Countering BDS on Many Fronts

This summer, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church (UMC), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will hold their national conferences. Anti-Israel and pro-BDS resolutions will likely be debated at each. Already the pension arm of the Methodist Church on Tuesday, January 12, 2016, placed an Israeli military electronics company and five Israeli banks on its list of companies in which it will no longer invest, selling its small stakes in each of them. This is the second time that the UMC has embraced BDS measures, despite a 2:1 rejection of divestment at the church’s last two quadrennial General Conferences. The issue has been covered by The New York Times, the Associated Press, and Haaretz.

This month, three academic associations are holding meetings in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be the topic of conversation, including the American Historical Association, the Modern Language Association, and the American Library Association. And on college campuses around the country many Jewish undergraduate students feel unsafe when they voice their support for Israel given the growing anti-Israel advocacy on campuses. There was an anti-Israel rally at Montclair State University this fall.

The CRC is working on the following fronts to ensure that our students, rabbis, and community influentials are prepared with the most up-to-date information and strategies to counter BDS. 

  • Anti-BDS Legislation — On January 11 Governor Christie endorsed joint resolutions SJR81/AJR122 condemning boycotts of the State of Israel, officially making them public laws of New Jersey.  Our CRC joined the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations to play a leading role in advocating for this measure.
  • Talk Israel Retreat for Jewish College Students in NJ – On February 5–7, the CRC is sponsoring the 5th Shabbat Retreat for college students attending approximately eight colleges in our catchment area and including Rutgers Hillel members. The agenda provides students with the opportunity to learn about Israel and some of the major issues facing it today, as well as learning effective strategies and messaging to counter anti-Israel sentiment on campus in order to feel confident enough to engage in debate and lead pro-Israel programs. The agenda also includes sessions on: Israel as an Innovation Nation, Israel and Humanitarian Aid, Israel’s Thriving Culture, Religious Diversity of Israeli Society, A Blossoming Negev, and a session on how efforts towards co-existence are working in both Israel and New Jersey. The Retreat is made possible by the generous funding of the Cooperman Fund for a Jewish Future. 
  • Interfaith Partners for Peace – To expand the base of support for Israel’s right to exist, the CRC is sponsoring an interfaith effort to build a network of those who support a two-state solution and oppose demonization and delegitimization. According to statistics, a majority of clergy in the United States agrees with this approach but remains quiet. The CRC is convening rabbis to provide interfaith study guides, resources, and other tools for clergy, and to create a network focused on building peace, and on understanding the complexity of the situation and the need to counter the polarizing narrative that has dominated public discourse on Israel.
  • Write On For Israel – a Two-Year Israel Advocacy Program for Teens – For the past five years the CRC has made it possible, thanks to the generous donors that support this project, for ten local high school juniors to become Write On For Israel (WOFI) fellows and learn Israel advocacy in an intensive program with 40 other students from the tri-state area. The WOFI program is run by The Jewish Week New York. To date we have sponsored 50 students from Greater MetroWest to participate in this project, and they become the trained boots on the ground when they get to college. The WOFI seniors (in their second year of the program) will leave on their Israel mission on February 13. Look for their blogs on our home page.

The CRC will continue to stay vigilant in its efforts to educate and mobilize the community to deter and counter BDS efforts. We aim to remain a big tent and open table to those in our community who care about Israel and want to work together to find common ground and reject polarization. We hope you will join us. Click here to learn how you can get involved.

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