Letters - May 20: JCRCs behind Israel

Boycotts are a two-way street; there is no reason to be pessimistic about Israel's future.

JCRCs behind Israel
Sir, – On behalf of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), we write to express our outrage at the fictional depiction of the JCRC by Jonathan Rosenblum (“Is Israel dividing American Jewry?,” Think Again, May 6).
The subject at hand is a serious matter for both Israelis and American Jews, and deserves thoughtful exploration.
However, this piece did the Indianapolis JCRC and The Jerusalem Post a major disservice because it simply was not based upon facts.
The author did little more than repeat the false statements of a rogue group with few followers. The article falsely charges that the JCRC excludes from its mission statement the second goal of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the national umbrella organization of local JCRCs: “To dedicate ourselves to the safety and security of the State of Israel.”
However, one can easily discover that the JCRC fully embraces this goal. In fact, “to maintain strong support for Israel and its right to exist in peace and security” is clearly stated in the governing bylaws of the JCRC. Further, the home page of our website (www.indyjcrc.org) clearly states “We advocate for Israel.”
The first of two goals in our mission statement, also accessed on the website, notes our responsibility to “safeguard the rights of Jews here, in Israel, and around the world.” Our documents are clear about the centrality of Israel to our mission.
This rogue group also charges that the JCRC focuses on domestic social issues. This much is indeed true. The Indiana General Assembly (IGA) is not a foreign policy body and our local advocacy efforts focus on what the IGA has the authority to do. The JCRC focuses on separation of church and state, while the voucher system attempts to more fully entangle the two.
We have many coalition partners, including religious organizations and clergy, who agree with us and who express concern about the entanglement of government with religion and religious expression. This does not mean that we oppose day-school education.
But it does mean that we believe the state is not the proper funding source for religious education, for all sorts of reasons that any entity receiving public dollars can attest.
Further, this rogue group charges that our Israel programs include “pro- Palestinian” voices to maintain balance.
This statement is utterly false and has no basis in fact. Our Israel programming does not contain Palestinian voices.
Additionally, Rosenblum implies that this rogue group sponsored the first pro-Israel resolution in the state legislature.
To the contrary: Working closely with JCRC, the IGA unanimously passed a strong pro-Israel resolution in 2003.
The JCRC has been the intergroup relations agency for the organized Jewish community of Indianapolis since 1942. Since its beginning, the governing board of JCRC has been composed of representatives from community synagogues and other Jewish organizations, and all have participated in decision- making with respect to the issues on our agenda.
We are disappointed that the Post’s typically high level of journalistic integrity failed in this instance. One phone call, e-mail or viewing of our website would have exposed these charges for the falsehoods they are.
MARCIA GOLDSTONE Indianapolis, Indiana
The writers are president and executive director, respectively, of the Indianapolis JCRC
Sir, – Before Jonathan Rosenblum submitted his gross mischaracterization of JCRC activities in Indianapolis and Philadelphia, he would have been well-served to check his facts.
Among many inaccuracies, he wrote that at a recent event focused on Israel’s Arab citizens, Philadelphia’s JCRC failed to acknowledge “that Israeli Arabs enjoy political freedoms unknown to any other Arabs in the Middle East.”
The following is an excerpt of the introductory remarks delivered that evening by Marc Zucker, immediate past chair of the JCRC.
“As Americans, we know well that maintaining equality among majority and minority populations is a difficult challenge for any society. That challenge is magnified, of course, when a state of war exists with countries sharing the same ethnic and cultural heritage as many members of one’s minority population. Increasing that challenge is that Israel’s Arab-speaking population is composed of many distinct communities, including Christian, Muslim and Druse communities, each with their own ethnic, religious and cultural identities. Nevertheless, as we all know, Israel has given full citizenship to Israeli Arabs, who serve in the Knesset, the cabinet, the Supreme Court and labor unions, receive full health care and social services, equal voting rights, freedom of religion, and are guaranteed in Israel’s founding documents to have equal rights, in stark contrast to the rights given to minorities (or even to majority populations, for that matter) in surrounding Arab countries.”
Limitations of space preclude us from including more quotes. Suffice it to say that the local Israeli consulate actively participated in the program, which was organized by the Interagency Task Force on Israeli Arab issues, a coalition of almost 100 mainstream North American Jewish organizations and whose steering committee includes the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, among others.
The event enlightened all in attendance with the important message that Israel is serious about strengthening the rights of its minority citizens because it is good for her security, good for her economy, good for Israel’s public image and simply the right thing to do. What better message can advocates for Israel hope to communicate?
Philadelphia The writers are chairman and director, respectively, of the JCRC of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
Two-way street
Sir, – Your feature article on Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and Ben Cohen (“The ‘suit,’” Interview, May 6) waxed eloquent on the subject of social responsibility and “deeply held values,” but neglected to mention that one of these “values” caused the company to cease purchasing water from Mei Eden, as this company is situated in the Golan Heights.
Since learning this fact I have made sure to never buy their ice cream. Boycotts can work in both directions!
SHARON LEVY Kiryat Motzkin
No to pessimism
Sir, – As has been my practice for a number of years, I join in local elementary school ceremonies here in Modi’in for Remembrance Day memorials.
Over 300 students and teachers gather to honor Israel’s martyrs. Children sit in rapt attention to a program filled with theatrical presentations, personalized stories, poems and letters from soldiers and their children.
This year, as “Hatikva” was sung to conclude the ceremony, I thought of Daniel Gordis’s “Challenge and responsibility on Yom Ha’atzmaut” (Guest Columnist, May 6). There, he writes, “an awareness that the Jewish state’s future is tenuous and fragile.”
Further, he states, “this possibility is plausible.”
While I might agree with most of the writer’s conclusions and evaluations surrounding Israel’s precipitous world situation, I do not share his pessimism.
The historical narrative he recounts fails to highlight the main, almost obvious, reality: We, the Jewish people, have survived 2000 years of dispersion, pogroms, inquisitions, forced conversions, wars and the Holocaust through the protection and guidance of the Almighty, Israel’s strength.
Witnessing our teachers and students blending together as they remember and rededicate themselves at this Modi’in service is a sobering and refreshing catharsis. These kids are the answer to those who fall prey to fear and defeatism, no matter how rational the logic.
Sir, – Daniel Gordis avers it is plausible that in 50 years Israel won’t exist.
But it is also plausible that Palestine won’t exist, indeed that the North Pole won’t exist.
We in Israel live on an island of sanity and freedom amid an ocean of madness and violence. We have known how to build a miraculous reality here, as Gordis states, and have learned how to defend our island home. But he is wrong to state that our future is “tenuous and fragile.” That is absolute nonsense.
If we are firm in our belief that the historic, legal and moral rights are absolutely in our possession, then with our united strength Israel may go forward despite all obstacles, with confidence that it can overcome all odds, as it has always done.
It is our foes who need to be worried, with their vast homelands engulfed in corruption and violence, their politics sunk in the abyss of extremism and lies, as the latest Hamas/Fatah “reconciliation” clearly shows to anyone with eyes in his head.
It is precisely these pathologies that have always brought defeat and tragedy to Islam, and will continue to do so.
While the support of the wide world would be welcome, we must resolve that if necessary we will persevere with stubborn determination alone. This is no new thing in our long history as a people. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Rosh Pina