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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace


A report on the conference from Arthur Waskow, a member of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom's Strategy Board and the Shalom Center:

"And there was evening, and there was morning -- one day."

There is a great Hassidic teaching that chiefly out of darkness comes new light, that the wholeness and unity of "One Day" can only be achieved by living through the awesome mystery and even terror of the darkness.

But glimmers of daylight are certainly also necessary to our spiritual wholeness, even to our sanity.

So it was with great joy that I experienced what actually happened the last weekend of April in the Washington DC suburbs, at the founding conference of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom -- the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace. Felt like a burst of daylight, shining through the night of violence in Israel & Palestine -- even though that violent darkness continues.

The Washington Jewish Week covered the conference with a brilliantly accurate article at www.washingtonjewishweek.comThis article is headlined "New group backs Israel, blasts its policies" -- and the rest of the piece is just as accurate as the headline.

The new group's own Website is www.btvshalom.org.

I went to Washington with a cautious, uncertain hope.

My hope was for the emergence of a committed, covenanted nation-wide American Jewish group that is committed to the flourishing of the Jewish people, to the health of the State of Israel, and to making a difference in the world by pursuing what is crucial to that vision -- peace with the Palestinians.

I had in mind a list of possible disasters or self-inflicted wounds that I feared, out of past experience, might emerge.

For example:

Worry 1) Maybe people who saw themselves as pro-peace but whose stance was anti-Israel would show up, despite the announcement of Brit's founding principles -- and might make the seeding of a pro-peace, pro-Israel, pro-Jewish organization very hard to achieve.

Didn't happen. In the 170 + participants, strong support for a Jewishly rooted critique of Israeli government actions, not of Israel's existence or its Jewishness. Strong desire to talk with mainstream American and Israeli Jewry.

Worry 2) Maybe this amalgam of secular Jews and religious Jews and spiritually searching Jews would be unable to respect each other.

Didn't happen. Instead, on Shabbat morning three different groups met to celebrate different versions of Jewish tradition: an "egalitarian traditional" minyan using a Conservative siddur, a Jewish-renewal minyan in a chanting service led by Phyllis Berman, and a secular gathering that read Yiddish and Ladino and American Jewish stories and poetry and wisdom.

Indeed, the three gatherings took place in one big room, separated only by partitions, and even so everyone enjoyed the polyphony of voices and approaches.

Worry 3: That debates over structure and bylaws of the new Brit might consume enormous time and arouse great anger. "Elitists" vs. "grass-rootsers" etc etc?

Didn't happen. The structure discussion was shaped as a discussion, not a decision, so the heat was much less than it might have been. People made suggestions of changes in the draft bylaws; notes were taken; the new Board of Brit will make the decision and then submit it to a vote of the new membership by mail or Email.

And the discussion was quite sensible. Very few show-offs or hare-brained schemes.

Worry 4) The new Board might be chosen so hurriedly as to be incompetent.

Didn't happen. Of the new Board, 16 are people who have already been working together by Email and conference phone call to organize the new Brit. The people who made this conference possible, and intelligent. Plus 8 new people, several of whom I know -- and know to be sensible, creative, talented, and easy to work with.

HALLELU-YAH!! Let us praise the Breath of Life!

Rabbi Waskow is director of The Shalom Center, a North American network committed to draw on Jewish wisdom, old and new, in order to pursue peace, justice, and the healing of the earth. These comments flow from its work. It is a division of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, but these thoughts do not necessarily reflect those of ALEPH as a whole.
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