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Boston Chapter News

Fall 2005                                                                                                                                  Number 2

In This Issue


Rep. Barney Frank speaks to Brit Tzedek activists during National Advocacy Days

Rep. Frank's letter of July 6 included the following message of support for Brit Tzedek's work:

"I am very pleased to hear from American Jews who, like myself, believe that serious efforts in the current negotiations towards achieving a two-state solution are very much in the best interest of Israel. ... I agree with all of the points you make about how we can help move the peace process forward."



















































Contact Us

Link to the National Organization



Work Groups Contacts

Outreach to Synagogues

One-to-One Networking

Working With the Press & Media

Educational Forums

Advocacy & House Parties

























Dear Readers,

Best wishes to you from the Boston Chapter of Brit Tzedek for a Happy and Healthy New Year, with hopes that the coming year brings us closer to a just and peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Since our first newsletter this spring, Boston chapter members have initiated and participated in many activities promoting peace through a negotiated two-state settlement of the conflict. We planned carefully to make the most of our meeting with our representatives in Congress and presented Brit Tzedek's positions to them in Washington as well as here at home. We also made progress in making our voice heard in the local Jewish community, an important aim of the chapter. Increasing our grassroots support bolsters our message. Join us and become an active member of the largest chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom.



National Advocacy Days

Members of the Boston Chapter were among the 60 activists who convened in Washington, DC on June 27-28 to train with leading advocates and policy makers, and deliver the organization's message to Senators, Representatives, and Administration officials. Rep Barney Frank was one of the Members of Congress who gave a legislative briefing to the whole group on June 27. The next day, a delegation of Boston Brit Tzedek members had the opportunity to meet with an aide of Senator John Kerry.

We were encouraged and impressed by the great interest in our message. Elected officials, policy makers, and staff members were eager to hear from a moderate Jewish peace group. We learned that in order to sustain an effective advocacy campaign, we need to send delegates to the Hill regularly; make frequent visits to elected officials in their home districts; speak in public and write letters on issues of concern; and praise public officials when they stand with us.

To read more on DC Advocacy Days, go to:


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Home District Advocacy

The National Advocacy Days anchored the series of home district advocacy meetings that the Boston Chapter has been pursuing with Congressional representatives or their staff. These meetings have been a great opportunity to present Brit Tzedek's pro-Israel, pro-peace message. So far we have met with:

  • Sen. John Kerry. On January 11, Diane Balser, Rafe Ezekiel, and Beth Wasserman visited Senator Kerry's Massachusetts office and spoke with two of his aides who are responsible for foreign affairs and liaison to the Jewish community. Both were knowledgeable about Brit Tzedek and very interested, giving us 45 minutes, more than the scheduled time. They urged us to keep them informed about topics related to Brit Tzedek's positions.

  • Rep. Barney Frank, 4th Congressional District. On February 28, five representatives of the Boston chapter met with Rep. Frank to discuss his engagement with issues related to recent developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and support within the American Jewish community for a two-state solution to that conflict. Plans for another home district meeting were postponed as Rep. Frank became active in Brit Tzedek's Advocacy Days held in Washington, D.C. in late June. In late July, at a Congressional debate on Mideast aid, Rep. Frank led 100 members of congress (including 7 of the Bay State's 10 reps) to vote for direct aid for the Palestinian Authority.

    [Attending the Feb. 28 meeting: Diane Balser, Deborah Fogel, Deborah Katz, Len Lyons, David Strauss]

  • Rep. Ed Markey, 7th Congressional District. On May 25, we visited the district office in Medford and met with Joe Dalton, the District Director. At the meeting, which lasted almost 45 minutes, we introduced Brit Tzedek and described our presence in the district. We thanked the Congressman for having voted against an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Bill (HR 2601) that severely limits the Administration's ability to support projects by sending funds directly to the Palestinian Authority, a position supported by Brit Tzedek. We also talked about current events and their relevance to reaching agreement on a two-state solution. The visit concluded with a request for a meeting with the Congressman later this year.

    [Delegates: Raphael Ezekiel, David Grinstein, Rabbi Toba Spitzer]

  • Rep. Michael Capuano, 8th Congressional District. On the morning of June 2, six chapter members met with Rep. Capuano and an aide for our chapter's third meeting with the Congressman. We planned the meeting to hear from the Congressman about his recent trip to Israel and to discuss prospects for getting Congressional support for our positions. It was clear to us that Rep. Capuano is both well-informed about Israeli-Palestinian issues and holds views that are supportive of Brit Tzedek's work. In explaining the current mood in Congress, Rep. Capuano pointed out the importance of building up our New York chapter. Please tell your friends in New York to join and get active in Brit Tzedek!

    [Coordinators for the meeting were Marya Axner and Beth Wasserman. Other attendees were Diane Balser, Mark Niedergang, Larry Rosenberg, and Donna Spiegelman]

  • Rep. Martin Meehan, 5th Congressional District: A small delegation, including Rafe Ezekiel and Rabbi Toba Spitzer, met with the director of the Representative's local office in late June, a few days before National Advocacy Week. We thanked him for having supported the Capps resolution (direct aid to the Palestinian Authority.) The meeting laid groundwork for closer contact.

  • Sen. Ted Kennedy. On August 10, eight members of the Boston chapter met with Thomas Crohan, Congressional Aide to Senator Kennedy, in his office in Boston. The delegates, who are residents of different cities and towns in Massachusetts, spoke individually of their views on peace in the Middle East and their desire for a greater U.S. engagement in moving the parties to the negotiating table. We provided Mr. Crohan, who was impressed by the dynamic growth of our organization, with written materials about the topics of discussion. At his request, we added him to our national and local mailing lists. We left encouraged about a possibility of a meeting between Sen. Kennedy and a larger delegation from Brit Tzedek.
    [Delegates: Diane Balser, Bob Baseman, Herb Kelman, David Matz, Rabbi Barbara Penzner, Donna Spiegelman, Joel Spiro, David Strauss]

  • Rep. William Delahunt, 10th Congressional District. On August 30th, Bill Gamson, of the Martha's Vineyard chapter, met with Rep. Delahunt on the island. The meeting was set up on short notice and there was no time to assemble a delegation. Gamson reports that the meeting turned out to be very fruitful. As a member of the House Committee on International Relations, Rep. Delahunt is a knowledgeable and sophisticated observer of issues we care about. He grasped quickly the positions we promote. His advice to us is to work in a broader coalition to make our voice heard. He also suggested that we keep in touch with the Committee on International Relations to receive early notification of hearings on resolutions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As follow-up, Gamson will contact a staff member specializing in international relations, sending him timely analyses on selected issues. In addition, the Congressman suggested that we work jointly on a forum, called tentatively "A Dialogue with Rep. Bill Delahunt on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," to be held at the Martha's Vineyard Hebrew Center sometime in November.


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Our Local Presence

This spring, Boston became the first Brit Tzedek chapter to be accepted as a member organization of the local Jewish Community Relations Council, which has further legitimized Brit Tzedek as an equal partner in the Boston Jewish community. The Boston chapter continues to participate in Jewish community events to articulate our group's message of peace and to demonstrate our strong presence in the community.

On June 19, a group of 18 chapter members participated in the annual city-wide "Walk, Talk, and Rock for Israel" event in Boston that included a rally, a march, and a concert. Clad in T-shirts with a peace message, waving signs, and holding a banner, our group attracted a lot of attention. The T-shirts, with Brit Tzedek logo and the message [Bakesh Shalom ve-Radfehu] "Seek Peace & Pursue It", were a big hit and received many positive comments.

[left to right] Brit Tzedek activists: Jonathan Jacoby, Margot Blank, Beth Wasserman, Hava Yaseen, Judy Musnikow, Marya Axner, Steve Vogel, Ken Brociner, Naomi Isler, and the Karchmer family.

Several people who attended the rally asked for more information about Brit Tzedek. Boston Chapter chair Beth Wasserman adds that the rally shows our success in joining the Jewish community's support for Israel while also raising our voice to back disengagement from Gaza as the first of many steps required to achieve peace. It also shows that people with diverse positions can express their views without worrying about divisiveness in the Jewish community.


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Featured Work Group:  Media

Media relations is one of the vehicles we use to ensure that print and broadcast outlets reflect the true range of opinions among Boston-area Jews. A committee of ten members has been researching issues, preparing materials, and submitting articles for publications. Products include:

  • Publications: Just in the past month letters to the editor, written by committee members, were published in the Cambridge Chronicle, Somerville Journal, Newton TAB, Jewish Advocate, Brookline TAB and the International Herald Tribune. The Boston Globe published an op-ed piece on the disengagement from Gaza by Herb Kelman, co-chair of the Middle East Seminar at Harvard University and a member of the Boston Chapter. A press release announcing the appointment of Diane Balser as CEO of Brit Tzedek was published in the Cambridge Chronicle and Jewish Advocate. An article on the high holidays and peace was submitted to a synagogue newsletter.

  • Media Resources: A Boston chapter media kit is now available as an introductory resource for journalists. It provides background information on Brit Tzedek and Boston chapter activities. The kit spells out the resources we offer, such as spokespersons, reactions to events, updates, etc. It lists David Matz, a member of the national board, and Beth Wasserman, chair of the Boston chapter, as contacts for further information. We have also prepared a resource for members who are ready to call in to "talk radio" shows. The list identifies the stations, days, and times of all such shows in the Boston area.

  • Research: The efforts of the media committee are supported by the ongoing research of the Media Research and Action Project (MRAP) at Boston College. During 2004, MRAP examined 23 Boston Globe articles that covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Among 20 spokespersons for American Jewish organizations quoted in these articles, there were virtually none from groups identified with a negotiated two-state solution. MRAP will continue such analyses, making results available to the public and the press.

    We need your help to raise our media profile. You can write a letter, make a phone call to a radio program, take a photograph, or connect with someone you know at a media outlet. To get involved with the media committee write us at or call Donna Spiegelman at 617-835-5119.


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Recent Chapter Events

  • "Gaza Disengagement and the Prospects for Peace." On July 27, some 50 people turned out for a Brit Tzedek Chapter Gathering to hear Herb Kelman, professor emeritus of social ethics and co-chair of the Middle East seminar at Harvard University, talk about the Gaza disengagement and prospects for peace. The lecture, held at Congregation Eitz Chayim in Cambridge, was preceded by a light dinner and a brief update on the chapter's activities. In his extensive remarks, Kelman's assessment was that prospects for progress after the disengagement were not promising, that the Israeli public did not think that now is the time for final status negotiations, and that the peace camp in Israel was in a kind of paralysis. Given these circumstances, Kelman emphasized the need to create a sense of possibility in order to counter pessimism and fatigue. He proposed two priorities: First, strengthen the hand of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, by showing progress toward a Palestinian state; and second, advocate a return to negotiations for a two-state solution, negotiations which should go beyond the Geneva initiative to include an explicit framework that validates the national identity of both sides.

  • "Cheshbon HaNefesh: Rabbis Reflect on Israel at a Time of Decision." September 13, event sponsored by Brit Tzedek at Temple Beth Shalom in Cambridge. Rabbis Norman Janis (rabbinic advisor to Harvard Hillel's Worship and Study congregation and director of its intergenerational programs) and Toba Spitzer (Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, West Newton) gave thoughtful and inspiring talks on the place of the High Holidays within the Jewish community and how they can help us to think about the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Rabbi Janis began by reminding us that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are two of the least "Jewish" holidays in our tradition. The High Holidays are quite worldly in their perspective and encourage us to think of others and our relations with them. Rosh Hashanah is considered to be the birthday of the whole world. Similarly, on Yom Kippur, we atone for the sins of all. We don't focus on specifically Jewish sins, like breaking Kashrut or not keeping Shabbat, but rather, atone for larger sins against humanity. Because of this, Janis wants us to think about our quest for justice in regard to the larger world community. He quoted the famous passage, "Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof" and suggested that the reason behind the repetition of the word Tzedek, "Justice," was to remind us that it refers to justice for all, not only justice for the Jews.

    Rabbi Spitzer spoke about the constant tension, often highlighted around the holiday season, between individuals and the larger community. She pointed out that the high holidays are a time for us all to take communal responsibility for one another; we do not atone only for the sins that we as individuals have committed but rather, for all of the sins committed by our community and by mankind. The holidays remind us that as much as we'd like to, we cannot disassociate ourselves from acts committed in our name. We should speak up and proclaim our disapproval. Spitzer finds it tragic that we cannot come together as a community to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian situation openly and honestly. She praised Brit Tzedek for being able to hear the difficult facts when discussing Israel, something we need to continue to do. Spitzer encourages us to use the concepts of the High Holidays as we reflect on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, helping us to consider the situation with both Din (Judgment) and Rachamim (Mercy).


  • Latest events to be described in next newsletter:

    Land of the Settlers: Video Diary of a Worried Israeli Journalist."
    September 28. Discussion, and a screening of excerpts of the acclaimed documentary, with the director, veteran Israeli news anchor Chaim Yavin. Co-sponsored by Workmen's Circle; Brit Tzedek v'Shalom; the Tikkun Community; Americans for Peace Now; Temple B'nai Brith (Somerville); Congregation Dorshei Tzedek (West Newton); and Temple Hillel B'nai Torah (West Roxbury).

    Two events with Eliezer Yaari, Director General, New Israel Fund Jerusalem Office. September 29. Brown bag lunch at the Jewish Community Relations Council on "Post-Disengagement: Israel Confronts Its Cultural Divide", co-sponsored with the NIF by the JCRC and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom; and evening event on "Maintaining a Civil Discourse After Disengagement" at Temple B'nai Brith (Somerville), co-sponsored with the NIF by Temple B'nai Brith and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom.

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 Chapter Elections

Voting closed on September 29 for the elections for members of the Boston Chapter Steering Committee. The following Steering Committee Members were voted back for a new term: Rafe Ezekiel, Sandy Goldfless, Larry Rosenberg, Sarit Shalhevet, Donna Spiegelman, Elizabeth Vernon, Beth Wasserman; and Deborah Katz joins the Steering Committee as a new member. Congratulations!

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