Rep. Susan Davis (CA), chief sponsor of H.Res.143, the Mideast envoy resolution, addresses a crowd of over 200 at Brit Tzedek’s Congressional reception.
Brit Tzedek Activists Organize, Advocate, and Make an Impact in the Nation’s Capital

A report from the Grassroots Leadership Training Institute and National Advocacy Days

June 16-19, 2007 - Washington, DC

From June 16th to 19th, 120 Brit Tzedek activists from across the country converged in Washington, D.C. to take part in four intense days of organizing, training, networking, and advocating in support of our pro-Israel, pro-peace message.  For the first time ever, the Grassroots Leadership Training Institute and National Advocacy Days brought together the twin pillars of Brit Tzedek’s mission: organizing American Jews and advocating for a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

And the impact in Washington has already been felt!  In the two weeks since Brit Tzedek activists attended over 100 meetings on Capitol Hill, 10 Members of Congress, whose offices we met with directly, have signed on to the resolutions we were supporting!  Read more for details...

Additional links:
Photos from DCTestimonials from participants - Media coverage - Congressional Reception Transcript and Audio - Agenda and Workshops - Donate to Brit Tzedek! 

Grassroots Leadership Training Institute (June 16-17)

Brit Tzedek’s second Grassroots Leadership Training Institute (GLTI) opened on Saturday night, June 16, with an inspiring speech from Carinne Luck, Brit Tzedek’s outgoing Director of Grassroots and Chapter Development,
The GLTI opening plenary on organizing in the American Jewish community. L to R: Carinne Luck, Hadar Susskind, Debbie Stillman, and Daniel Sieradski.
that highlighted our grassroots successes from the past year and illustrated the ways in which Brit Tzedek chapters and activists continue to create significant change within the American Jewish community vis a vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While she acknowledged that we have much work ahead of us, Carinne also reminded the grassroots leaders in attendance to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments too!

We then turned to the GLTI opening plenary, "Organizing in the American Jewish Community: Unique Challenges and Opportunities," featuring Jewish communal activists and professionals Daniel Sieradski, Hadar Susskind, and Debbie Stillman.  In a lively back and forth amongst panelists and audience members, the three speakers tackled tough questions such as “Why are American Jews so progressive on everything but Israel?”,  “How can/should Brit Tzedek work with mainstream Jewish institutions?”, and “How come American Jews are only allowed one opinion on Israel?” 

On Sunday, June 17, GLTI participants took part in a variety of workshops focused on grassroots organizing, chapter development, and media and communications. In each of these intensive and highly participatory sessions,
President-elect Steve Masters and Rabbi Scott Weiner lead a workshop on "Finding Allies and Building Relationships with Jewish Communal Organizations and Synagogues."
participants learned from experienced leaders within their field and each other about how to build and sustain Brit Tzedek’s pro-Israel, pro-peace movement in their local community. Click here for a full list of workshops offered.

During lunch, we heard from Chapter Development Chair Cherie Brown on the importance of building relationships to grassroots activism, and the GLTI concluded Sunday afternoon with a plenary session on “Let’s Talk! - Communicating the Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace Message” with Brit Tzedek Secretary Aaron Ahuvia and Cherie Brown.

Throughout the GLTI, we took a few moments to thank and honor those individuals who have been particularly significant in the growth of Brit Tzedek and would soon be moving on from their various positions. We honored all of our founding members, in particular our founding president Marcia Freedman, who steps down this November after five years of incredible leadership.  We also thanked Carinne Luck, our former Director of Grassroots and Chapter Development, for her three years of dedicated work and commitment to the growth of Brit Tzedek’s chapters and grassroots strategy.  We wish them all the best of luck in their journeys ahead!

National Advocacy Days 2007 (June 17-19)

On Sunday night, June 17, we transitioned from the local to the national (and international), as Brit Tzedek’s National Advocacy Days 2007 (NAD) began with an incredibly lively panel debate featuring Mideast policy experts Daniel Levy, Ziad Asali, and Mara Rudman.  While the original topic slated for discussion was “peace developments in the region,” the prior weeks’ events, including Hamas’ military takeover in Gaza and the breakdown of the Palestinian unity government, dominated the conversation.  The three speakers differed sharply on how to best move forward.  Ms. Rudman and Dr. Asali argued that the U.S. should capitalize on and support the non-Hamas emergency government formed by Abbas, while Mr. Levy countered that isolating Hamas is dangerous and real progress depends on the re-formation of a Palestinian unity government with deeper power-sharing.  Nevertheless, all three panelists agreed that our end goal remains the same: a negotiated two-state resolution and vigorous U.S. leadership to bring it about. 

The training begins
The next morning, Diane Balser, National Advocacy Chair, kicked off Monday’s briefing sessions with a powerful presentation on the meaning of grassroots advocacy for a two-state solution and the importance of speaking in one voice. Rob Levy, Brit Tzedek’s Washington Representative, followed with a play-by-play of the past year’s legislative victories for the pro-Israel, pro-peace forces in Washington, from moderating the punitive Palestinian sanctions bill in spring 2006 to the introduction of the Feinstein Mideast peace resolution just last month. 

NAD participants then had a chance to hear from representatives of the State Department and House leadership.  Wesley Reisser, political-military liaison for the Israel-Palestine office in the State Department, provided an in-depth and
The Illinois delegation strategizes for their meetings, which would end up very successful.  Both Jewish Chicago Reps., Rahm Emanuel and Jan Schakowsky, would become cosponsors to H.Res.143, the Mideast envoy resolution.
up-to-date account of the State Department’s efforts to reinvigorate the peace process, and Reva Price, senior advisor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, discussed Speaker Pelosi’s role on the Israeli-Palestinian issue in Congress as well as her recent trip to Syria and the ensuing controversies.

On Monday afternoon, we closed the doors to outside voices and focused on our own.  Diane Balser and Rob Levy went point by point through Brit Tzedek’s talking points for Congressional meetings, which were printed that morning in order to be as current as possible.  Steve Masters, Brit Tzedek president-elect, led an interactive training on how to hold a Congressional meeting, approach different types of Members, and stay “on message.” NAD participants Phil Rosen, Rabbi Ben Biber, Yael Samuel, and Molly Freeman demonstrated how to hold a Congressional meeting in a roleplay with “Congresswoman” Diane Balser.  Finally, in a whirlwind of advocacy strategizing, each grassroots delegation sat down together to review their Member’s pro-Israel, pro-peace voting record and prepare for their meeting.

Brit Tzedek's Congressional Reception in the Rayburn Foyer.
Celebrating our successes in style
After an intense day of training and strategizing, we put down our talking points and raised our glasses for Brit Tzedek’s annual National Advocacy Days Congressional Reception on Capitol Hill.  This year’s reception featured three esteemed speakers: Reps. Lois Capps (CA), David Price (NC), and Susan Davis (CA).  We also welcomed Reps. Jerry Nadler (NY) and Jim Moran (VA) during the reception.

Congresswoman Lois Capps, a long-time proponent of the pro-Israel, pro-peace cause in the House, stressed the significance of Brit Tzedek’s presence on Capitol Hill at a time of such turmoil in the Middle East.  Capps called on us to keep organizing and advocating.  She said, “This is the time to gear up... This is the time to build that coalition even stronger, to reach more and more people, to speak so firmly so that Members of Congress cannot help but notice to see the new way to relate to Israel is the peaceful way.”

Andy Silver, Sharon Goldberg, Rep. David Price (NC), and Joe Elinoff at the reception - all constituents of Rep. Price.
With four constituents from Brit Tzedek’s Durham/Chapel Hill chapter looking on, Congressman David Price extolled the importance of Brit Tzedek’s grassroots advocacy and highlighted the work of Brit Tzedek in moderating the punitive Palestinian sanctions bill of 2006.  Price stated, “The grassroots component was this organization and I have to tell you that that is what had been missing...  That ability on a moment’s notice to contact receptive Members of Congress or maybe some who aren’t so receptive but might become so. That’s the way things work around here, and that’s what Brit Tzedek has brought to the table.”

The reception concluded as Congresswoman Susan Davis, chief sponsor of the Mideast envoy resolution that Brit Tzedek strongly supports, took the podium to deafening applause from the crowd.  In the words of Davis, “That cheer made putting in the resolution all worthwhile.”  The crowd listened closely as Davis recounted her former days as a kibbutznik and later as a social worker in Israel.  She urged us to continue our advocacy and promised she would do the same.  “I will continue to work hard so that that peace that’s been so elusive, hopefully in the next number of years, finds its way to the entire region and that we really can look to a day that Israelis and Palestinians and their neighbors can live in peace.” Click here for a full transcript and audio recording of the reception.

Brit Tzedek’s NY delegation meets with Rep. Gary Ackerman (NY), chair of the Middle East Subcommittee.  From L to R: Adam Esrig, Kobi Skolnick, Rep. Ackerman, Shirley Rausher, Harry Jellinek, Rob Levy, Raymond Hakimi.
1 day, 2 bills, 100 meetings

On Tuesday, June 19th, Brit Tzedek activists took part in over 100 meetings across Capitol Hill, including over 30 meetings with Members of Congress in person!   We asked Representatives to cosponsor H.Res.143, Rep. Susan Davis’ resolution calling on President Bush to appoint a special envoy for Middle East peace, and we called on Senators to sign on to S.Res.224, the Feinstein/Lugar resolution calling for vigorous U.S. engagement to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Our advocacy has already made an impact! 
Just two weeks since we left D.C. and 12 new Representatives have signed on to the Davis resolution, including prominent Jewish Reps. Rahm Emanuel (IL) and Jan Schakowsky (IL), and 4 new Senators have signed on to the Feinstein/Lugar resolution.  Of those 16 new cosponsors, Brit Tzedek activists met with 10 of them during National Advocacy Days, and many offices informed us that our meetings were critical in convincing them to sign on!

Brit Tzedek delegates with Congressman Sam Farr (CA), a new cosponsor to H.Res.143.  From L to R: Howie Schneider, Rep. Farr, David Albert, Eileen Ascher.
12 new cosponsors to H.Res.143 since 6/19/07:

Baird (D-WA), Allen (D-ME), Hill (D-IN)*, Farr (D-CA)*, Markey (D-MA)*, Johnson (D-GA)*, Moore (D-KS)*, Lee (D-CA)*, Emanuel (D-IL)*, Schakowsky (D-IL)*, Woolsey (D-CA), and Stark (D-CA).

4 new cosponsors to S.Res.224 since 6/19/07:
Lott (R-MS), Leahy (D-VT), Reed (D-RI)*, Casey (D-PA)*
*=met with Brit Tzedek activists during National Advocacy Days 2007

Congratulations Rhode Island Chapter!
We are especially pleased to announce that Rhode Island has become the first state to have both Senators (Whitehouse and Reed) sign on as cosponsors of S.Res.224!  A deep congratulations and “mazel tov” goes out to the entire Rhode Island chapter for an outstanding display of grassroots advocacy!

Returning home, moving forward
Now, we return to our communities with renewed energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration for the work of Brit Tzedek.  Even when recent events have been so alarming in the Middle East with the collapse of the Palestinian unity government and increased violence between Hamas and Fatah, here in the United States, the winds are turning in a new direction thanks to all of you, the true backbone of Brit Tzedek, our grassroots leaders. 

Executive director Diane Cantor, who was attending her first National Advocacy Days reflected, “Sometimes I’ve wondered how we accomplish so much in Brit Tzedek.  But after meeting our activists in Washington, I know the answer.  These are very special people.  They are realistic about every setback and barrier to peace.  But because they truly believe they can make a difference, they do - every single day.”

Donate to Brit Tzedek so we can come back next year even stronger!
Events like the Grassroots Leadership Training Institute and National Advocacy Days require a great deal of staff time and resources.  Please donate to Brit Tzedek and help us convey our pro-Israel, pro-peace message throughout the Jewish community and the halls of Congress. Click here to donate now!

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
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Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
Fax: (312) 341-1206

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