Monthly Archives: June 2013

Mark Belkin

Brit Tzedek was my path back to the soul of the Jewish community.

It allowed me to work for peace and social justice for both the Jewish and Palestinian people, since our fate is inseparable. Brit Tzedek’s genius, from an organizer’s perspective, was it’s ability to be a credible presence and voice within the mainstream of the Jewish community,

Brit Tzedek built a new core of Jewish leaders, gave voice the majority of Jews who are pro-Israel and pro-Peace, and created the organizational infrastructure that continues to endure.

We should pay a special tribute to the small group of brave and committed individuals who said this has to be done- and they did it!

Mark Belkin

David J. Albert

Brit Tzedek – Repairing the World – 10 Years Later

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

While the quote has almost become a cliché, it is also the best description that I can give of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom. I can remember being at a 50th birthday celebration for Israel celebration held on UT-Austin’s West Mall in 1998. There were Jewish students celebrating the joy and accomplishments of a half-century of Jewish statehood. A few feet away Palestinian students were accusing Israel of mass murder, racism and genocide. And I remember walking back and forth between friends on both sides trying to get them to talk to each other – mostly unsuccessfully. The polarization was simply that if you supported Israel you had to support the policies of its elected government – including the dehumanizing policies of Occupation. And if you opposed the Occupation, you had to oppose the very existence of a Jewish state and everything that it stood for and everything that it did. There was no middle ground. There was no space for Zionists like me who love the State of Israel and opposed many of its destructive and self-destructive actions.

Because of the work that a very small group of us began in 2002 that middle ground exists today – especially in the Jewish community. I firmly believe that there wouldn’t be a J Street today if Brit Tzedek hadn’t blazed a trail through the wilderness and opened the political space for that we did. We have taken a few small steps to changing our world – indeed towards Tikkun Olam, Repairing the World. When a small group of us started talking about building a movement that was pro-Israel and pro-two state solution in early 2002, the task was daunting and almost unimaginable. We started with almost no money. At one point, a few of us flew in from around the country to assemble in Aliza Becker’s living room in Chicago to plan a conference. In April, 200 people gathered at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, VA to form Brit Tzedek v’ Shalom. We gathered as the flames of the Second Intifada burned and only weeks after the gruesome Passover Massacre in Netanya. I delivered a Dvar Torah to that group that first Shabbat about hopes and fears. I told our assembled activists that ours was the message of hope against all those who would tell us that we must act reflexively out of fear. We sang together: Gesher tsar m’od – Life is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is not to be afraid. Over the next 7 years we stood against the fear-mongers and all those who warned us that peace was an existential threat to Israel’s existence, because we understood that it was the continuation of the Occupation that was the threat to Israel’s existence as state and to our essential values as Jews and human beings.

At the time I said the following: “There is a midrash. It is from the time after the fall of the 2nd Temple….Rabbi Akiva – one of the greatest of Jewish sages – stood at the ruins of the Temple Mount and he watched as the foxes ran through the ruins. And he began to laugh. And one of his students asked him, “How can you watch the foxes running through the ruins of the Temple Mount and laugh.” And Rabbi Akiva answered him that, “Now that I see that the Temple Mount has been destroyed I know that it will be rebuilt.”…..The theology of this story is less important to me than the spirit of it. And the spirit is a form of nearly blind optimism. It is a belief, a faith, that we can make a difference.”

Over ten years later, we have not achieved a two-state solution, but we have made a difference. Brit Tzedek began a process of changing the world. We have begun – albeit ever-so-slowly – to change the debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Washington and in the American Jewish Community. The roadblocks to peace today seem to be more in Jerusalem than in Washington, DC. We have a President and an administration that shares our vision of a two-state solution.

And as I look out over Rabbi Akiva’s metaphorical Temple Mount today, the foxes seem to have vanished. I can’t say that a Temple of Peace and Justice has been built or that a two-state solution is around the corner. But I think maybe a foundation has been laid for such a day. Just maybe we’ve taken a few steps forward in changing the world to bring about just a little bit more justice and peace – Tzedek v’ Shalom.

David J. Albert, PhD
Founding Board Member, Brit Tzedek v’ Shalom

Rabbi John Friedman


The Talmudic tradition has a name for the person who dissents from an important belief or dogma. That one is called the Kofer Ba-Ikkar, one who refuses to affirm some important principle of Torah or Jewish life. It is not often used as a compliment. Anyone who has served on the board of an organization, however, knows the dissenter is an invaluable member of that group. She or he may come at an issue from an angle that others had not considered and, while sometimes annoying fellow members who expect a quick decision that will get them home early, may prevent a resolution that would be deleterious to the purpose of that community. Sometimes the Kofer Ba-Ikkar raises objections that others have not considered or are not sufficiently bold to suggest.

From time to time a rabbi will find herself in the position of dissenter, telling her congregational board that such and such a practice should not be permitted or that a moral stand must be affirmed even though it may offend a donor or group. “No, we cannot serve that food.” “Yes, we have to observe that festival on its appointed date even though it conflicts with a civic event or final exams.” “No, the congregation must not defend home demolitions or settlement expansion by Israel even though it is, after all, Israel.”

That last one has gotten me into hot water repeatedly for many years. I always felt as though I was the one of only a few who saw that the emperor had no clothes; that is until I started a chapter of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (The Covenant of Justice and Peace), an organization that was pro-Israel but recognized the need to work for an end to Israel’s occupation and for two states, Israeli and Palestinian even during the Second Intifada, a time when few in the Jewish community were willing to discuss such a direction. I soon became a member of the organization’s national board and found myself working with a couple of dozen other Jewish leaders, extraodinary individuals, who realized that the emperor needed a robe, and quick.

Sometimes, the established members of a group find themselves particularly perturbed by dissenters and the American Jewish establishment did all it could to ignore us or just plain vilify us when necessary. Brit Tzedek organized petitions and letter writing campaigns; lobbied members of the House and Senate; organized many American Jewish communities and their rabbis, and shouted from the rooftops when Israel acted in a way to obstruct peace. We also shouted when Palestinians obstructed but there were no Palestinians in the leadership of Brit Tzedek. This was a Jewish organization focused on what Jews and the Jewish State might do to bring justice and peace.

I am deeply proud of the work done for nearly a decade by Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, which is now a component of J Street. We helped change American Jewry’s willingness to acknowledge that blind veneration of Israel was corrosive of human rights, harmful to Israel, and damaging to the religious integrity of American Jews. Because of this organization and others, like Americans for Peace Now and the Israel Policy Center, my political representatives are more effective and my congregants are far more clear sighted when they see the emperor. And I believe because of this small but powerful nationwide movement, Israel will one day be more secure, more hopeful, and more just.

Rabbi John Friedman

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

I still remember the first Brit Tzedek national conference that I went to in New York. Besides coming home with an awesome T shirt (which I still wear!), I was so impressed and inspired by the range of thoughtful speakers and the depth of analysis. Having been active in work for Middle East peace since 1980 and the early days of New Jewish Agenda, I so appreciated this national gathering of American Jews committed to peace and justice. As a rabbi, I was grateful to have a community of rabbinic colleagues dedicated to this work, a network within which to share ideas and support and opportunities for reflection. As J Street was starting, I was also grateful that there existed a grassroots network of both lay people and rabbis who were ready to carry on the struggle for a two-state solution. I have deep appreciation for the founders and staff of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom.

Rabbi Toba Spitzer

Aliza Becker

I was honored to have worked with Brit Tzedek from the first online conversations about forming a national Jewish organization working for two states in December 2001, to the founding conference planning committee meeting in my home in March 2002, to the transition to J Street eight years later in January 2010. The work was inspiring, exhausting, and life-changing.

I was especially pleased with how we built a community of committed activists and leaders, many of whom volunteered their talents to our cause for countless hours a week over the years. We were not your typical machers; some of us were long-time activists on other issues, some had been involved since the 1970s with Breira, and some had not been activists until the tragic violence of the Second Intifada pushed us to action. Some of us had prestigious jobs; for example, we had a large cadre of Ivy League professors and quite a number of rabbis. Others of us worked as social workers or airport screeners or business entrepreneurs or computer programmers. We came together and built a truly cohesive group! Some of us were secular, some observant; we covered the denominational spectrum. Some of us found ourselves becoming more observant as we spent time reaching out within synagogues and enjoyed it. No matter who you were, there was a significant and meaningful role for you to play in Brit Tzedek. And many of us now have lifelong friends as a result of our work.

I was also pleased with the personal outreach we did to friends and family and members of our community. We focused heavily on one-on-one outreach in the pre-social media days. While we clearly didn’t win over everyone with whom we talked, we kept moving along, supporting one another to keep reaching out and learning from each effort at connection.

We provided a space where you could talk about your real questions and concerns regarding the conflict; where we could put voice to our deep love and concern for the welfare of both Israelis and Palestinians. We didn’t blame the settlers who were seeking a better life for their families at a cost they could afford. We could care about our people and also realize that the situation had caused us to act as oppressors when it came to the Palestinians. We didn’t idealize the Palestinians, and understood that they had made their share of mistakes, but neither did we defend Israel’s every action.

I think that the genuine caring we showed Israelis was important for the many rabbis who initiated their Middle East peace activism by signing on to our rabbinical letters. Well over 1000 joined on!

The number of diverse Palestinian voices we brought to the table in our teleconference calls, our national trainings and conferences, and our tours also delighted me. Many synagogues hosted their first Palestinian speaker through Brit Tzedek, and numerous American Jews had their first encounter with Palestinians through our work. We made it very clear that we did not endorse every position espoused by our speakers, but we provided them with the space to share their thinking, and to help inform our own perspectives. We worked in coalition with Palestinians on areas in which we agreed. We didn’t have to agree on every point; we joined together where we had commonalities.

Aliza Becker

Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater

BTVS was an important part of my life for many years. As a long-time board and executive committee member, I was part of a team of committed souls who cared deeply about peace who helped me to articulate my own feelings as I grew into my rabbinate. There was passion, commitment, caring, fun and friendship that I will always cherish. We accomplished a great deal, laying the groundwork, in many ways, for the rise and success of J-Street, an organization that built on the success of our local, grassroots,”chapters” model. I continue to work for peace today and I know that Brit Tzedek is one of the cornerstones of why I do and say what I do. If we are ever successful in reaching a peace accord between Israelis and Palestinians, the history books will hopefully reflect the important and critical work that Brit Tzedek V’shalom did in the American Jewish community to help in sustaining the momentum when all hope seemed to be lost. Adonai oz l’amo yitain, adonai y’varech et amo va’shalom. (Psalm 29)

Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater

Sue Swartz

Brit Tzedek helped me feel not-alone. After the start of the second intifada, a small group of us in our small college town in the Midwest gathered together to talk about our pain, fears, disappointments, and desire to do something. Some of us were active in the synagogue, others of us unaffiliated; some of us observant, others secular; some with a long-time interest in Israel and others with newly awakened concerns. We struggled – both individually and together – with how best to express what we were feeling and expand the conversation to a wider audience. We knew that we couldn’t be the only group of Jews affected by events in Israel/Palestine – what a relief when we happened upon a recently formed Brit Tzedek v’Shalom website! Here was a way to connect with others struggling in their local communities. Here was a way to pool resources and strategies, to share in the sometimes overwhelming project of confronting change in our own hearts and in our community.

Here was a way to speak as Jews and with Jews about difficult questions, to open up a space for a different vision of the future. It was thrilling and comforting, both – and after many years of activism with Brit Tzedek, I know that this sense of connection was important for so many of our members and leaders. I feel privileged – and blessed – to have been an integral part of an organization filled from coast to coast with passionate, thoughtful, creative, committed people who did so much to redefine what it meant to be Pro-Israel – and did it with much courage and so little money!

Sue Swartz

Aaron Ahuvia

Brit Tzedek had a deep a commitment not just to doing the right thing, but to doing the right thing effectively. After Brit Tzedek successfully merged into J. Street, I wrote an article for the journal Israel Affairs describing Brit Tzedek’s strategy, which can be downloaded here. That article captures a lot about Brit Tzedek, but misses what the organization meant for me personally. In my day job as an academic I study the psychology of love, but with a bit of an odd twist: I focus on love in non-interpersonal contexts, such as hobbies people love, places they love, products they love, etc. It’s not uncommon then, for people to ask me if there is anything, other than people, that I love? The truth is, the things I love don’t make for a very long list. But Brit Tzedek is on that list, right up towards the top. Brit Tzedek is a part of who I am that reflects my most deeply held values, identities and commitments. Working with Brit Tzedek was the first time I had experienced a volunteer driven organization where people were so good at what they did, and were willing to work so hard for so long. And when eventually peace comes, everyone who worked on this will have earned the right to feel some pride in knowing they had a hand in making peace possible.

Aaron Ahuvia

Diane Balser

Brit Tzedek was the most outstanding grassroots American Jewish peace organization on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Its primary focus was the grassroots organizing of U.S. Jews.

Brit Tzedek was independent of Israeli peace organizations, but it did work in coalition with them. In 2003-4, we organized in tandem with the Geneva Initiative. While Israelis were organizing to garner support for a model permanent status peace agreement based on previous official negotiations – the highest point of grassroots organizing since Oslo – we were doing the same in the U.S. Geneva negotiators MK Amram Mitzna and Naomi Chazan were keynote speakers at our November 2003 National Conference in Boston, attended by nearly 1000 people. We then organized synagogue-based speaking tours with them and also with Yossi Beilin and Yasser Abed Rabo – the architects of the Accord, and Daniel Levy and Ghaith Al-Omari –the lead drafters. In December 2003, I traveled to Geneva, Switzerland with board president Marcia Freedman and Advocacy Chair Steve Masters for the official signing. We made a documentary film of the visit, and it was shown at hundreds of house parties throughout the country. It was interesting to see the Geneva Initiative’s efforts to develop grassroots organization in Israel where they attracted majority support and a lot of attention until Sharon diverted it with his announcement of the Gaza withdrawal.

We used advocacy tactics from other grassroots movements in our national campaigns to put pressure on our community and government. American Jews were our primary focus. The tactics we used to build support, pressure, and momentum included petitions, calls, pledges, tabling, candidate forums, house parties, one-on-one organizing, synagogue-based tours of Israeli peace advocates, and the like.

In 2003, we organized our first petition campaign, “Bring the Settlers Home to Israel,” to encourage the Israeli government to end its policy of providing financial incentives to settlers and to use the same money to re-settle them within the Green Line. We delivered the petition with 10,000 signers to the administration.

After this, we initiated many other campaigns. In most – Let’s Talk, We’ve Got Your Back Obama, etc. – we put pressure on Congress or the Administration, but we would also target Jewish communal agencies.

We developed grassroots advocacy within our chapters to meet with Congress locally and in the capitol, and to develop relationships and friendships. We provided a lot of training on how to meet with Congress people. We were key in mobilizing the passion of activist leaders and getting activists seriously devoted to our issue. We inspired activism that kept people very involved for a lot of years.

We created two parallel tracks of Congressional advocacy. Our national office developed many contacts in Congress and worked in coalition with other peace organizations. Our chapters did outreach to Congress in their local communities.

Lastly, we worked very well with other Jewish peace organizations and worked in coalition with them regularly. Our transition to J Street was facilitated by the good relationships that we had built.

By the time we joined J Street, we had organized thousands of volunteers who put their heart and soul into this issue.

Diane Balser

Marcia Freedman

Looking Back at Brit Tzedek Ten Years Later

Brit Tzedek was every organizer’s dream. Perhaps because each of us involved in founding the organization and making it happen was a long-time organizer and activist at the local level. We believed, passionately and from experience, that real change requires a swell of support from the bottom up. From we the people. Yes, we learned again and again, money really matters. And yes, access to those who wield power is important (if we were the grassroots, they were the grasstops). But without organized, committed, decently funded long-term activism at the local level, all is lost against overwhelming dollar and access odds.

Such was the situation when Brit Tzedek came on the scene in 2002. Peace Now, the Israel Policy Forum, and Meretz-USA were on the scene, as well as a number of smaller organizations (Rabbis for Human Rights, The Shalom Center, others). But AIPAC dominated the scene all across the board of the organized Jewish community and in Congress as well as the White House. The Israeli peace movement had been seriously weakened by the left’s response to the Second Intifada.

In that atmosphere, what we were attempting to do seemed gargantuan, perhaps foolish. But the first call for a 2-day conference in a suburb of DC at an inexpensive but decent motel was telling, for me at least, that this new movement had a real future. Shulamit Aloni agreed to keynote, and 200 people showed up. About a third were local activists, including many community leaders, representing large Jewish populations the length and breadth of the US. We mostly knew or knew of one another. We had been involved in the Israel-Palestinian issue most of our adult lives. Another third were new to the issue but coming from deep within the organized Jewish community – from high-placed Federation executives to members of local Jewish communal boards of synagogues, day schools, community centers. These were all new faces, each representing a small locus of power within the organized community. Another third, were human rights professionals. For both of the latter groups, their entry into the issue was the result of the ferocity of Israel’s response to the Second Palestinian Intifada (uprising). Israel had formally declared war on the stateless Palestinians under their control and used that pretext to wreak havoc on the West Bank, in particulary, utterly destroying the infrastructure of an incipient Palestinian state, killing and maiming thousands. The silence of our community on anything having to do with Israel in the year of Brit Tzedek’s founding was profound. Speaking about “the situation” was taboo at family gatherings, sometimes even around the dinner table, and in all communal gatherings, the synagogue in particular. For communal organizations, it became a virtue to remain neutral, and the surest way to do that was by refusing to air the subject at all. Nevertheless, the reality of the Intifada and Israel’s military response leaked through the silence via the internet.

Looking at the timeline of Brit Tzedek’s very low-budget activism over the years, I am impressed by how much we did, and I am reminiscent of not only my own endless hours as well as many others who could be called upon whenever for whatever was the emergency de jour.

Our goal, initially, was to break the silence in the Jewish community and give legitimacy to dialogue about the issues once again. That was the easy part. Though we rapidly grew in number and legitimacy, and modestly in budget, by 2007 we knew that on our own, we were not going to be able to change the dynamic in the Middle East, nor even in US politics around the Middle East, but without us, neither was possible. It was our goal that the various extant organizations that constituted the pro-Israel Jewish peace movement would unite or at least federate.

Though we reached a level of cooperation, the ultimate creation of a full-fledged grassroots/grass-tops, well funded movement was the achievement of Jeremy Ben-Ami and J Street. Brit Tzedek’s well-developed, 50,000-strong network of local activists and supporters became the foundation of J Street’s Locals.

In my mind, Brit Tzedek is a success story. We accomplished what we set out to do, even if we were only the first step on the path. These were steps necessarily taken.

Marcia Freedman, Founding President

Tamara Cohen

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

Barry Joseph

After 9.11, as a Jewish New Yorker, Brit Tzedek offered me a way to focus on my hopes for the world. It allowed me to connect with others around the country who were also passionate about reminding our communities that the options towards peace and security were closer than we’re often led to believe .

Barry Joseph, Former BTvS Treasurer, Chair of the Wired Committee and founding Board Member

Linda Iacovini

My experience with Brit Tzedek was both exciting, educational and filled with new experiences. It was the first time I had found a group sharing both my concern about the stalled peace process and an understanding of the role of the United States in making it happen. It was also my first experience of lobbying and my first attempt at organizing for a political cause.

I especially appreciated the relaxed nature of our communications and gatherings and felt comfortable as many members were similar to me in background and at least somewhat close in age.

I went on to work with J Street becoming a co-chair in South Florida, but due to a shift in approach and style I never quite felt the same sense of belonging as I did with Brit Tzedek.

Linda Iacovini, Former Chair of South Florida BTvS Chapter

Molly Freeman

Brit Tzedek was well-suited to its time. It was audacious enough to be exciting and moderate enough to stay within the pale of conventional political conversation about Israel. Formed in the pre-Citizens United environment, it was led by seasoned activists not often found at the helm of strategic political organizations.

Brit Tzedek was a singular agency within the American Jewish community and within the American body politic precisely because it was grassroots, was able to attract the support of significant donors and managed to crack the silence among members of Congress who understood the corrosive role of the settlements for Israel, the Palestinians, and the US. Brit Tzedek, often in collaboration with Americans for Peace Now, gave voice to thousands of Jews capable of tolerating the tension between devotion to Israel and deep disdain for the settlement enterprise.

I was extraordinarily fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve in a leadership role in Brit Tzedek where I would say I came of age politically, learning from its astute founders and highly competent staff.

Molly Freeman/ Oct 24, 2012

Cantor Michael Davis

During the long years before the emergence of a mainstream, Jewish pro-peace movement, Brit Tzedek carried that torch. From Aliza Becker’s living room in Chicago, a national movement emerged. I was honored to serve on the national board. I saw our rabbinic cabinet grow from the familiar “ususal suspects” to become a mainstream home for Jewish clergy. J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet is built on the foundation of Brit Tzedek’s.

Cantor Michael Davis

Jason Pollens

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to interact with Brit Tzedek on many different levels as a chapter member, intern, and finally as the Chapter Liaison. The organization provided a home for those of us looking for a pro-Israel pro-peace organization that spoke to our deeper values. I value many of the deep relationships I was able to build, particularly as the Chapter Liaison. I was lucky to work with such deeply committed activists from over 35 chapters throughout the country. It was truly inspiring to witness the hard work and determination of chapter leaders to work within their home Jewish communities to create a more open space on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I believe Brit Tzedek played an absolutely crucial role in mainstreaming the idea of pro-Israel pro-peace in the Jewish community. In the end though, we weren’t just activists but a community of folks that was like family.

Jason Pollens, former Chapter Liaison of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, Policy Intern, and member of the Westchester and New York City Chapters.

Heather Booth

Brit Tzedek v’Shalom was actively working for peace before peace was cool.
It was actively building an organizing infrastructure and a base of power for a two state solution and real peace.
It was actively talking beyond the inside policy circles, beyond the Beltway, beyond the ivory towers of debate and taking the issue into the country.
It was engaging those who were not already convinced.
It was building a home for those who wanted a two state solution and thought they were alone in their hope.
It was building a Jewish and peace alternative to the stalemate in the general society and in parts of the most visible Jewish organizational life at the time.
Through its history it proceeded with deep commitment to Jewish values and history and culture.
It proceeded against the obstacles.
It proceeded with hope and heart.
And as a result it now provides the basis for a growing presence around the country of activists and organizers for a pro-Israel, pro-peace alternative.
Thank you, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom.

Heather Booth

Cherie Brown

When I think back to all the work we did in Brit Tzedek, one of the things that stands out for me was the human caring and connections we shared with one another, understanding that effective advocacy and organizing work involved treating one another with caring and respect. The commitment to honor birthdays, send celebratory notes when anyone achieved a victory, set aside time for board dinners without a work agenda—all of this was fundamental to the successful work in Brit Tzedek. We were determined to model an organization where Jewish peace activists cared about what happened within our organization as well as with the political outside work. In addition, we designed our training programs to incorporate a lot of skill practice in listening and not just learning information about the conflict. It was understood that it wasn’t just correct information that would win people over, but creating safe places for Jews to be deeply listened to –and a place to air the fears that were underneath ‘scared politics’.

Cherie Brown
former Vice President
former Chair–training committee