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Boston Chapter News

Spring 2005                                                                                                                                       Number 1

In This Issue

 

 

 

 

Contact Us
boston@btvshalom.org

Link to the National Organization
www.btvshalom.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Groups Contacts

Outreach to Synagogues
larry.rosenberg@gmail.com

One-to-One Networking
bethwasserman@yahoo.com

Working With the Press & Media
sgoldfless@post.harvard.edu

Educational Forums
Dkatz125@hotmail.com

Advocacy & House Parties
boston@btvshalom.org

 

 

 

 
Dear Readers,

You have probably received our e-mail notices about chapter activities and invitations to events.  You may have wondered about the faces behind the anonymous announcements.  This first issue of the newsletter lets us tell you who we are, what we do, and how you can participate in the local and national actions of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom.


  
 

Who We Are

The Boston chapter is the largest among Brit Tzedek’s local chapters.  We currently have 779 members and over 2000 additional supporters. The administrative work of the chapter is led by a Steering Committee with two co-chairs.  The members of the Steering Committee are:

  • Rafe Ezekiel, Chapter Co-Chair, Education Committee Co-Chair 
  • Beth Wasserman, Chapter Co-Chair, Advocacy Committee Co-Chair
  • Shai Fuxman, Education Committee Co-Chair
  • Sandy Goldfless, Media Committee Chair
  • Larry Rosenberg, Synagogue Outreach Committee Co-Chair
  • Sarit Shalhevet, Membership Committee Co-Chair
  • Donna Spiegelman, Boston & National Membership Committees Chair
  • Elizabeth Vernon, Membership Committee & National Wired Committee Co-Chair

Some members have served since the chapter was formed in August 2002.  The story of how the chapter started appears further below in this issue.

The Steering Committee’s duties are to organize lectures and events, attract new members and supporters, co-ordinate the efforts of volunteers, represent the organization in contacts with community leaders and local media, and provide general direction for the chapter’s activities.

But the most important work of the chapter is done by members through participation in working groups as well as by individual action.

 

What We Do

The ambition of the Boston chapter is to establish Brit Tzedek as the major voice on Middle East peace within the Boston Jewish community. 

To this end, our current working groups focus on:

  •       Outreach to congregations of area synagogues;
  •       Advocacy with local elected officials;
  •       Organizing house parties where Middle East peace issues are discussed among prospective members;
  •       Planning educational and social events for chapter members;
  •         Developing a presence in the local media.

 

What You Can Do

There are many ways you can help. 

  •         Renew your membership or become a member by paying the annual dues on Brit Tzedek’s website.  www.btvshalom.org/join  Your membership increases our clout. Each year, a portion of your annual dues is given back to the Chapter to support our activities.
  •       Come to any of the Chapter’s events to share your ideas or simply listen.
  •         Tell others about us and tell them how to join.
  •         Volunteer occasionally in response to e-mail requests for help, such as making phone calls to remind people of event dates.
  •         Join a working group or subcommittee that matches with your interest by writing to us or by contacting directly the group of your choice (see sidebar). 

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Featured Work Group:  Synagogue Outreach

The goal of the Synagogue Outreach group is to involve more members of the organized Jewish community in Brit Tzedek’s work.  Ten people have attended one or more of the first several meetings this group has held, and others have also expressed interest.

We have developed a short-range plan since most synagogues begin to go on low-activity summer schedule in June.  The plan has these targets:

  •         To select a small number of synagogues to approach during this period.
  •         To make contact with Brit Tzedek members who are affiliated with these synagogues.  The aim is to learn to what extent the congregation could become a likely setting for a friendly discourse with Brit Tzedek.  We want to understand something of the synagogue’s organization and politics, and the degree to which the issue of peace in the Middle East is currently discussed (or avoided); and we want to find out about the activities of its Israel committee and Social Action committee.  We also want to encourage our members in each synagogue to connect with each other.
  •         To prepare a series of likely steps for approaching different types of congregations.  These would be “synagogue plans” that can be adapted once we come to know individual organizations.
  •         To provide a “clinic” at our group meetings for our members’ efforts in their congregations.  As they share reports, the group would serve as a sounding board, providing analysis, suggestions, and moral support.

 

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Announcements

  •       The Boston Chapter of Brit Tzedek has been accepted as a member organization of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC).  Boston is the first Brit Tzedek chapter to become a member of its local JCRC. 
  •       May 31 – June 3, 2005, is Brit Tzedek’s National Advocacy Week.  Like other chapters around the country we will be working on activities to send our message to the Congressional delegation in the districts covered by the Chapter area.  In mid June, Brit Tzedek will be sponsoring advocacy days in Washington D.C., including visits to offices of key members of the House and Senate.
    Stay tuned for further details on organizing opportunities for lobbying during Advocacy Week.  To join now in planning for either local or national events, please contact Diane Balser at dibalser@comcast.net

  

Recent Chapter Events

  • April 12, 2005.  A member gathering that included a light supper, a brief update of chapter activities, and a presentation by David Matz, Professor of Dispute Resolution at UMass and member of Brit Tzedek National Board.  David talked about the settlements and the ways in which they pose an obstacle to the peace process.
  • March 20, 2005.  A potluck brunch celebrating Purim and Brit Tzedek’s 3rd anniversary was held the home of Tamar Miller in Cambridge.  About 14 people, including new members attended this pleasant informal Sunday event.
  • February 28, 2005.  A group of Boston Chapter members met with Congressman Barney Frank as part of Brit Tzedek’s advocacy efforts. 
  • February 25, 2005.  The Boston Chapter helped to arrange a talk by Gershon Baskin, founder of the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI). At this think tank Israeli and Palestinians work together on practical problems that stand in the way of peace.  For more information on the IPCRI see www.ipcri.org
  • February 24, 2005.  Chapter meeting, attended by about 20 people, heard from the working groups and discussed how to make our activities more engaging for members.
  • January 20, 2005.  Chapter meeting attended by 36 people was productive in reaching consensus about the focus for the Chapter’s activities, and in setting up working groups to implement our objectives.

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Article: A Brief History of the Boston Chapter

Part I.  How we started
by Donna Spiegelman

Brit Tzedek v’Shalom was established at a national conference in Washington, DC at the end of April, 2002, with a compelling sense of urgency brought on at the height of the second Intifada.  This founding conference, where former Ratz/Meretz Member of the Israeli Knesset, Shulamit Aloni, served as keynote speaker, was made possible by the Internet.

Making use of communications made possible by the internet and free web-based teleconferencing services, the conference steering committee met, bonded, struggled over and, finally formulated Brit Tzedek v’Shalom’s seven founding principles. I was one of the twenty Jewish peace activists from all over the country who made up the conference steering committee.  I joined the group after receiving an invitational e-mail from Steven Feuerstein of Chicago, now the head of the Refuser Support Network, who had seen an email I had sent in support of the Israeli Women’s Coalition for Peace.

At the conference, participants were asked to self-nominate from the floor to fill eight open slots on the founding Board of Directors. Each candidate made a five minute speech, and all present voted on slips of paper which were tallied up. Thus, Danielle Luttenberg, a Brookline resident, environmental activist, and member of Temple Beth Zion, joined the national board.

At the lunchtime New England regional meeting, I met Boston area attendees Rafe Ezekiel, Trudy Kontoff and Elizabeth Vernon. Having circulated a sign-in sheet—my most important and trustworthy organizing tool—we stayed in touch keeping in mind the idea of establishing a Boston chapter.

Rafe Ezekiel says about the founding conference:

For me, it was exactly the right moment, and the conference was absolutely thrilling.  A wonderful group of people, brave and free of dogma.”

One night sometime in August, 2002, I convened the founding meeting of the Boston chapter steering committee, with David Levy, Diane Balser, Danielle Luttenberg, and Rafe Ezekiel present.

By the end of this first chapter meeting, Rafe Ezekiel and Diane Balser formed the first chapter steering committee, with themselves as co-chairs, and myself, Danielle Luttenberg, and David Levy (who shortly thereafter decided to devote his energies to the Refuser Support Network) as the additional members.  Larry Rosenberg—a friend we had met at the Boston District Workmen’s Circle, Mitchell Silver, the Educational Director of the Boston District Workmen’s Circle, Trudy Kontoff, and Elizabeth Vernon, joined soon after.

To be continued in the next newsletter.

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