April 26- 29, 2002 BTvS Founding Conference, American Jews for a Just Peace: Reclaiming our Community’s Principles, Alexandria, VA
As the Second Intifada continues, 175 conference attendees and 25 others form the founding membership of BTvS. Keynote speakers are former Member of Knesset (MK) and Meretz Party founder Shulamit Aloni and B.Z. Goldberg, co-director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “Promises.”
The first Board of Directors is elected at the conference: David Albert, Aliza Becker, Minnie Berman, Cherie Brown, Ilise Cohen, Tamara Cohen, Elliot Figman, Marcia Freedman, Neal Gosman, Ira Grupper, Barry Joseph, Irena Klepsifz, Yossi Khen, Claire Kinberg, Richard Kohl, Rabbi Rebecca Lillian, Danielle Luttenberg, Steve Masters, Penny Rosenwasser, Rabbi David Seidenberg, Nicole Sorger, Donna Spiegelman, Rabbi Alana Suskin, and Lara Weitzman.
May 2003-April 14, 2004 First national campaign: A Call to Bring the Settlers Home to Israel
Advocacy and Policy Committee leaders Steve Masters and Diane Balser announce BTvS’ first national campaign, a petition that garners 10,000 signers from all 50 states. The petition is delivered via White House Jewish Community Liaison Tevi Troy by BTvS activist David Wittenberg, to President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on April 14, 2004. It calls on the U.S. to urge Israel to reverse its long-standing financial incentives to Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and redirect those funds to settlers willing to return to Israel proper. The Call also urges “generous foreign assistance…for this massive relocation effort.” It is covered extensively in the Jewish press and promoted in ads in Jewish and mainstream media. Prominent signers include entertained Theodore Bikel, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon, the late Debbie Friedman, Eli Pariser, Art Spiegelman, the Hon. Abner J. Mikva, playwright Tony Kushner, Gloria Steinem, and the late Studs Terkel. Watch Marcia Freedman talk about Israeli settlements in 2003 and 2007.
December 2003-August 2004 Spirit of Geneva Campaign
BTvS launches a campaign to promote a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based upon support for three Israeli-Palestinian peace initiatives: The Geneva Accord, The People’s Voice Initiative, and One Voice. The campaign is promoted through outreach to Jewish community leaders and to elected government officials, at hundreds of house parties, and via a combination of media coverage, paid advertisements, and speaking tours.
Other components of the campaign include:
*BTvS sends a delegation to the Geneva Accord Commitment Ceremony in Switzerland on December 1, 2003. Filmmaker Janis Plotkin joins Diane Balser, Marcia Freedman, and Steve Masters; her short documentary about the Geneva Accord is shown at house parties.
September 2006 National Rabbinic Cabinet Formed
BTvS establishes the national Rabbinic Cabinet, chaired by Rabbis John Friedman and Julie Saxe-Taller, “so that our activism remains connected to the spiritual leadership of the Jewish community.” The Cabinet leads a 1,500-strong network of rabbis and cantors providing a vehicle by which to organize Jewish clergy and seminary students nationwide for BTvS activism. Rabbinic Cabinet projects include four rabbinic sign-on letter campaigns, on-line holiday messages, publications such as A Rabbinic Guide to 40 Years of Occupation and Pointing the Way to Peace and Security: A Resource For Rabbis and Cantors on Israel’s 60th Birthday; sermons and reflections, print and broadcast media, and congregational outreach. Rabbinic organizing becomes an increasingly important focus of BTvS.
Jan 8-Feb 9, 2007 Combatants for Peace Tour
Combatants for Peace was founded in 2005 by Israelis and Palestinians who had been actively involved in perpetuating the cycle of bloodshed, but have now renounced violence and fight for peace through dialogue, reconciliation, and educational outreach. BTvS organizes a 22-city tour with Elik Elhanan, Shimon Katz, and Sulaiman Al Hamri. They travel to Raleigh, New York City, Philadelphia, New Haven, Bridgeport, Amherst, Albany, Providence, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Chicago, St. Louis, Columbia, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Portland, Eugene, and Seattle. The tour was hugely successful, bringing the voices of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation to the heart of the Jewish community. Tragically, while the speakers were touring the US, the daughter of founder Bassam Aramin is fatally wounded in a clash between Palestinians and Israeli police. Watch the speakers on video in segments one and two.
June 7, 2007 More than One-Third of the U.S. Senate Signs Bipartisan Resolution
National Advocacy Days Congressional Reception
in the Rayburn Foyer
On the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduces S.R. 224 resolution with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Christopher J. Dodd (D-CN), and Chuck Hagel (R-NE). It calls for active U.S. engagement to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for the appointment of a Special Envoy for Middle East peace. BTvS activists are pivotal in securing 36 co-sponsors for the resolution through thousands of faxes, phone calls, emails and in-person advocacy meetings. This is a five-fold increase in co-sponsors from the previous 2003 pro-peace Senate legislation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
October-November 16, 2007 BTvS Coalition Secures Record 135 Signers on Congressional Letter
Under the leadership of Rob Levy, BTvS spearheads a coalition of Jewish, Arab, and Christian DC-based peace organizations that secures 135 House signers to the Ackerman-Boustany letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The letter expresses support for the Annapolis conference as a “critical opportunity” to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The two co-sponsors are Jewish-American Gary Ackerman (D-NY), head of the Mid-East subcommittee of the House, and Arab-American Republican Boustany (R-LA). The entire Massachusetts delegation signs on after intense organizing by the state’s three BTvS chapters.
May 28 – December 2008 A Time To Choose Campaign
BTvS launches “A Time to Choose” campaign with a pledge encouraging activists to increase their involvement in their chapters. From August through December, it focuses on the upcoming presidential elections. “It is Time to Choose a different policy that parts from the failed policies of the past. It is Time to Choose a policy that puts finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue at the top of the next administration’s agenda.”
BTvS chapters contribute to the Democratic and Republican Party platforms. Under the leadership of Mark Belkin (Denver), BTvS brings together a delegation led to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. The National Jewish Democratic Council invites the delegation to a number of events, providing extensive networking opportunities.
December 27, 2008 – January 2009 BTvS Calls For Immediate Ceasefire in Operation Caste Lead
BTvS is a national leader during the Gaza War by calling for an immediate ceasefire from the commencement of the hostilities.
*Executive Director Diane Balser participates in a radio program with Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), whose public stance supports Israel’s actions in the war.
January 1, 2010 BTvS Joins J Street
Brit Tzedek v’Shalom becomes the field arm of J Street, bringing 50,000 members and supporters, 38 chapters, and a rabbinic network of over 1000 clergy providing a strong foundation for J Street’s grassroots and rabbinic work. J Street’s annual ‘Tzedek v’Shalom’ award is named in Brit Tzedek’s honor. Read the last BTvS listserve posting and the last newsletter.