DISCUSS ISRAELI ELECTIONS WITH LEADING ISRAELI POLITICAL PUNDIT: On Sunday, February 26th at 3PM EST, Akiva, Eldar, chief political columnist for Ha'aretz, will join a town hall teleconference to discuss his predictions for Israel's elections next month, as well as his assessment of the impact of the recent regional upheaval on them. To join this call, dial 1-641-696-6699 and enter access code 123432#, when prompted. Send your questions to townhall@btvshalom.org.



Brit Tzedek Makes its Mark on Capitol Hill

The Washington office of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom opened its doors on December 5, 2005, providing our 30,000-strong, pro-Israel, pro-peace American Jewish grassroots with a compelling voice in the nation's capital.

Brit Tzedek's potential impact on Capitol Hill, in the media, and within the Jewish community is enormous. Thanks to years of hard work by our grassroots activists, now bolstered by the Washington office, Brit Tzedek is poised to become a leading player in the struggle for Israel's peace and security through a negotiated two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The opening of this office is something that we have been working towards since day-one of this organization," says Diane Balser, CEO of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, "we are proud to be building a genuine grassroots American Jewish peace movement and now, with the opening of the DC office, to find a rightful and permanent home for it in the nation's capital."

"Brit Tzedek's exponential growth in the less than 4 years is testimony to the fact that we have filled a real need for substantive, community-driven advocacy, education, and dialogue on the conflict," Balser adds, "but we could not have gotten to where we are without the support of other Jewish peace organizations, who have welcomed us to Washington as partners in this important undertaking. We hope that our work together has only just begun."


Taking Brit Tzedek's Advocacy to the Next Level

 Brit Tzedek sets its
sights on the Capitol

 Brit Tzedek sets sights on Capitol Hill

The opening of an office in the capital brings your voice directly into the chambers of Congress and the Administration. Headed by our new Washington representative, Rob Levy, the office will respond immediately to pressing legislation and keep members of Congress and their staff up to date on Brit Tzedek's positions and statements.

The Washington office will be building on relationships created by our activists in their home districts and during Washington Advocacy Days (to be held again this June ). After his first week of work, during which he advocated for the Hyde-Capps letter to Secretary Rice, Rob said, "I thought reaching out to 435 Members of Congress would be nearly impossible, but I soon realized that I had an entire team of able, passionate, and dedicated activists working with me from day one."

The DC office doesn't just bring the grassroots to Washington, it brings Washington to the grassroots. Having a presence on the Hill will increase the political savvy of Brit Tzedek activists, keeping them up to date on the latest details of legislation and analyzing the political environment as it develops. Rob is also eager to help individual chapters with the nuts and bolts of advocacy, from setting up meetings with members of Congress, to preparing talking points, to building key staff relationships.

Early Successes: Peace Parties and Passionate Advocacy 

 

Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center welcomes Brit Tzedek

On January 17, 2006, Brit Tzedek inaugurated its new office with a reception on Capitol Hill attended by close to 100 opinion shapers, including Congressional staffers, reporters, leaders from major DC Jewish organizations, Brit Tzedek board members, and Brit Tzedek DC chapter members.

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, gave the opening address, highlighting Brit Tzedek's critical role in the on-going struggle for a sustainable peace. The event was hosted by Advocacy Chair Steve Masters and included well-received speeches by President Marcia Freedman, CEO Diane Balser, and Washington representative Rob Levy.

The event ended on a high note with the surprise arrival of Congressman Brad Sherman (CA), a signatory to the Hyde-Capps letter, who was eager to learn more about our organization. The reception was a tremendous success, establishing Brit Tzedek as a noteworthy player on Capitol Hill.

 

President Marica Freeman addresses crowd

But as we all know, throwing a party is one thing, and changing votes is another. Earlier that day, Brit Tzedek's Board of Directors made visits to the offices of over 20 members of Congress -- including House International Relations Committee Ranking Member Tom Lantos and Senator Hillary Clinton. The staff with whom we met were eager to hear from a Jewish group that supports US engagement in the peace process and presents a somewhat more cautious approach to the Palestinian elections.

 

 Congressman Brad Sherman (CA) (center) chats with Rob Levy and Diane Balser

The clearest sign of Brit Tzedek's increasing impact on Congress was the success this past December of the Hyde-Capps Letter to Secretary Rice, which garnered more than 108 signatures -- the most support for a constructive, pro-peace initiative in recent memory. The Washington office guided a national grassroots effort in which Brit Tzedek members contacted 181 different congressional offices across the country. Many received personal notes or calls from congressional staff acknowledging the impact of these calls. The Washington office then followed up on these connections and reached out to other targeted Representatives.

The New Guy In Town

Brit Tzedek is very happy to have Rob Levy heading up the new Washington office. Bringing to the job his experience on the Hill, in Jewish advocacy, and as a campus peace activist, Rob knows the issues and the players, and most importantly, how to get things done. 

 

 Rob Levy, Washington Representative

Rob has been active in Israel peace affairs since college. He co-founded Salaam/Shalom, an intercultural Israeli/Palestinian peace group, at the University of Pennsylvania, and after graduating, spent a year as a legislative assistant at the Religious Action Center (RAC), the public policy arm of the Reform Jewish movement. There he was the key staffer on Israel, helping to draft the Reform movement's resolution supporting disengagement from Gaza. Rob then began work as a legislative staffer in the office of Senator Jon Corzine (NJ), where he learned the ins and outs of a Congressional office. Following Sen. Corzine's election to governor, Rob became Brit Tzedek's first Washington representative.

Rob is available to help with all of the chapters' advocacy needs -- from updates on the latest legislation, to background on members of Congress, to tips on how to best setup a meeting with a Congressperson or get your chapter more involved with advocacy. Call the Washington office with your questions at (202) 536-4092 or email Rob at rob@btvshalom.org.

Washington Office in the Media

The press also took note of the opening of our Washington Office:

Brit Tzedek Goes to Washington (Washington Jewish Week)

New Peace Group in Town (New York Jewish Week)  

Group Opens DC office (Jewish Telegraphic Association)

Approaching Zero Tolerance (Jerusalem Post)


Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206
info@btvshalom.org
www.btvshalom.org


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