The memory that is strongest for me is the feeling of excitement at the founding conference. I just remember a moment when I suddenly felt like maybe we can really do this, maybe I don’t have to sit on the sidelines with my views and my heartbreak, maybe its time for new leaders — including me – to stand up and speak out and challenge AIPAC and make a difference. I remember meeting Laura Weitzman and the two of us talking and kind of daring each other into action — into running for the founding board, into taking the risk of taking leadership and more than that, of believing — almost beyond reason – that we could make a difference, in American public opinion and in the conflict.
I also remember a day of lobbying, not sure if it was at that founding conference, but I think so, when the staffers we were talking to, on the Hill, told us that basically lots of people agreed with the ideas we were sharing but that they didn’t feel that they could speak out about them because of the power of AIPAC. It made a very strong impression on me. They were telling me that we were in fact a silent majority and the task was clear – to help people break the silence, by showing them that among Jews there was strong support for a two state solution and for a different approach to issues like settlements.
Being in touch with campus activists around the country and offering support and idea for programming was also very energizing. I loved working with Rebecca Lillian on creating more materials for tie in to Jewish holidays. The conference calls were hard for me — I felt isolated being a board member who lived in a place without a strong chapter and the lack of in person time to really build cohesion as a board made conflicts overt the phone harder to handle, because we didn’t know each other quite well enough I think. Nonetheless, it was an exciting time and I remain proud of the beginnings I was part of — the energy of those early conferences, the working out the campaign about bringing the settlers safely home. It was great to feel part of the solution to this set of problems that feels so intractable, so deep, so heart wrenching. It was great to feel like we were helping communities take positive steps to doing good things and to talking well about hard things. The work of course continues…
Tamara Cohen, Founding Board Member