by David Lentz
On October 16, the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central New Jersey (CRC), together with American Jewish Committee/NJ, sponsored the Step Up For Israel Advocacy Summit.
Over 350 people attended the program, where they heard from Senator Robert Menendez and experts from political and media advocacy organizations. A third of the group stayed all day to participate in Israel advocacy workshops. At 3:30 p.m., when the program was slated to adjourn, people did not want to leave. They were hungry for more information and time with the experts.
We in the CRC plan to satisfy that hunger. Throughout the year, the CRC will bring education, information, and training resources to the MetroWest and Central New Jersey Jewish community so we can all learn — and put into practice — advocacy on behalf of Israel.
Just as important, we need you to stand up and be counted. We need you to take action quickly as situations arise. This effort is taking place under the Step Up For Israel banner, which was launched this fall by CRC, Jerusalem Online University, and Hasbara Fellowships. We in MetroWest are lucky to be situated in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area where we have access to excellent resources and opportunities.
It is, however, imperative that we take advantage of these opportunities. We worry about the anti-Israel efforts that make inroads into our community (in public discourse, on the internet and, occasionally, through efforts to boycott Israeli goods and products). So often our community members identify with Israel or feel an affinity with the Jewish State but they don’t know how to respond to the most extreme and malicious charges. Is Israel is an apartheid state? Does it violate human rights?
Internationally, Israel's detractors are obviously intensifying their efforts to de-legitimize and isolate Israel to weaken it from the outside.
It falls to activists such as ourselves to ensure Israel advocacy is front and center in our community. We must continue to guarantee that the Jewish community arms itself with the facts to confront falsehoods, with the truth to fight the lies that are spread about us.
It is important that we care enough to make certain our elected officials express support for Israel specifically as a Jewish state, and that we thank them for doing so. President Obama gave one of the strongest speeches ever in support of Israel at the UN. We should recognize and appreciate this demonstration of solidarity, especially when it was directly followed by Abbas' accusations against Israel of ethnic cleansing and other human rights abuses. More disturbing, the Palestinian narrative now denies any Jewish history, connection, or attachment to the land of Israel and Jerusalem.
We must take the media to task when they barely pay attention to the plight of Gilad Shalit, focusing more on the Palestinian prisoners and inferring that they have endured human rights violations. There is not a moral equivalent in this story.
We must sign the petitions when called upon to do so. The Jewish community organized a petition against the Palestinian Unilateral Declaration of Independence; 100,000 signatures were collected nationwide. In MetroWest the petition was signed by almost 3,000 people. This is a record number for our community and we thank all that participated. But there are more than 90,000 Jewish individuals in MetroWest. How can we reach them? How can we motivate them to speak up for Israel?
What can you and I do? We can:
- Participate in the Step Up For Israel Film Course taking place in your synagogue and encourage others to attend as well. Support the Israel advocacy efforts of your community members.
- Visit www.CampaignForTruth.info, a website produced by the CRC to help you to counter misinformation and false accusations against Israel.
- Sign petitions, actions alerts, and take action when requested by the CRC. Everyone’s voice counts.
- Participate and stay updated on the work of the CRC.
David Lentz is chair of the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central New Jersey