I often write about relationships of obligation and accountability with our partners and allies. So much of our work at JCRC is about investing in relationships that cultivate trust – even in disagreement – that also build obligation and accountability between leaders and communities; relationships that catalyze us to do more for each other.
It is with that frame of reference that I read last week’s powerful letter to Israel’s friends in North America – written by Yossi Klein Halevi, Daniel Gordis and Matti Friedman – calling upon us to “speak out against a government that is undermining (Israel’s) cohesion and its democratic ethos”. Many in our community know these three men: Daniel is a teacher to many here. Matti’s work has helped us understand complexities there. Yossi is most personal to me. He is my teacher and friend, from whom I have learned so much and whose courage has created space for our community to engage in more powerful interfaith work and has enriched our understanding of Israel’s relationship with its Palestinian citizens and neighbors.
I have an obligation and accountability to him and to many other Israeli friends and partners – leaders in the work of building shared society, LGBTQ activists, defenders of religious pluralism, and others – who are taking to the streets in enormous numbers and saying that they need us now. And my response must be rooted in JCRC’s mission and commitment to advocate for Israel as a “safe, secure, Jewish and democratic” state. Each of these four conditions is vital and resonant, not just for me but for our broad network that has debated and reaffirmed them time and again over many decades as part of this stated mission. An Israel with safety, with security – is a continuing commitment for us. And, an Israel that has both a Jewish and a healthy democratic character is the Israel that we have bound ourselves to. An Israel without that character would represent a change from the promise in their declaration of statehood that has inspired so many of us in our relationships with our family there.
While words are easy, the work of an effective and impactful response is not so straightforward. So I ask you the same question I’ve been asking in virtually every conversation I’ve had in recent weeks with members of our Jewish American community who are concerned and listening to our Israeli partners: What are your thoughts on how Jewish leaders should respond to this urgent request?
I want to hear from you – not to inform yet another statement or tweet but to think strategically about what we can and need to be doing in this moment to support people like Yossi, Matti and Daniel – and all the Israelis to whom we are obligated. What might we do that has the potential for actual impact – not to salve our own sense of our values, but to meaningfully help them, as allies and friends, in the work that they are doing?
Speaking of obligation, allyship, and doing more for each other in the work ahead here in Boston – I want to encourage your attendance at three programs in the coming week:
- On Monday, February 13 at 7pm, CJP will be joined by their partners from several agencies for ‘Bold Conversations’ to provide a deeper dive into our community’s 5-point plan to combat antisemitism in all its forms. One aspect of that plan is building allyship. I’ll be joined by the Reverend Carrington Moore to discuss this topic. Rev. Moore is a friend to me personally and to our community. He has stood with us including but not limited to speaking at the December 2021 ‘Shine a Light on Antisemitism’ and traveling with JCRC last summer as part of our faith leaders study tour in Israel.
- On Saturday, February 18 at 7pm, JCRC will join with Jewish communal organizations across the state – including the ADL New England, Hadassah Northeast, JALSA, The Mass. Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and NCJW MA – as we conclude Repro Shabbat together with a special Repro Havdalah. Repro Shabbat takes place annually when we read Parshat Mishpatim containing the verses often used as a source for Judaism’s approach to reproductive justice. In community, we will close out Repro Shabbat and celebrate our commitment to religious freedom and abortion access.
- And finally, on Tuesday, February 21 at 7:30pm JCRC, the NAACP Boston, Temple Ner Tamid and Zion Church Ministries are joining the Lappin Foundation to sponsor a virtual discussion of the film, Shared Legacies, about the African American – Jewish Civil Rights Alliance. I’ll moderate a discussion with Bishop Robert G. Brown, Rabbi Richard Perlman and Tanisha M. Sullivan, Esquire, President of the Boston Branch of the NAACP, about the crucial historical lessons of Black-Jewish cooperation that are revisited and revived in this utterly fascinating film. (The link to view the film will be sent to registered participants before the program so you can watch it when it is convenient for you.)
I look forward to your responses to my question and to doing all of this work together.