Monthly Archives: September 2013

Jenny Amanda Hurwitz (NYC)

Advocacy Days in DC were very uplifiting to take part in. I also went down with Tikkun one year. I joined New Jewish Agenda in San Francisco where I was living when it formed around.. 1980? because it took a 2 state solution stand, but I was uncomfortable with the tone of its mideast committee and so worked on other committees more. The same when I moved back to NYC in 1986. In the early-mid 80’s I belonged to a small group called Israelis For Peace that used to meet in my flat – I’m not Israeli but most members were – wonderful, soulful group. At that time I remember thinking – we shouldn’t be talking philosophically about peace and non-violence, etc because we have to get a 2 state solution happening NOW – things can’t get any worse between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And here we are in 2013 and things have gotten worse… and yet now maybe there is a glimmer of a new day dawning – the darkest hour is just before dawn.

Sheila McCoy

In Los Angeles for several years we had a fine group of people who met, argued, visited Congress persons, staged demonstrations and hosted visting experts – Israeli and Palestinian. We were all proud in some way to be working for peace. Our names as best as I can remember are: Sarah & Ehud BenHagai, Avram Chill, Christine Coh, Danah Ezekiel-Clark, Joel Farkas, Lawrence Feinberg, Duncan Gilman, Eric Gordon, Claire Gorfionkel, Yossi Khen, Danielle Krauss, Josh Kruskol, Allison Lattman, Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater, Ruth Persky, Susan Pindak, Cantor Steve Puzarne, Bruce Rankin, Yael Samuel, Michael Several, Arthur Stern, Jonathan Troen, and Nancy Vimla. We met over an 80-mile range from Santa Monica to Pomona but often in the middle of Los Angeles at my house. I am sure many of miss the Chapter as a way of being active. Sheila McCoy

Michael Krauss

I was searching for a home for my sincere and heartfelt belief that it was POSSIBLE for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Through wonderful friends I was introduced to Brit Tzedek v’Shalom. I attended my first meeting (of countless others to follow) in the New Haven, CT JCC. I met wonderful people with hopeful hearts as well as an enthusiasm for action that I had not encountered in my other affiliations, political or otherwise.

We just believed that what appeared to be impossible WAS possible! It was through Brit Tzedek v’Shalom that I had the honor of meeting and speaking with Naomi Chazan, Jim Zogby and Stephen Cohen.

To that end I see J Street as the appropriate “vehicle” to carry our message of hope and peace for us, for Israel and for future generations.

Frank A. Walter

I cannot recall my initial contact with Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, but it had to be shortly after I moved to Portland from Tacoma, about 2001 or 2002. I remember attending a meeting at a synagogue about two miles from my home to listen to Rabbi Arik Ascherman, CEO of Rabbis for Human Rights. The Jewish community that attended did not appear receptive to the good Rabbis petition for Jewish acceptance of the seven “Founding Principles” of Brit. As a nonreligious person, I was excited by the rabbi’s presentation and started attending meeting and writing checks because I longed for peace in Palestine, but knew little about the history of Palestinian-Israeli relationships except for widely published accounts of the conflict that has raged in Palestine for most of my lifetime and prior to it.

When I was in Chicago in 2005 for knee surgery, I wrote to Brit (P.O. Box 180175) to inquire as to the amount of my donations only to learn that it totaled $1,400.00 ( a tidy sum for a person rejecting all religions).

Awhile back I asked the same question of Jewish Voice for Peace and was told my donations totaled $850.00 at that time.

I am under the impression I have wasted my money because of recent events in Palestine. I firmly believe the United States should cut off all aid until a Palestinian state exists and sincere American Jews should boycott Israel until that country acts in good faith.

Frank A. Walter

P.S. I hope you publish this indictment.

Charles Scally

When I first heard of Brit Tzedek, I wanted to join. I firmly believed from the outset that the two state solution was the only viable solution. I thought of every other possibility and none worked in the long run. It was either Israel was no longer a Jewish state or the Palestinians would have to be considered second class citizens in a single state. Neither works. The status quo cannot exist forever. The two state solution works. I am Roman Catholic, however, I feel strongly about this. I am also a charter member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC I want Israel to succeed. I am pro Israel and pro peace. I am old enough to remember the vote for partition in the UN in 1947. From that point on, my whole family was strongly pro Israel. In fact, my mother loaded up our house with goods made in Israel. She said that we had to do everything to make sure the new Israeli state is successful.

Now, we have to support this movement to make sure Israel remains successful.

Rabbi Howie Schneider

Brit Tzedek v’Shalom provided the structure we needed to significantly increase our pro-Israel, pro-peace leadership skills. There was a long period between New Jewish Agenda and BTvS that our small group of local activists felt quite isolated.

I remember the first time we went to see our Congressional Representative with a delegation from BTvS. We were welcomed with great openness and acceptance. Our Congressman told us that we brought a breath of fresh air in support of a two state solution, enough for him to take a more public role in support of peace between Israel and Palestine.

With BtvS, our local group significantly increased in number and skills. We are now part of J Street and play an important leadership role in our local synagogue as well.

Thank you BTvS,

Rabbi Howie

Steve Masters

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.