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[BTvS-Chicago] December 2006 Newsletter

CHICAGO CHAPTER BRIT TZEDEK V'SHALOM
DECEMBER 2006

--- CALENDAR ---
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21 6:30 to 9:30pm
CHANUKAH PARTY/POT LUCK
Light the menorah. Eat latkes. Play dreidel. Sing Chanukah
songs. Join chapter members and friends for a joyous night.
Potluck at Aliza Becker's home, 4235 N. Mozart, Chicago. RSVP to
aliza@btvshalom.org. (Latkes, salad and drinks will be provided.
Feel free to bring a menorah.)

THURSDAY, JANUARY 25, 7:30pm
COMBATANTS FOR PEACE
Speakers: Sulaiman Al Hamri and Elik Elhanan, former Combatants,
and the Palestinian and Israeli coordinators for Combatants for
Peace.
At Beth Emet, 1224 Dempster, Evanston (corner of Dempster and
Asbury).

About the Speakers:
Elik Elhanan is the Israeli coordinator of Combatants for Peace.
From 1995 to 1998 he served as a soldier in an IDF combat unit.
In 997, his sister was killed by a Palestinian suicide bombing
in Jerusalem. "I have seen the damage the violence can cause,"
he says, "and I decided not to take part in that cycle anymore."

Sulaiman Al Hamri is the Palestinian coordinator for Combatants
for Peace. He spent four and a half years in Israeli prisons for
his involvement in anti-occupation protests and demonstrations,
before deciding to pursue a non-violent approach to resolving
the conflict.

The "COMBATANTS FOR PEACE" movement was started by Palestinians
and Israelis who had taken part in the cycle of violence between
the two peoples. After brandishing weapons for so many years,
these former combatants decided to put down their guns and
instead fight for peace. See www.combatantsforpeace.org

Sponsored by Chicago Chapter of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
Co-sponsored by Beth Emet the Free Synagogue, Jewish
Reconstructionist Congregation (Evanston), Congregation Hakafa
(Glencoe), Lakeside Congregation (Highland Park)

--- REPORTS ON CHAPTER EVENTS ---
DINNER WITH STEVE MASTERS November 6
A dozen people joined Steve Masters for dinner on November 6.
Steve is the National Co-Chair of Advocacy and serves on Brit
Tzedek's National Board. Steve reported briefly on his work and
the achievements of our DC office. Significant was the impact
that emails and calls from our members and supporters had on our
Congresspersons in DC, as related to the Palestinian
Anti-Terrorism bill (earlier in the year). Steve reported that
approximately 2/3 of emails and calls to our Reps were against
the bill! PLEASE KNOW THAT YOUR EMAILS AND CALLS DO MAKE A
DIFFERENCE!

PEACE ACTIVITIST ACTIVISTS STORIES November 6 at Lakeside
Congregation
The evening program began with a beautiful and moving musical
tribute/memorial to Yitzhak Rabin orchestrated by Cantor Michael
Davis and the Lakeside Congregation choir in Highland Park.
Following the memorial, Michael moderated a discussion between
two peace activists:
Steve Masters from Brit Tzedek and Saffiya Shillo, a local
activist and board member of the American Task Force on
Palestine. The discussion, guided by Michael Davis' challenging
and interesting questions, was wide-ranging and very frank and
honest.

Question: What did you learn (or how did you learn) about the
other while you were growing up?
Saffiya: From family and friends she heard angry reports of what
the Jews did. Yet the family had a close friend who was a Jew.
So it was confusing.
Steve: He grew up in the Jewish Reform movement and like many of
his generation, he was not a Zionist. But he was drawn to
Hebrew, studied the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and spent a
year at Hebrew University where he joined a Palestinian-Israeli
Dialogue group.

Question: What made you into a peace activist and what keeps you
going?
Saffiya: She is American born but her family lived in the West
Bank, near Ramallah, when she was a teenager. She experienced
first hand the demonstrations, violence, and was witness to a
girl getting shot. She thought to herself "There has to be a
better way." She remarked that Yitzhak Rabin is her hero because
he changed from a man of war to a man of peace. Finally she said
that doing this work gives people hope, that there must be
people with moderate voices; we cannot afford for there not to
be.
Steve: He witnessed the signing of the Geneva Accord in 2003
(see www.geneva-accord.org) by participants from Israeli and
Palestinian sides. The memory of that gives him hope.

Question: What do you see as the major problem with getting to a
resolution, and what can be done? Should be done?
Steve: There is a policy of profound neglect towards the Middle
East. No international community is stepping in. We need a
diplomatic solution. There is no military solution. There is no
way to be pro-Israel without being pro-Peace. Israel's security
is threatened by the hostilities.
Saffiya: Mahmoud Abbas is a peace maker but he is powerless.
Marwan Barghuti is trying to broker peace between Fatah and
Hamas but he is in jail. There needs to be negotiations and the
U.S. needs to be actively involved.

Question: What about the different stories that Israelis and
Palestinians have of their history and the conflict?
Steve: We are never going to agree on the stories. We have to
move forward instead of listening to the whole history of the
other side. And some things have to be put aside. For example,
in the Geneva Accord, they did not address the "right of
return." It was not the time for that agreement.
Saffiya: One of the hardest things to do is to accept each other
stories. It is important to know history but you cannot be
consumed by it. But you have to learn to live together; we need
to listen to each other, to hear the stories, in order to get to
the other side.

Question: Other comments? Final word?
Saffiya: Palestinians need funding for programs. They know they
cannot return to Israel but they will return to a contiguous
Palestine. Final word: Moderates must raise their voices.
Steve: Majority of Palestinians and Israelis want peace. Both
sides want land but they must be separated in order to share the
land. This is painful for both sides but it is better than
burying your children. Final word: There must be T'shuvah
(turning, changing) which Rabin symbolized.

DINNER WITH DONNA SPIEGELMAN November 16
Input from Michael Pierce, Betsy Fuchs and Ellen Alexander
Twelve chapter members and supporters joined Donna Spiegelman
for dinner on November 16. Donna is co-chair of the Boston
chapter of Brit Tzedek and also is on the Executive Committee
and serves as Membership and Outreach Chair for the National
organization. At dinner, Donna made an informal report and there
was a wide ranging discussion covering chapter and national
activities. Highpoints reported below.

- Chapter Activities:
- Visit Legislators -- whether they are sympathetic to Brit's
position or not, it is important for them to know that there is
a Jewish presence in their district. Each time we visit and
speak of our message, it sticks some more. The meetings are
cumulative. OK to meet with Legislative Aids at first, and work
up to meeting with the Legislators themselves.
- Identify Member/Supporter Affiliations -- at all chapter
events, have sign-in sheets that include room for members and
supporters to indicate their Jewish affiliations. One way to
expand our reach is to have members/supporters expand the Brit
message through their Jewish affiliations. Suggestion was made
for Chicago to send out an email questionnaire that would ask
current members/supporters for their Jewish affiliations.
- Quarterly Potlucks -- informal opportunities for members and
friends to gather, to eat and to hear speakers.
- Contact Others -- encourage members and supporters to reach
out to other like-minded Jews and get them to come to Brit
Tzedek events and/or to respond to the National Action Alerts.
There was also discussion of the merits of getting members who
have high profiles in the Chicago Jewish community.
- Chapter's Relationship with Other Jewish Organizations -- the
Boston Brit Tzedek chapter has a liaison to the JCRC (Jewish
Community Relations Council) and actively works with the JCRC
and has jointly hosted city-wide Jewish town hall meetings. We
discussed how each city's Jewish organizations and Jewish
demographics are different.

- National Report:
- Brit Tzedek Washington Presence -- provides Congresspersons
with Jewish voices of moderation.
- 35,000 Members and Supporters nationally -- an astounding
achievement for a 4 year old organization. Chicago area has 800+
members and supporters.
- National Advertising Campaign with banner ads on Haaretz and
other web sites has helped boost our numbers by introducing Jews
to Brit Tzedek. Another campaign will be launched in 2007.

Send submissions for January newsletter to betsywfuchs@yahoo.com
by December 25.
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