Shehechiyanu! We have made it to see this moment!
Last week four Reconstructionist rabbis from the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council attended our movement’s annual rabbinical convention. While there, we sought to engage our colleagues on the topic of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), the Palestinian-led civil society movement to pressure Israel to be accountable to international law.
Inspired by the Go & Learn initiative of the Young, Jewish and Proud set of JVP — a project to bring discussions about this movement inside Jewish spaces — we planned to offer a BDS education session.
The session was offered outside of the official convention schedule, at 9:30 pm at the end of a long day, but nonetheless twenty rabbis—a full one third of the convention attendee—showed up. Using one of the Go & Learn lesson plans, we reflected together on past and current boycott and divestment campaigns—including the Kosher Meat boycott of 1902 on New York’s Lower East Side, South African divestment, and the current Hyatt Hurts boycott that many clergy are engaged in. We then went around the room and read and discussed the Palestinian Call for BDS. Though surely not easy for all the rabbis to participate in, our conversation was characterized by curiosity and integrity across a broad range of political positions.
Afterward, we were stopped frequently by participants to share appreciation and gratitude for us having created that space. Many said that they never would have likely looked at the Palestinian call otherwise. Many reflected how valuable it was to simply talk about it. Clearly these conversations are not only possible. They are vital in the Jewish community.
Why then does Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) CEO and President Jerry Silverman think he has to resort to a lock-out to keep young Federation folks from hearing about BDS? The JFNA is the largest umbrella group of Jewish organizations in the United States. As you know, Young Jewish & Proud (YJP) registered and paid to have an exhibition table at TribeFest, the JFNA’s annual youth gathering of over 1,500 young people. Last month, that invitation was rescinded without explanation.
Thank you for signing the letter to Silverman. Can you share this story of rabbis discussing BDS with your friends so they will sign as well?
How right the youth-led wing of JVP is when they say to Silverman in the open letter:
“Who knows who will emerge from the next generation of Jewish leaders – and with inclusive Jewish communities, able to hold disagreement and open debate—we are sure to not miss their voice and contribution.”
To our Jewish communal institutions and leaders we say: ‘End your polices of exclusion. Let the next generation of young Jews Go & Learn.'”
The culture of McCarthyism in the Jewish world must stop. If a group of rabbis can not only survive but thrive from a conversation about BDS, so can the rest of the Jewish community.
Please let everyone know about this inspiring event and ask them to take action in support of young Jewish leaders locked out of TribeFest.
Rabbi Margaret Holub,
Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council
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