|College kids and 20-somethings, middle aged folks and
seniors, observant and secular Jews, lawyers and artists,
Christian allies and Palestinian partners. A great
gathering of cogent thinkers, expert doers and passionate
visionaries -- a total thrill! |
-- Judy Kaye chair of
Rhode Island chapter, describing J Street's first annual
conference held October 25-28
Over 200 Brit Tzedek activists came to
Washington DC last month to kick off the next exciting phase of
the pro-Israel pro-peace movement. Just 2 days after the
announcement that Brit Tzedek's organizing & advocacy work
will become part of J Street's national program in January 2010,
we arrived from Oregon, Texas, Indiana, New York, and many
places in between. See our photo gallery.
Our work over the last 7 years clearly made a difference: one
out of eight conference participants was identified on their
name-tag as a Brit Tzedek "partner". And we were everywhere --
leading workshops, giving interviews, comparing notes, taking
pictures, leading advocacy delegations to Capitol Hill. Former
Executive Director Diane Balser was featured in the opening night video with
other Jewish peace leaders and former staff member Adam Esrig
found his way to stardom on YouTube.
J Street is exciting because it expresses a generational
shift in both the medium and the message. It speaks to the young
at heart and embraces 21st century viral communications. (David
I was delighted by the willingness of participants to
discuss thorny issues openly and respectfully. (DeAnne Riddle,
Educate, agitate, congratulate! Day 1 began
early and was chocked full, with workshops on subjects ranging
from West Bank settlements to interfaith organizing to Israel
& the American Left, as well as live theater, a Town Hall
meeting with Reform movement head Rabbi Eric Yoffie, and a
plenary session featuring members of the 111th Congress.
And then it was party time. Scores of folks came to celebrate
the accomplishments and activists of Brit Tzedek with kind
words. The audience warmly applauded our national Board members,
Rabbinic Cabinet leaders, Chapter chairs, Honorary Board, and
staff. New York chapter co-chair Ben Murane premiered a multi-media PowerPoint
slideshow of our history and unique
J Street's Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami enthusiastically
welcomed us into the family and introduced the newly on-board
leadership of the J Street field program: Laurie Moskowitz and
Carinne Luck (Senior Advisor & Deputy Field Director,
|Over and over again, I felt a deep
sense of belonging and rootedness in J Street. So while we are
all leaving our "home" that has been Brit Tzedek to join the J
Street family, we will not be homeless.|
-- Steve Masters,
President, Brit Tzedek
Increasing our Grassroots power. How do we
combine our grassroots and netroots work? How can we best use
our activists to win on this issue? What's the best way to
combine older and younger people? These were the topics tackled
by Laurie Moskowitz, Carinne Luck, Diane Blaser, and Ari Wallach (Partner,
StudioBenZion and cofounder of The Great Schlep) on Day 2. In
discussing the next 6 months of Brit Tzedek/J Street organizing,
the speakers asked us to imagine success. How? By having a clear
mission, using our passionate people well, creating effective
on-the-ground tactics, and using authentic messaging that allows
people to connect with the message and with each other.
Our Rabbinic Cabinet outdid itself on Day 2. Their session,
"Dancing on the Head of a Pin" explored how -- and whether --
rabbis can broaden the dialogue about Israel without
jeopardizing their communal standing. The panelists
(Rabbis David J. Cooper, Joshua Levine-Grater,
Julie Saxe-Taller, Toba Spitzer and moderator
Rabbi John Friedman) shared their wisdom and recommendations
- Allow time for discussion after Israel-oriented
- Acknowledge the deep-seated emotions on this issue.
- Make clear that not "all Jews" or "most Jews" or "real Jews"
or "moral Jews" think one way or the other.
- Emphasize the sanctity of human life above nationalism,
claims to land, ethnic ties and commitments.
- Be leaders in seeing Israel as it is.
And finally came our trip to Capitol Hill.
On Day 3, hundreds of people headed over to the House and Senate
with the clear message that U.S. diplomatic engagement was
essential to moving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict towards
peace. Together, we met with over 200 Congressional offices to
ask elected officials to take a more public stand on behalf of
Brit Tzedek activists -- many of whom had previously
participated in Washington or home district advocacy meetings --
often took the lead. We were leaders of delegations and vocal
members. We knew our way around the basement corridors of
Capitol Hill and how to find the cafeterias. Our relationships
with staff members sometimes eased the way with staff members
and we were able to assure first-timers that everything would be
|An amazing experience – the
culmination of what I was working towards was finally happening.
(Shirley Rausher, New York
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish
Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
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