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New Jewish Coalition Wants to Take on AIPAC

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom calls for Jerusalem to be the capital of two states, and for a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. Organizers believe they can mobilize the majority of U.S. jews

Donna Spiegleman, Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, founding member

9 May 2002

Dear friends,

I have just returned from the founding conference of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom: Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace. This is a pro-Israel, anti-Occupation group of people who will create an alternative voice within the American Jewish community that is at once concerned for the security and long-term well-being of the state of Israel and in disagreement (both moral and political) with the policies and actions of its current government.

It is our hope to create a large, national membership organization numbering in the tens of thousands, if not more, with chapters and affiliates throughout the United States. We intend to lobby, to saturate the media with our message of peace, justice and security, and to act on the local level to increase our influence, our numbers and our outreach. We believe that of the six million Jews in the United States, only a minority truly agree with the the organized Jewish community's Likkud-dominated message, which is following the Israeli government's line almost in lockstep. We believe that the majority of us are at the very least uncomfortable with the actions of the current Israeli government and the Israel Defense Forces, and that there are many, very many who question whether these policies and actions serve the long-term best interests of Israel. It is to this newly mobilizing majority that we wish to appeal by creating a safe and supportive environment for this voice of American Jewry.

Thus far, nearly 70 Jewish leaders have signed on in support of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom as Advisory Council members, one third of whom are rabbis (attached). These include (a very partial listing): Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, Shulamit Aloni, Uri Avnery, Gershon Baksin, Jennifer Bleyer, Chana Bloch, MK Naomi Chazan, Nan Fink Gefen, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Susannah Heschel, Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Alicia Oistriker, Grace Paley, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Alison Pepper, Adrienne Rich, Boston Workmen's Circle Educational Director Mitchell Silver, Rabbi Toba Spitzer, Gloria Steinem, Gila Svirsky, Meredith Tax, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

We all left the Washington DC conference with an enormous flow of energy and sense of urgency to get this new organization up and running at maximum efficiency and effectiveness as soon as possible. Within the next 30 days, we hope to finalize and vote on our by-laws and to incorporate as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Organizational structure and committees are already in place and functioning (believe it or not). Fundraising efforts to support a staff and organizational activities are already underway. Please be in touch with me or Danielle Luttenberg, who is serving as board liason to our membership/outreach committee if you'd like to join one of our committees or get more involved (www.btvshalom.org for more information on committees, etc.).

We will be speaking in a clearly Jewish, pro-Israel voice, but nevertheless, and proudly, as a voice of dissent. Brit Tzedek v'Shalom has been founded on seven principles to which all members subscribe.

We believe the following principles and action are required in order to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an equitable and nonviolent way:

  1. A complete end to the Israeli military occupation of the territories occupied since 1967 in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem with border adjustments agreeable to both parties;
  2. The establishment of a viable Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders alongside Israel. Both Israel and the Palestinian state should thus be able to guarantee the ability to maintain secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force;
  3. Jerusalem will be the capital of both states. Unfettered access to all religious sites in Israel and in the future Palestine will be insured to all Jews, Muslims and Christians, regardless of nationality or sovereignty of the sites;
  4. A just resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem that takes into account the needs and aspirations of both peoples is critical to a just peace. Such a resolution should acknowledge Israel's share of responsibility for the plight of Palestinian refugees while respecting the special relationship between the State of Israel and the Jewish people;
  5. We strongly urge the termination of both state-initiated violence and terrorism for achieving political goals. This applies to violence against all individuals with special care being taken to avoid harm to civilians. We work towards a future in which peoples use nonviolent means to resolve social and political inequities;
  6. Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories are a major obstacle to peace, a tremendous financial burden to Israel and do little, if anything, to enhance Israel's security. These settlements constantly expose to danger the settlers themselves and the Israeli soldiers sent to defend them, in addition to bringing grave harm to the Palestinians living under Occupation. We call for bringing safely home to Israel the settlers from all existing settlements except in those areas that will be included as part of a negotiated and mutually agreed upon exchange of territories between Israel and Palestine in determining the final borders of both states;
  7. As US Jews, we are dedicated to the implementation of the above-stated principles. As US citizens, we have a special responsibility to ensure that our government pursues policies that are consistent with the requirements of a just peace for Israel and the Palestinian people."

If you find that these principles make good sense to you as the basis for a just and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I urge you to become a charter member and, if possible, also a charter funder. In the three days preceeding the conference, nearly 1,000 people signed a petition endorsing these principles, a tremendous outflow of support, which we believe is just the small fraction of those in agreement!

It is not easy right now to be a Jew. It is our hope that Brit Tzedek v'Shalom will make it a bit easier. Beyond that, it is our hope that this new organization will become a powerful Jewish voice not only among our own people, but in the United States and the world community. For this we need you, and we need one another in these morally turbulent and difficult times.

AIPAC claims 60,000 members. We are certain that many more Jews than this support our views. We hope that you will join us now, so our visits to Congress, our media bulletins, all of our efforts, can carry the full weight of the numbers that I know, that opinion polls consistently show, are on our side.

Membership dues are $36 per year, $18 for students and people on fixed incomes. Donations beyond this amount should be in increments of $18 and $36. Any amounts over $100 will be tax deductible. For checks under $100, make checks payable to Brit Tzedek v'Shalom. For tax deductible contributions of $100 and over, make checks payable to Am Kolel, our temporary pass-through. Mail to Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, P.O. Box 19003, Austin, TX 78760.

In solidarity,

Donna Spiegelman

Advisory Committee Members (in formation):

(affiliations listed for identification purposes only)

  1. Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, Temple University (Philadelphia, PA)
  2. Shulamit Aloni, Former Meretz Chair, Former Education Minister (Israel)
  3. Rabbi Charles Arian, Board Member, Meretz USA (Baltimore, MD)
  4. Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom (Israel)
  5. Gershon Baskin, Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (Jerusalem, Israel)
  6. Rabbi Philip Bentley, Jewish Peace Fellowship (New Hyde Park, NY)
  7. Reena Bernards
  8. Jennifer Bleyer, Editor, Heeb Magazine( New York City, NY)
  9. Chana Bloch, poet and translator (Berkeley, CA)
  10. Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton, Congregation Beit Tikvah, JRF Music & Liturgy Project (Baltimore, MD)
  11. Marla Brettschneider, University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH)
  12. Deborah Brous, Bustan L'Shalom (Israel)
  13. Jeremy Burton, Amos Partnership (New York City, NY)
  14. MK Naomi Chazan, Meretz Party (Tel Aviv, Israel)
  15. Rabbi David Cooper (Berkeley, CA)
  16. Rabbi Julie Danan, Congregation Beth Am (San Antonio, TX)
  17. Rabbi Lisa Edwards (Los Angeles, CA)
  18. Ruth El Raz, Bat Shalom, Counseling Center for Women (Jerusalem, Israel)
  19. Nan Fink Gefen, Writer, Cochmat HaLev (Berkeley, CA)
  20. B.Z. Goldberg, Director, "Promies" (CA)
  21. Eric Gordon, Director, The Workmen's Circle/Arbeter Ring, Southern California District (Los Angeles, CA)
  22. Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Congregation Nahalat Shalom; Jewish Peace Fellowship (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
  23. Terry Greenblatt, Executive Director, Bat Shalom (Israel)
  24. Rabbi Suzanne Griffel, Jewish Peace Forum (Chicago, IL)
  25. Susannah Heschel, Assoc. Prof. of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH)
  26. Adam Keller, Other Israel (Israel)
  27. Rabbi Sue Levi Lewell, UAHC (Philadelphia, PA)
  28. Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Shefa Fund, Brek the Silence (Philadelphia, PA)
  29. Rabbi Ellen Lippman, Kolot Chayeinu (Voices of Our Lives) (Brooklyn, NY)
  30. Rabbi Andrea London, Beth Emet the Free Synagogue (Evanston, IL)
  31. Zel Lurie, Journalist (Delray Beach, FL)
  32. Rabbi Jeffrey Marker, Rabbinical Assembly, Ohalah (Brooklyn, NY)
  33. Dr. Ruchama Marton, Physicians for Human Rights (Tel Aviv, Israel)
  34. Rabbi Robert Marx, Congregation Hakafa (Glencoe, IL)
  35. Rabbi David Mivasair, Or Shalom Jewish Spiritual Community (Vancouver, BC)
  36. Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom, Rabbis for Human Rights (Jerusalem, Israel)
  37. Cantor George Mordecai, Temple Beth Zion Beth Israel (Philadelphia, PA)
  38. Dr. Adina Newberg, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (Philadelphia, PA)
  39. Marilyn Neimark, JFREJ, (Jews for Racial and Economic Justice); WBAI Pacifica radio host-"Beyond the Pale"; NYC Women in Black (New York City, NY)
  40. Jonathan Omer-man (Berkeley, CA)
  41. Carolyn Toll Oppenheim, Friends of Open House; Public Purpose Communications (Great Barrington, MA)
  42. Alicia Ostriker, poet, writer
  43. Grace Paley, Writer (Thetford, Vermont)
  44. Nurit Peled, Bereaved Parents Circle for Reconciliation, Tolerance, and Peace (Israel)
  45. Alison Pepper, U.S-Israel Women to Women, Arab-Jewish Peace Group (New York City, NY)
  46. Don Peretz, Professor, Emeritus, SUNY-Binghamton (Washington, DC)
  47. Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Writer (New York, NY)
  48. Adrienne Rich, poet (Santa Cruz, CA)
  49. Rabbi Paula Reimers, Temple Emanuel (Burbank CA)
  50. Danya Ruttenberg, Writer (San Francisco, CA)
  51. Hannah Safran, Israeli Women in Black (Haifa, Israel)
  52. Leah Shakdiel, Oz v Shalom / Netivot Shlom (Israel)
  53. Nurit Shein, IDF Education Department (Israel)
  54. Rabbi David Shneyer, Am Kolel (DC)
  55. Mitchell Silver, Boston District Workmen's Circle/Arbeter (Boston, MA)
  56. Rabbi Toba Spitzer, Congregation Dorshei Tzedek (West Newton, MA)
  57. Gloria Steinem, Ms. Magazine, National Women's Political Caucus, Voters for Choice (New York City, NY)
  58. Nurit Steinfeld, Bat Shalom; Coalition of Women for Just Peace (Jerusalem, Israel)
  59. Gila Svirsky, Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, Israeli Women in Black (Israel)
  60. Meredith Tax, Writer, Women's World (New York City, NY)
  61. Rabbi Brian Walt, Congregation Mishkan Shalom (Philadelphia, PA)
  62. Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Break the Silence, Shalom Center (Philadelphia, PA)
  63. Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, Congregation Agudas Achim (Attleboro, MA)
  64. Ira Weiss, Israeli-Palestinian Encounter (Washington, DC)
  65. Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, Rabbi Emeritus, K.A.M. Isaiah Israel Congregation (Chicago, IL)
  66. Beate Zilversmidt, Other Israel (Israel)
 
 

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