director Shaina Wasserman informed me the night before the event that they were withdrawing their sponsorship for reasons only J Street can explain. She then sent me the letter excerpted in the Haaretz report as a follow up to our phone conversation.
The decision by J Street – which only J Street can explain for itself – came following two days of exchanges and discussions between myself and Wasserman about the purpose, goals, and substance of our community event. Our initial e-blast announcing the event did not reflect the tone and substance that I had conveyed to J Street and others when initially inviting their participation. As is often the case when several organizations collaborate on a large community gathering with a rapid turnaround, the process moved quickly and the e-blast was sent before I approved the text. Some in our community expressed anxiety about the overall message of the rally based on that initial communication. Subsequent messages about the rally, as well as the actual content at the event itself, were more reflective of the initial conversations.
JCRC represents a pro-Israel community in Boston that is united in our support of Israel’s defense and security, and for her survival and vitality as a Jewish and democratic state. This community is diverse in our views about how to advance those principles. In our work we often convey both a position taken by JCRC representing the consensus of our community, as well as the diversity of opinions in our community about these same issues. J Street, like many of our member organizations, is given the opportunity to convey their views in our meetings with political leaders, even when those views may not reflect the consensus of the organized Jewish community or the positions of JCRC.
In times of crisis and in times of hope we bring our community together – with the support and partnership of CJP and our member agencies – to present a unified voice on some of the core issues that we believe must be heard by our community and the world. Last week, as Israel and the Palestinian people struggled and suffered under a reign of terror by Hamas in Gaza, we came together as a community around shared core truths: That Israel, like any nation, has a right and a duty to protect its civilians from such terror; that we mourn the loss of all life in this conflict; and that Hamas – by focusing on terror and destruction – is responsible for the violence these past two weeks.
I believe that when we are able to post the video of our gathering at Mishkan Tefilla people who were not there will see this core message conveyed clearly.
I am deeply disappointed in J Street’s decision to withdraw as a sponsor. Thursday night was a community wide gathering. At an urgent moment for Israel we believed that it was vital for the world to hear a clear message of solidarity. This event was not and should not have been the place for airing and debating perspectives on how to achieve our shared hopes for Israel. It was a place to present and convey shared core principles in a moment of conflict.
We have made extraordinary efforts to bring J Street’s voice to the table in Boston. We have sought, not always successfully, to present the diversity of views on important issues in ways that almost no other Jewish community in this country does.
J Street has in the past expressed their desire to be part of our diverse pro-Israel community, one that can navigate our differences while standing together as one around core values. This is the community we at JCRC and in Boston aspire to embody. Only J Street can speak to how their decision last week to withdraw from our community at a time of crisis and solidarity advances such a goal. My hope is that we will learn from this experience and that we will go forward, committed to working together as one community as we must, in this crisis and in the future.