5 Years Of Keeping Our Eyes On The Prize
By Steve Masters, President

In his first piece as Brit Tzedek’s new president, Steve Masters, former National Advocacy Chair and a founding board member, reflects on five years of organizational growth and closes with thoughts on the 12th Anniversary of the assassination of Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z"l.

One my favorite Civil Rights Era anthems has the refrain: “keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.” As we look back on our impressive accomplishments from our first five years, it is abundantly clear that we've held on and kept our eyes on the prize. It is Founding President Marcia Freedman’s focused leadership that has made all this possible.

Marcia was able to take an idea carried in the hearts of a group of 16 well-meaning people, and whip us into shape, forge a budget and fundraising plan, hire a staff and grow us into a major, national organization whose influence is felt throughout the halls of Congress and throughout the Jewish community.  I celebrate and applaud Marcia's leadership and her legacy in this organization. Together, I hope we can build on her many accomplishments and always count on Marcia’s wise counsel. I also encourage you to honor her work though a contribution to the recently established Marcia Freedman Scholarship Fund.

I also want to acknowledge and thank our dedicated staff, those who have served on the Executive Committee and the Board, and of course our chapter leaders and activists across the country. 

This is our first leadership transition, and as we keep our eyes focused on the prize going forward, let’s remember the prizes we’ve won so far.

The Prize of Increasing Our Influence in Congress

From our first National Advocacy Days on Capitol Hill in 2005, when just 60 of us introduced Brit Tzedek to 39 members of Congress, to 2007, when over 120 of us brought our message to over 100 members of Congress, to the amazing work of our Washington office, Brit Tzedek has grown to be a well respected presence on the Washington scene.

The Prize of Changing the Way the American Jewish Community Publicly Talks About Israel

Back in 2002, we received both nodding heads and curious looks when we unveiled our message, “there is more than one way to be Pro-Israel,” at the 2002 General Assembly of United Jewish Communities. A mere five years later, after hundreds of successful events in synagogues and Jewish Community Centers across the country, our slogan has become conventional wisdom. This was evident at a recent meeting with key Middle East policy advisors to a leading Presidential candidate, when one of the advisors uttered our slogan to us when explaining their candidate’s appreciation for the diversity of views on Israel amongst American Jews.

As we look to the future, with our “Let’s Talk to the Candidates” campaign and our efforts to promote a successful outcome for the U.S.-backed peace conference in Annapolis, we’ll be holding onto our founding vision and keeping our eyes on the prize.

These are exciting days for Brit Tzedek and I welcome you to be in touch with me with your ideas and suggestions. I have set up a special email address for you to use: president@btvshalom.org.

Marking the 12th Anniversary of the assassination of Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z”l

Before I close, I want to include some words in memory of a truly great hero of peace – former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin z”l - who was assassinated at the conclusion of a giant peace rally in what is now known as Kikar Rabin, Rabin Square, on the evening of November 4, 1995.

Yitzhak Rabin was not always a man of peace. One of Israel’s legendary war heroes, he was a career soldier, beginning in the pre-state Haganah, where he rose to chief operations officer during the War of Independence and continuing in the IDF, which he led as Chief of Staff during the Six-Day War.

As Defense Minister during the first intifada, it was Yitzhak Rabin who created the policy of "force, might and beatings” in response to the stone-throwing Palestinian youth confronting Israeli troops in the occupied territories.

From those very dark days, he underwent a radical transformation in his thinking and, I believe, in his heart. I think of him as one of the forerunners of Combatants for Peace and have always understood his profound change in terms of teshuvah, the inward-turning and repentance that we are called upon to undertake around the High Holidays.

For me, his transformation into a peacemaker continues to fill me with great hope.

His legacy refutes the lie that peace is only for the weak, that peace is only for those too timid to fight. He showed Israelis and Palestinians that a great man of war, a man whose life's work demanded that he dehumanize his enemy in order to achieve his objectives, could transform himself into a fighter for peace.

Our work for peace will always draw strength and courage from the life and legacy of Yitzhak Rabin. So I will close with the traditional salutation - Hazak v’Amatz  – for the sake of Israel, may we all have the “strength and courage" to carry on, keeping our eyes on the prize.

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


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