Tag Archives: Israel

For American Jews: A Time To Vote

With 2020 primary voting finally upon us in just a few weeks, and Israel’s unprecedented third round of elections coming up in six weeks, I want to draw your attention to another election that begins next week: the American Jewish vote for the 38th World Zionist Congress. Though this election, which begins on Tuesday, has generated noticeably less buzz, it represents an important opportunity for us to make our voices heard in shaping the future of Israel.

Every five years, as the largest Jewish community outside of Israel, we get to choose 152 of the 500 members of the World Zionist Congress, a body that sets priorities for important institutions in Israel, including the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Jewish National Fund. All told, the World Zionist Congress oversees the allocation of nearly $1 billion in funding in support of Israel and global Jewry.

Much ado is made in our community about what our appropriate voice is in addressing the challenges that Israel faces: is it our obligation only to support the policies of Israel’s elected government? Should we encourage our own government to pursue policies that are or are not aligned with Israel? How should we express our disagreements over visions for Israel’s future?

Whatever your view of these and other debates, the Zionist Congress is one place where there is over 100 years of consensus that we — and other Jewish communities around the world — should have a voice in at least some of those debates over vision and priorities. And this year, with fourteen American slates running, the diversity of American Jewish thought is on full display. Whether you are inclined to support a Jabotinsky-esque vision or a Progressive one, an Israeli-American, Sephardic, or youth movement voice, or if your preference is to be represented by leaders from Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox movements, there are slates for you.

Voting is open to any Jewish resident in the United States, 18 years and up, who ascribes to the “Jerusalem Program,” a platform of unity for the Jewish people, with a bond to our homeland in the land of Israel and the centrality of the State of Israel as our national project. Despite the loud voices proclaiming otherwise, the fact is that all polling and studies of American Jewry suggest that well above 90% of us are aligned with this platform, in all our diversity.

All you need to do is go to azm.org/elections starting this Tuesday, January 21st, register, pay an administrative fee of $7.50, and you have a vote. The voting remains open until Wednesday, March 11th.

Personally, I haven’t decided yet who I’ll be voting for. I have friends and colleagues whom I respect who are running on at least half of the slates, including many friends from Boston.

What I do know is the outcome of these elections will give us a snapshot of how diverse our American Jewish community is and what we think, broadly, about how we want our voices to be heard in a global Jewish conversation. The more of us who participate, the clearer and more representative our voice will be.

And, as someone once said: If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. And who would we be as a community if we don’t have the right to complain?

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

The Middle Game

This month's JCRC Study Tour for Elected Officials at the Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem

From JCRC Director of Israel Engagement, Eli Cohn-Postell:

A game of chess is played in three phases. The opening moves set the stage for the drama to come. Most of the direct action comes in the middle game, where pieces are traded and sacrifices are made. By the end game, little remains. Only a few pieces are left as they try to outmaneuver each other and secure a victory. Successful chess players are able to coordinate their armies during all three phases of the game, creating harmony out of different pieces and their unique abilities.

In Israel’s current political moment, no one seems to have a clear vision for the end game. And, as a result, everyone is playing their own middle game. There is no strategic or tactical cohesion. People across political and social divides are worried that any move they make will only deepen existing fault lines. In this moment, I see only one way to move forward with coordination and cohesion: to focus on the moments that bring people together, regardless of their circumstances or their differences.

While in Israel last week, I saw how people were wearied by the inevitability of a third election in 12 months, taking place in March 2020. I mourned from a distance as more Jews were murdered in the third mass killing targeting our community since last October. And I watched with trepidation as Britain’s Jews were left without a political home, feeling both betrayed by antisemitism in the Labour party and anxious about being used as a scapegoat for both the election results and a variety of other issues. Many of our speakers last week presented us with an immediate next step, but no one was prepared to offer a comprehensive vision of the future.

At the same time, I was moved throughout the week by people in Israel who are creating new bonds despite their differences. I saw my friend Noor, who has blossomed from a skeptic into an activist. With his partners and friends at Roots, he is working every day to heal the divides between Israelis and Palestinians. Noor is waging an uphill battle, fighting against the voices among both his Jewish and Palestinian neighbors that call for complete separation from the other. In my visits with Noor over the past three years, I have seen how his ability to share his message has grown in effectiveness and complexity, and I am inspired.

I met Asmeret, an asylum seeker from Eritrea, at Kuchinate. Asmeret is a single mother raising three children while balancing the challenges that come from living in a foreign country with limited opportunities. Not only does she provide for herself and her family, she has become a manager at Kuchinate and now actively helps others improve their own circumstances. In speaking with us she shared a message of patience, love, and compassion.

We also saw our old friend Nadav Tamir, formerly Israel’s Consul General to New England. Now working at the Peres Center for Peace in Innovation, Nadav insists that peace must be made from the bottom-up as well as the top down. He is also certain that the things that make Israel great do not belong to Israel alone, and that the wonders of Israeli innovation must be shared with Israel’s neighbors equally and to the benefit of all.

There is much to be done. I learned recently that the Good Friday Accords were signed 12 years after the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) was established, and that the IFI and EU have invested roughly three billion Euros in peacebuilding projects in Ireland. This is more than 15 times what the EU and USAID have invested in Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding, severely limiting the opportunities for trust-building and reconciliation between the parties. Israelis, Palestinians, asylum seekers, and others have much that they can do on their own. But we also heard many times this week that American aid and leadership are necessary components of creating a shared future. We have to do it together.

Looking at the events of this week, I wonder when the fractures became so deep, and how we have arrived at this point without fully realizing what brought us here. Our end game must be one where these rifts are healed. To get there, we will need a middle strategy that emphasizes recognition in the face of division; an approach that will lead to an end game with as many options as possible. While we can never know the future with certainty, we pursue this approach with faith in people like Noor, Asmeret, Nadav, and the thousands like them building something together despite the obvious complications.

Shabbat shalom and chag sameach,

Eli

JCRC to Lead MA Legislators on Study Tour of Israel

(BOSTON) – The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston continues its long history of conducting annual study tours of Israel with Massachusetts community leaders through this month’s study tour, which will provide Massachusetts legislators with an in-depth look into the economic, political, and security challenges and successes facing Israeli society.

From December 5-15, Massachusetts legislators will travel throughout Israel and the Palestinian-controlled areas, learning from government officials and religious, academic, media, labor, and business leaders.

“This trip will allow Massachusetts leaders to deepen their understanding of Israel's politics and culture, and examine some of the economic ties that bring Israel and Massachusetts together,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of JCRC of Greater Boston. “The best way to deepen the MA/Israel connection is through a mutual understanding of our common interests—participants will gain firsthand knowledge about how they can strengthen relationships with their Israeli counterparts."

The Massachusetts labor leaders will:

  • Meet with government officials and other influential leaders from all sectors of Israeli and Palestinian society, developing city-to-city connections and sharing best practices in addressing current labor issues,
  • Visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and border regions,
  • Discover the growing economic and cultural ties between Israel and Massachusetts,
  • Gain new perspectives on modern day Israel, and
  • Develop a nuanced understanding of the complex political and security challenges facing Israel.

The trip is paid for by a grant from the nonprofit Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. Participants pay a registration fee for the trip from their own funds.

The following are the participants in JCRC’s December 2019 Study Tour of Israel:

Senator William Brownsberger
Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem
Senator Julian Cyr
Senator Adam Hinds
Senator Eric Lesser
Senator Jason Lewis

About the Jewish Community Relations Council
JCRC defines and advances the values, interests, and priorities of the organized Jewish community of Greater Boston in the public square. Visit us at www.jcrcboston.org.

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From Israel: Finding Inspiration in Dysfunctional Times.

A short while ago, I arrived at Ben Gurion airport. Together with JCRC’s Director of Israel Engagement, Eli Cohn-Postell, we’re starting out on our biannual civic leaders study tour, this time together with members of the Massachusetts Senate.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with an Israeli friend with both British and American citizenship. This person, only half-jokingly, commented that, at the moment, it was hard to tell which of these nations had more dysfunctional politics.

It is, to my mind, a tough question; especially when I focus on the negative aspects currently manifesting in each system. When I was last in Israel – in July – the Israeli people were in the midst of their second national election campaign this year. I never imagined the possibility that during this week’s trip they could embark on their third election cycle in less than a year. Since summer, Britain has blown through its latest Brexit deadline, with national elections pending next week (and a deeply worried Jewish community to wit). And, in the US, well, where shall we start?

But there’s another way of looking at this, which is to see the half-full glass, the moments, people, and institutions that inspire hope.

Observing developments in Israel, of course there’s much to be said about a nation whose prime minister is facing a trial over corruption charges. But there’s also something to be said about a country where the attorney general who brought those charges was himself appointed by that very same prime minister. And, whether one agrees or not with specific policies of the government, it’s notable that the institutions of justice are taking a stand, and how that action – to many of us – compares favorably with the role of our own attorney general in our current political process addressing our own President’s behavior.

And while three national elections within one year appears chaotic, it is also worth noting that a large chunk of Israel’s electorate is “holding the center.” Politicians and parties are, through their “constitutional” process (though Israel doesn’t have an actual constitution) reaching out from center-left to center-right and trying to form a consensus politics about the direction of the state and its character. Does this compare favorably to our own fractured politics in the US where a House divided has become the default, and the idea of common ground or shared understanding seems a distant memory? I think so.

And at a time when Americans, obsessing in our like-minded bubbles on social media, increasingly living and working in red and blue silos, and telling pollsters that the greatest tragedy would be for our children to marry across party lines, I’m inspired by my friends here. Because the divides between Israelis and Palestinians are surely even deeper than much of what divides us as Americans. And yet, as on every trip, we’ll be meeting with folks who are reaching out across these divides to build empathy and compassion. 

Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians are working together on grassroots projects for mutual recognition, dignity, and peace. We, through Boston Partners for Peace, believe in their ability to change the narrative and shape the future. They inspire us and I look forward to reporting on their efforts again after our visits this week.

So, I’m not ready to say which of our countries is most dysfunctional right now, nor do I think this is a particularly useful exercise. But what I can say – without in any way being naïve about the extraordinary challenges that Israelis, Palestinians, and the people of this region face, and the importance of supporting their efforts to resolve these challenges – is that I also think we can learn from and be inspired by what we witness here; people who don’t give up in the face of adversity; people who keep reaching out to each other and remain committed to building a hopeful future; and people who are representing the institutions and systems of a functioning democracy.

And maybe, just maybe, instead of judging them too harshly for their very human flaws, we Americans – who live in a glass house of our own – can be a little quieter and do a little more listening as we seek to understand the people who live here. And, hopefully, as I do on every trip here, I can come away a little more inspired, a little more committed to not giving up on the people here, and even learning from what they can teach us about our own dysfunctional politics right now.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

CJP, JCRC Stand with Israel Amid Rocket Attacks from Gaza

More than 150 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel since Tuesday morning. For the first time since 2014, schools and workplaces from Southern Israel to Tel Aviv are shuttered and citizens have been instructed to stay indoors near bomb shelters. 

Rocket attacks have been ongoing since an Israeli military strike on a senior leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

Israel’s soldiers and citizens are always in our thoughts and prayers, but even more so during difficult times. CJP and JCRC stand in solidarity with the people of Israel and reaffirm the right of the state to defend itself. 

Our hearts are with the hundreds of thousands of people in harm’s way. We pray for their safety and a speedy end to the escalation in violence. 

An Insider’s Guide to Israel’s Second Round of Elections

From JCRC Director of Israel Engagement, Eli Cohn-Postell:

With local and national campaigns ramping up at home, one could be forgiven for losing sight of Israel’s second election in 2019. Next Tuesday, the 17th, millions of Israelis will cast their ballots and select a new parliament. You may recall that Israelis also went to the polls in April, and this second election is taking place because that Knesset voted to dissolve itself when Prime Minister Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition.

We celebrate the resilience of Israeli democracy—the sacred expression of the will of the citizenry, and all the messiness that the democratic process entails. With that in mind, here are some of the storylines we will be following as we look at next week’s election and its aftermath. We are also happy to continue to provide insight and analysis at our post-election briefing with the Israel Policy Forum on September 23rd. As a reminder, JCRC will not be making a statement about the election results until a coalition is formed.

First, a too-brief introduction to the mechanics of Israeli elections. On Tuesday, all Israeli citizens will vote for a party, not an individual. Every party that receives at least 3.25% of the vote will be represented in the Knesset. Each of these parties will then recommend one person, who the President will task with forming a government—likely the leader of the largest party. They will have four to six weeks to form a majority coalition of 61 or more Members of Knesset. Election Day is a national holiday in Israel, and there is no absentee voting. Only members of the diplomatic corps and other governmental agencies may vote from outside the country.

The main story we are following has to do with voter turnout. No one knows how Israelis will respond to this unprecedented second election. Are they excited? Engaged? Apathetic? Turnout in Israel’s past six national elections has averaged 67%. Those living outside of Israel who can vote did so last Friday, with 69% of eligible voters casting ballots. This is a relatively low number for this population—a 7% drop from April—which could presage low turnout next week as well.

A second layer of this story centers on Israel’s Arab citizens. Israel has four primarily Arab parties, running together on a Joint List. These parties also ran on a Joint List in 2015, which resulted in 64% turnout among Israel’s Arab citizens and 13 seats in the Knesset. In this April’s election, the parties ran on two separate lists and combined for only 10 seats, as Arab turnout dropped to under 50%. We will be watching to see if turnout rebounds under the Joint List, which may even propel party leader Ayman Odeh to an unprecedented role as the leader of the Knesset’s opposition.

We will also be tracking various parties to see if any of them soften their demands in order to form a coalition. Following April’s election, many party leaders dug in their heels and refused to budge on either their policy or ministerial demands. This was one factor preventing Prime Minister Netanyahu from forming a coalition following the April election. Something similar may recur this time around, and we will be watching to see if party leaders maintain a hard line in negotiations even if it means potentially forcing a third election. 

Finally, we cannot ignore the specter of the legal battles that were significant factors in April. Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing indictment in multiple cases. His last chance to convince the Attorney General not to indict him is on October 2-3, smack in the middle of the coalition process. While this was an issue in the April election, the hearing date means that legal concerns are a more significant complicating factor this time around. We also do not know if negotiations will be held up due to the ongoing tensions between the Knesset and Israel’s Supreme Court, which was a primary factor in April’s coalition negotiation.

While we do not know what will happen next week, we are encouraged by the resilience of the Israeli people in navigating this unique moment in their history, and we respect the will of the Israeli public in determining their own path for the future. Regardless of the results, we at JCRC remain committed to Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state, and we stand firm in our conviction that this must be achieved through the two-state solution. And for those of you who already have election fatigue, remember that November 3, 2020 is only 416 days away.

Shabbat Shalom,

Eli

Over $8 Million Appropriated from MA State Budget to Support Jewish Social Service Network; Awaits Final Approval from the Governor

(BOSTON) – Earlier today, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted its 2020 budget nearly three weeks into the fiscal year, fueling $5 million of new funds to support programs and priorities of the Jewish social service network, benefiting the entire Commonwealth. The conference committee led by Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues and House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz reached agreement Sunday evening lifting the total appropriation for Jewish communal priorities to upwards of $8 million, in response to the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC)’s efforts on seven key priorities.

“We applaud Senate President Spilka, Speaker DeLeo, Chair Rodrigues, Chair Michlewitz and their colleagues for ensuring robust funding to lift up the Jewish communities’ priorities in this year’s budget,” said Jeremy Burton, JCRC’s Executive Director. “The legislature has demonstrated its commitment to proven programs which help people in the Jewish community and beyond to work, stay in their homes, and feel safe in their communities.  We look forward to building on this success together.”

This year, JCRC led on seven budget priorities, all of which included increases and direct appropriations to the Jewish social service network.

“This is a historic budget for the Jewish community across the Commonwealth,” said Aaron Agulnek, JCRC’s Director of Government Affairs. “The cutting-edge programming, dynamic professionals, and committed lay leadership of Jewish institutions provides the framework necessary to develop meaningful ties with elected officials to better serve the dreams of individuals and families seeking opportunity, dignity, and security.”

The budget included:

$500,000 for the Non-Profit Security Grants, a pilot which provides vital security enhancements to Jewish communal infrastructure at increased risk of threat. Senator Eric Lesser and Representative Ruth Balser, along with Senator Cynthia Creem pushed this vital $350,000 increase in funding.

$1,250,000 for the Employment Service Program for Immigrants and Refugees, which provides English-based job training and placement services for recent immigrants and refugees. This $250,000 increase was led by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Michael Moran.

$500,000 for Bridges to College, which provides college preparatory programming to individuals seeking careers with opportunities for advancement and defined career ladders. The budget also included a $250,000 earmark for Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), supported by Chair Michlewitz, Senator Cindy Friedman, and Senator Joe Boncore, to expand its innovative programming.

$856,000 for Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs), which is operated by Jewish Family & Children's Service, JFS Metrowest, and Jewish Family Service of Western Mass. NORCs are designed to bring wellness programs and socialization services directly to seniors, allowing them to remain in their homes and communities. This $214,000 increase was led by Senator Cynthia Creem and Representative Tommy Vitolo.

$250,000 for Transitions to Work, an innovative job training model for young adults with disabilities, modeled after the JVS/CJP partnership of the same name. This $100,000 increase was led by Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Paul Brodeur.

$2,000,000 for the Secure Jobs Initiative, a silo-busting delivery model conceived by the Fireman Family Foundation, which promotes new partnerships between housing and workforce development agencies, as well as state agencies. There are seven partnerships across the Commonwealth, including JVS and Metro Boston Housing Partnership. This $1,000,000 increase was led by Senator Michael Barrett and Representative Joe Wagner.

Continuity funding for the MA Pathways to Economic Advancement initiative, the nation’s first workforce development Pay for Success program. The model is working; nearly 2,000 participants have enrolled, increasing their job skills and take-home earnings, which is increasing revenue for the Commonwealth. The initial funding period for Pathways is ending and these funds, close to $3 million, will sustain innovation by continuing to support this model while measuring results.

The JCRC urges Governor Baker to sign the budget and support these crucial initiatives.

About the Jewish Community Relations Council
JCRC defines and advances the values, interests, and priorities of the organized Jewish community of Greater Boston in the public square. Visit us at www.jcrcboston.org.

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Israel in the Middle

JCRC Study Tour for Labor Leaders with Roots/Shorashim/Judur

This week's message is from Director of Israel Engagement Eli Cohn-Postell.

Last Friday, I watched in admiration as Shaul Judelman and Noor Awad unwrapped a new sign as though it were a birthday present. The sign was for Roots/Shorashim/Judur, the grassroots group of Israelis and Palestinians living in the West Bank who come together to foster understanding, nonviolence, and transformation among their societies. Shaul and Noor looked like they could have been two kids in a candy store, and the scene was only strange because these two were never supposed to meet in the first place. Both live in the West Bank. Shaul is an American-Israeli living in Tekoa and Noor is a third-generation Palestinian refugee living in nearby Bethlehem.

We get to see friendships like Noor and Shaul’s develop because we visit with them consistently on our JCRC Study Tours. During this week’s Study Tour to Israel for Labor leaders, we got an up-close look at some of the changes taking place in Israel. I heard many times this week that Israel is experiencing a transition moment, and this week we met speakers who shared their perspectives on the current trends shaping Israeli society and its future. As with any country, Israel is too complex and multi-faceted to know exactly in what direction the country is headed. Nonetheless, I was encouraged this week by the example set by Shaul, Noor, and others, which make me believe that some things are changing for the better.

In many ways, Israel is at a crossroads. Most obviously, Israel is in the middle of its second election campaign this year, which no one expected. This raises the obvious question of who Israelis will choose to lead them, with potential implications for the religious status quo, the Israel-Diaspora relationship, and many other issues.

Israel’s Labor movement is also in a transition moment. As in many places around the world, union membership dropped significantly in Israel beginning in the 1980s. However, Israel has seen that number rebound slightly in recent years, and many of the people we spoke with expressed guarded optimism about the future of Labor in Israel.

On a sadder note, many people feel that they are in a quiet moment in between wars. We visited Rambam hospital in Haifa, where we toured an underground parking lot that can be turned into a functioning, bomb-proof hospital in 72 hours. Over and over, the nurse who led our tour told us how the underground hospital would be used when, not if, the next war came. We heard similar language in the south near the Gaza Strip, where people talked about preparing for the next, seemingly inevitable round of violence back and forth between Israel and Hamas.

Finally, Israeli and Palestinians speakers told us about the generational shift that their societies are undergoing. Many speakers referenced the iconic image of Bill Clinton looking on as Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House Lawn in 1993. The number of people who do not remember that moment is growing, they are reaching adulthood, and their entire attitude toward peacebuilding and the “other” is different from previous generations. We do not know exactly how this new attitude will crystalize, but we should be hopeful about the rise of a generation that can re-imagine the possibilities of peace and human-to-human connection.

I was encouraged that so many of our speakers were working to make sure that this moment of transition is being leveraged to create positive change for Israelis and Palestinians. For example, many people are working to improve the conditions of the Labor force in Israel. This includes growing unions and a rejuvenated Histadrut (Israeli Labor federation). We learned about governmental programs and NGOs providing services and protections for all of Israel’s workers, including non-Israeli citizens.

We met with Hamutal Gouri, who is working to close the opportunity and pay gaps between men and women in Israel, and to advance the role of women in peacemaking. Hamutal is one of the founders of Women Wage Peace, a remarkable successful social movement that has grown to over 40,000 members in a few short years.

And, of course, we spent time with Noor and Shaul at Roots. I have met with activists at Roots many times now, and you can see how the trust and friendship between the participants has grown over time. This is enabling others in their communities to get involved, and to share in the belief that developing relationships with each other will create a better experience for everyone.

On these trips, we hear from people all over the political and ideological spectrum. I assure you that not everything in Israel is rosy. But this week, the message we heard with the most clarity was this one: there is hope to be found in the voices and experiences of those seeking justice and a better future for Israel and Palestinians. I am optimistic.

Shabbat Shalom,

Eli

JCRC Leads MA Labor Leaders on Study Tour of Israel

(BOSTON) – The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston continues its long history of conducting annual study tours of Israel with Massachusetts community leaders through this month’s study tour, which will provide Massachusetts labor leaders with an in-depth look into the economic, political, and security challenges and successes facing Israeli society.

From July 7-16, Massachusetts labor leaders will travel throughout Israel, learning from government officials and religious, academic, media, labor, and business leaders. They will be joined by leaders from the Jewish Labor Committee, a JCRC member organization.

“This trip will allow Massachusetts leaders to deepen their understanding of Israel's politics and culture, and examine some of the economic ties that bring Israel and Massachusetts together,” said Jeremy Burton, Executive Director of JCRC of Greater Boston. “The best way to deepen the MA/Israel connection is through a mutual understanding of our common interests—participants will gain firsthand knowledge about how they can strengthen relationships with their Israeli counterparts."

The Massachusetts labor leaders will:

  • Meet with government officials, labor leaders, and other influential leaders from all sectors of Israeli and Palestinian society, developing city-to-city connections and sharing best practices in addressing current labor issues,
  • Visit Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and border regions,
  • Discover the growing economic and cultural ties between Israel and Massachusetts,
  • Gain new perspectives on modern day Israel, and
  • Develop a nuanced understanding of the complex political and security challenges facing Israel.

The trip is paid for by a grant from the nonprofit Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston. Participants pay a registration fee for the trip from their own funds.

The following are the participants in JCRC’s 2019 Labor Study Tour of Israel:

Ellen Smith, Regional Director, Mass Nurses Association Hugh Cameron, Secretary-Treasurer, International Union of Police Associations AFL-CIO
Grady Eason, Business Representative/Organizer, New England Regional Council of Carpenters Karen Courtney, Executive Director, Foundation for Fair Contracting of Massachusetts
FayeRuth Fisher, Political Director, Massachusetts, 1199SEIU Massachusetts  Martin Sanchez, Business Representative/Organizer, New England Regional Council of Carpenters
Wayne Murphy, Director of Government Affairs, IUPAT District Council 35 Thomas Flynn, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, New England Regional Council of Carpenters
Kenell Broomstein, Business Agent, IBEW Local 103
Lay Leaders:
Ari Fertig, Executive Director, New England Jewish Labor Committee
 
David Borrus, Business Manager, New England Regional Council of Carpenters Barbara Penzner, Rabbi, Temple Hillel B’nai Torah



About the Jewish Community Relations Council

JCRC defines and advances the values, interests, and priorities of the organized Jewish community of Greater Boston in the public square. Visit us at www.jcrcboston.org.

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Why we won’t be making a statement this Wednesday

This coming Tuesday, April 9th, the citizens of Israel will go to the polls to elect their parliament. By late afternoon EDT, we’ll have a sense of the outcome – which, of some 40 parties on the ballot, will be represented in the 21st Knesset and, within a seat or two, how many seats in the 120-member body each party will hold.

As in the past, we can expect to wake up on Wednesday to at least some media declarations about who won the elections. But seasoned observers of Israel’s electoral process know that, barring a blowout not forecast in any of the polls, congratulating a winner next week would be a foolish mistake.

We recall 2009, when Tzipi Livni led Kadima to a 28-seat plurality, but Benjamin Netanyahu eventually formed a government led by the 27-seat holding Likud, beginning his current decade-long run in office. And of course, there was 1984, when Shimon Peres (Labor, 44 seats) and Yitzhak Shamir (Likud, 41 seats) fought a hard campaign, and when both failed to bring smaller parties to a coalition, formed a national unity government with a rotating premiership.

For Israel, a multi-party parliamentary system, election day is but one step in a process of choosing a new leader. Following the election, President Rivlin will invite each party to recommend any Knesset member for prime minister. He must then decide which individual has the highest likelihood of successfully forming a 61-seat majority. Once that person is invited to form a coalition, they will have up to 36 days to do so.

The next Knesset, like the current one, will also have parties within the parties; factions that run as a joint-list for the ballot but have different priorities once seated in parliament. And each party will have very different demands about what it “must have” to be in a coalition, whether that is investment in women’s issues or legalizing marijuana, economic reforms, and, predictably, specific policies on security and peace issues. Someone will find a way to get to 61 and have a coalition agreement that paradoxically both reflects and alters the platforms of the parties involved.

So, as in past election years, do not look for a congratulatory statement from JCRC on Wednesday. Instead, we’ll be getting out the proverbial popcorn and observing negotiations that will likely run into mid-May. We will be educating ourselves and our community about the election results and their significance. We’ll invite you – on our social platforms and in our programs, including our monthly Israel Engagement briefing on April 17th – to pay attention to how the smaller parties did and what they are prioritizing. We’ll wonder about different coalition possibilities and what they will prioritize. We’ll pay attention to a diverse group of Israelis with expertise as they make sense of the results.

Later this month we’ll sit down with our Council, our own diverse community of 44 organizations covering the gamut of Jewish communal views about Israel – everyone from AIPAC to Hadassah, ZOA and the Boston Workmen’s Circle, AJC, ADL, J Street, and the Israeli-American Council, along with representatives from the community at-large. Together we’ll try to make sense of how we as a collective understand the results.

And then, when a new government is formed, we’ll make a statement. We will articulate once again how we, as one organized Jewish community, perceive the new Israeli government. And we will do so rooted in our commitment to support our Israeli partners in the pursuit of a secure, Jewish, and democratic state of Israel, living side-by-side with a viable Palestinian state in peace, security, and mutual recognition.

For now, Shabbat Shalom.

Jeremy

p.s. A tidbit: In Israel, election day is a national holiday. People go to the polls and then to the parks. And voter turnout is quite high, 72% in the last election (compared to 56% in the U.S. in 2016). Something for us all to think about.