December 13, 2018

Chester Synagogue to Host Rare Discussion of Jewish Organizations Response to Palestinian BDS Movement

CHESTER — Since 2005, Palestinian organizations have increasingly called for worldwide support for a movement to boycott, divest from and sanction (BDS) Israel.  Although this movement has gained some support in the United States, particularly on university campuses, it has also engendered sharp responses from American Jewish organizations – so sharp that they have consistently refused to appear on the same program as Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), an organization which supports the BDS movement, to avoid providing any air of legitimacy to JVP and the BDS discussion.

On Saturday, May 30, from 1 to 4 p.m., Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek (CBSRZ) in Chester will host representatives of two American Jewish organizations with opposing views on BDS – J Street and Jewish Voice for Peace.  In a forum titled “Can We Talk – BDS, the Jewish Response and Anti-Semitism,” the role of BDS in the Middle East peace process will be explored.

Speaking in favor of the BDS movement will be Robert Gelbach, co-chair of the New Haven chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, co-convener of the Connecticut BDS coalition, and retired professor of political science from Southern Connecticut State University.  Learn more about JVP at jewishvoiceforpeace.org.

Speaking against the BDS movement will be Shaina Wasserman, New England Regional Director for J Street, a Jewish organization which describes itself as “the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans.”  Learn more about J Street at jstreet.org.

Audience questions will be highlighted, and there will be time for audience opinions as well.

Andy Schatz, chair of the Social Action Committee of CBSRZ, which is sponsoring the forum, stressed the significance of this discussion not only because of what it may clarify about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also for what it says about the Jewish community in the U.S.  “We think it is critical for Jewish communities and organizations to discuss openly these tough and uncomfortable issues to reach better solutions, and we are grateful for J Street for being willing to discuss the issue directly with JVP, which the other organizations we invited continued to refuse.”

He continues, “This discussion is another in the CBSRZ’ series of forums ‘celebrating diversity,’ as we think diversity of opinion within the American Jewish community is critical not only to reach those better solutions but to make clear American Jews are not some monolithic body but millions of people with oft-divergent views on issues large and small.”

Schatz noted that some of the topics likely to be discussed include:

  • Is boycott, divestment or sanction ever appropriate against democratic countries, and is any different standard appropriate as to Israel?
  • Can the BDS movement play a legitimate or positive role in the peace process in the Middle East?
  • Is the BDS movement inconsistent with support for Israel, a Jewish state, or a two-state solution?
  • Are boycotts, divestments or sanctions, which impact people and not just governments, inconsistent with religious values?
  • Is anti-Semitism increased by the BDS movement and/or by the refusal of most Jewish organizations to address it?
  • What should be the role of the American Jewish community and organizations in the debate over Israel’s future?

CBSRZ is located at 55 East Kings Highway in Chester.  There is no charge for this event, but to ensure adequate seating, register by sending an email to the CBSRZ office (bethshalom@snet.net) or calling 860-526-8920.   Light refreshments will be provided.

Share