Steve Masters's Reflection

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I spent the decade of my 40s surrounded by an amazing group of activists and together we changed the face of American Jewish politics around Israel.

We accomplished what others thought was impossible – the creation of a large, vibrant, visionary and creative Jewish organization that was both proudly grounded in our love for Israel and effectively sophisticated in the strategy and tactics of grassroots organizing.

And we did it all with an organizational culture that placed the ultimate value on grassroots empowerment and inclusion. Our approach was a radical departure from so many other groups in the Jewish community – our decentralized and highly participatory leadership structure stood in sharp contrast to the top down dynamic many of us had experienced and rejected in so many other parts of Jewish life.

I’d been a grassroots activist since my early college days, but it was during my years with Brit Tzedek when I was given the chance to develop real organizational leadership skills –first as its national co-chair for advocacy, and then later as Brit Tzedek’s second national president.

I have so many memories but some stand out as peak Brit Tzedek moments for me:

• Joining then Brit Tzedek president Marcia Freedman and Co-chair of Advocacy and Public Policy Diane Balser in Geneva, Switzerland for the ceremony to celebrate the Geneva Initiative in 2003. During those few days I was an eyewitness to an event that gave proof to every Brit Tzedek core belief – that peace is possible, that there is a partner for peace on both sides and that every obstacle and issue has a negotiated solution.

• Co-Leading Brit Tzedek’s joint Israel trip with MeretzUSA. During that trip my heart was shattered by what I saw during our tour of Hebron with Breaking the Silence and then lifted up by our encounters with courageous grassroots peace activists, journalists and Israeli and Palestinian political leaders on the front lines for peace.

• Representing Brit Tzedek at meetings of the Democratic Policy Committee of the US Senate. Before there was a J Street, Brit Tzedek sat in an ornate Senate room with AIPAC, American Jewish Committee and Americans for Peace Now and had an audience with every Democratic U.S. Senator. Our presence meant that Senators heard our voices for the first time.

• Sharing an afternoon with former President Jimmy Carter. President Carter had invited leaders of every major Jewish group to meet with him before he embarked on a Middle East peace initiative on behalf of the Elders, a group of former world leaders working for peace and human rights. Sadly, only a few organizations agreed to send their leaders to the meeting.

• Dancing at Barack Obama’s first inauguration with Brit Tzedek staffer Deepa Domansky.

• Sharing the stage with Ed Asner at Brit Tzedek’s last fundraiser in Pasadena California.

I hope you enjoy our legacy website and that the stories and lessons of our pioneering work for peace in the first decade of the 2000s serves to inspire and guide future generations.