Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

FYI from JCRC - Trust the process

 


Your Jewish Community Relations Council has been working hard at the “relations” part of our name, with a focus on building relationships within and beyond our Central Florida Jewish community. Those relationships help us find allies who support our values and whose values we can support in turn. Though we may not agree with each other on all issues, we look to find common ground on the issues that do offer ways to partner.

In last month’s FYI column, we talked about the importance of listening, and how really listening to one another is how we begin to understand one another. This month, we want to showcase another avenue for building understanding—the very unsexy, often frustratingly slow, extremely important concept of process. As Bernard Reisman, the founding director of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis University, would say, “Trust the process.” We called on Bernie’s words this past month when confronted with a complex dilemma: how to respond to the Movement for Black Lives’ platform’s divisive and unnecessary language on Israel.

As some of you may know, the Movement for Black Lives (affiliated with Black Lives Matter) issued its first platform a few weeks ago. Much of the platform resonated with many of us, particularly the calls for reforming the criminal justice system and for overall economic and social justice. However, the platform’s agenda split terribly with ours when it claimed that U.S. support for Israel makes the United States “complicit in the genocide committed against the Palestinian people” and labeled Israel as “an apartheid state.” It also called for divestment from Israel, which does nothing to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This language conflated the real need to address the systemic racism faced by people of color in the United States with the entirely different set of moral and political questions related to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Several JCRCs around the country issued strongly worded statements condemning the platform. Our gut instinct, and our desire to protect our beloved Israel, kicked in, and we were set to do the same—and then we remembered that we needed to first “trust the process.” Would issuing a statement help Israel, now or in the future?

We put out a call to our JCRC colleagues, asking them how they planned to respond, and the answers were as varied as their geographies. In St. Louis, the JCRC had a longstanding relationship with a statewide association of African-American Christian clergy that wrote a letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch condemning the platform. In Chicago, a city that had recently seen police shootings of unarmed black men, the JCRC set up meetings with its African-American allies, most of whom were not affiliated with the Movement for Black Lives, to ask them directly about the platform. Dallas reached out to its African-American allies for advice and chose to help put together a dialog. Milwaukee aimed to meet with leaders from the traditional African-American leadership groups as well as the newer groups like Black Lives Matter. Boston issued a deeply thoughtful and strongly worded statement, which despite its thoroughness was received with backlash. New Haven put out a statement only on its social media, which was meant for its own Jewish community. Many other communities noted that without a specific local contact in the Movement for Black Lives, it seemed pointless to simply issue a statement that would not reach the right audience—a tree would effectively fall in a forest where no one lived. Most of us did not even know how our local Movement for Black Lives groups are related to other groups within the local African-American and social justice world.

With this information in hand, the Orlando JCRC went to work. With our support and love for Israel front and center in our hearts and minds, we (rather reluctantly!) collectively decided against making a statement, and instead committed to keep working on our relationships with our local African-American community organizations, clergy, elected officials and advocacy groups so that we can ensure that we are always learning together and understanding together. Without those person-to-person and organization-to-organization relationships, we cannot make a difference in the opinions of those who can influence policies and platforms. Without listening to and understanding others, we cannot expect them to afford the same benefit to us. We think this is the right way forward. We trusted the process.

We will see you here in this space again next month. In the meantime, should you have any questions, please contact JCRC’s staff director, Marli Porth, at mporth@jfgo.org.

 

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