Duke Mural Commemorating Pittsburgh Victims Defaced with Swastika

A mural painted by Duke students and faculty commemorating the victims of the shooting in Pittsburgh was defaced yesterday with a swastika. 

Duke University student Max Cherman tells Voice4Israel, “This is extremely disturbing. Duke students are writing President Price in response. There is a large group of Jewish students that are very concerned and looking to work with the administration to increase the security presence at Freeman and Chabad. I think it’s crucial to mention that anti-Semitism feeds off itself, whether we consider it to be ‘far left’ or ‘far right.’ Every anti-Semitic action has a domino effect, and no specific political persuasion changes that.”

The Duke Chronicle reports, “Duke will maintain extra security at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life and other areas of campus, and he said that a security camera would be installed at the East Campus bridge.”

Duke President Vincent Price wrote, 

“Dear Colleagues,

I write you this morning with a deep sense of frustration and sorrow: last night, a tribute on the East Campus Bridge to the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre was defaced by a large, red swastika. That such a craven and cowardly act of vandalism – a desecration of a memorial to individuals who were killed because they were Jewish and practicing their faith – should happen anywhere is extremely distressing. That it should occur in such a visible, public location at Duke should be a matter of grave concern to us all.

To our Jewish students, faculty, staff and neighbors – and indeed every member of our university community – I pledge that Duke will do whatever we can to protect your safety. As an immediate response, we will continue to provide additional security at the Freeman Center for Jewish Life and other locations on campus. In addition, we will be installing security cameras in the vicinity of the East Campus Bridge, which has unfortunately become a focus of attention for those who seek to promote hatred and intimidation.

This poison of hate is not confined to Duke. It is part of a national, even global, trend that has seen hate crimes in general, and anti-Semitism in particular, increase dramatically in the past year. And since this incident follows others on campus and in Durham, we have an urgent obligation to confront anti-Semitism and other forms of hate on campus and in Durham. For that reason, I will be convening a meeting of leaders from Duke, the local Jewish community and public officials to review this matter and advise us on the actions we can take to confront the scourge of anti-Semitism through education and activism.

Duke alone cannot solve this problem, of course. But I commit that Duke will lead, and that we will not waver in our support for those of many faiths, backgrounds, races, sexual orientations and creeds, especially in these deeply trying and troubling times.

Vincent E. Price
President”

Supporting the HRC Report in Durham

Voice4Israel and the Jewish Federation of Durham-Chapel Hill jointly sent this letter today, on behalf of the mainstream Jewish community, to the Durham Human Relations Commission. 

The Case for Supporting the Report of the HRC Subcommittee on the April 16 Council Statement

Dear Members of the Human Relations Commission,

As we have noted with appreciation, the HRC draft report was written with great care and clearly based on research, evidence, and listening to many people on all sides of this issue. Its preparation is admirable. We wish the Durham City Council had applied such great care and sensitivity in their April 16 statement. If the Council had, we would have never needed to bring this issue to the HRC. The HRC subcommittee is a wonderful role model for how the City Council should strive to seek out and listen to all voices.

It bears emphasis that we stated our primary concern from the beginning: “The City Council reached a hasty decision that made the mainstream Jewish Community feel marginalized and unjustly singled out.” We believe they profoundly misunderstand what the modern State of Israel means to Judaism as much of the American Jewish community understands it and we invite City Council members to increase their outreach to Jewish institutions and local community members to foster meaningful relationships and restore trust between the Jewish community and the city of Durham.

To be “marginalized” means having the community despise what we love, based on lies. We embrace justified criticism of Israel, but big lies are intolerable. There is nothing that has happened in Durham or any other city that can be traced to exchange programs. The advocates of leaving the name of Israel in the document chose to exploit the very legitimate effort of the Council to write a policy regarding policing. They asked the Council to add their campaign against Israel to the drafting. Their plan had been formulated and implemented in a national anti-Israel group. Their assertion that the subcommittee draft that includes removal of the name, Israel, from the Statement supports an unjustified and hurtful claim.

On the other hand, to leave the name in does nothing whatsoever to the policy to improve policing.

The assertion we heard Tuesday night that they are insulted by our request to remove the Council’s insult to us is most unusual. For us to object to an insult and ask that it be removed is quite different and cannot be insulting. Put more directly, there is no inherent right for anyone, especially a Government to insult, especially if it adds nothing of value and based on a big lie.

We will try to outline some key issues that arose in the discussion Tuesday night.

Those of you who were at the previous meeting, when the petitioners also discussed this issue in great detail will remember a set of influential speakers from the same group who gave the same talks. While there were new individuals who spoke Tuesday night, their ethnic group leaders had already given virtually the same talks.

We heard from them that Israel must receive a public rebuke based on their memories from another land. They and others have been saying so consistently for decades. Using gross lies (see attachment 1) to link the troubles in the Middle East to those here in the US was the basis of the national organizations that put together the plan executed first in Durham. There is no truth to their accusations of a causal relationship between police training in Israel and oppression of minorities in the US.

As we said in our first presentation: “The petition put forth from the Jewish Voice for Peace and other Israel-demonizing groups, which initiated the process in Durham is part of this hurtful process and is a painful echo of the ancient “blood libel” *. The petition includes the following: “The Israeli Defense Forces and the Israel Police have a long history of violence and harm against Palestinian people and Jews of Color.” This accusation is a classic case of using the Big Lie Technique: tell a big lie, repeat it often, until people start believing it is true. It added another big lie: “These tactics further militarize U.S. police forces that train in Israel, and this training helps the police terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the US.” There is no causal relationship between police training in Israel and oppression of minorities in the US. Charles H. Ramsey, Commissioner (retired) of the Philadelphia Police and past co-chair of President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, explained “allegations that exchange programs with Israel are racist… nothing could be further from the truth… simply not true.”

We realize the deeply felt pain of those who suggest that Israel is evil, but that is irrelevant to the affairs of the City of Durham because not even the most avid Council supporter of including the name of Israel on the Statement could find any causal relationship claimed by them. It is valid to criticize Israel when the criticism is based on verifiable facts. However, when it is based on lies, it is illegitimate and harmful. It is not the job of the City Council to issue statements about foreign government actions that have no relation to our city, particularly when unfounded. We too object to adversity caused in Israel/Palestine by both sides, but we did not petition the Council to delegitimize the Palestinians.

According to its website, the Human Relations Commission provides open channels of useful communications among the various racial, religious, ethnic and economic groups in Durham and between those groups and the City Council so that misunderstandings and wide differences leading to conflict may be ameliorated. We ask that the Human Relations Commission formally conclude that this governmental decree was discriminatory and to call upon the City Council to take necessary corrective action.

As the sub-committee draft so carefully explains, there is no need to mention Israel in the April 16 statement. The purpose and vision of the statement initially named “the Israel Resolution” by Mayor Schewel, was to communicate the council’s vision for improving community relations between police and residents. As Councilperson Mark-Anthony Middleton has repeatedly and publicly said, Israel has nothing to do with this. The reason one has to believe that the Council agreed to include Israel in the Statement arose from the inflammatory petition Council members had received, an information sheet filled with outrageous lies and is attached above.

The Statement needs to be changed because it supports and legitimizes a deliberately concocted Petition which presents falsehoods as facts and attributes causal relationship when there is none. It criticizes “militaristic” training and then blames Israel for a non-existent pattern. These inclusions make the statement deeply offensive to rabbis, secular Jewish leaders, hundreds of others, and any fair-minded person, primarily because none of the allegations is true.

Even the claim, which has been repeated to the Commission twice, that no other country shares in police exchanges with other countries is false as seen here where England, Hungary, Canada, Brazil, Austria and Egypt are named; and reported here.

The question of the exact definition of the term “anti-Semitism is not relevant because all parties have agreed that the Council did not intend to write an anti-Semitic Document. We contend that unwarranted Anti-Israel Government sponsored action can and has led to Anti-Semitism by others. This history appears to be an unintended consequence. It is the responsibility of the Council to correct that.

In the words of Bishop Godbee: “When any population of our city is radically adversely affected by the words of its leaders, it is incumbent on the leaders to retract and apologize and not double down on their actions. For the leaders of our city to vilify a proposed program and demonize the people supporting it, based on empirical evidence, is an egregious use of power. To make such a claim is unacceptable for any reasonable human being. The leadership should be measured by its ability to serve all in the city. He ended by saying:” we have a wonderful opportunity here, which is to heal the great hurts in the city.

The request to reopen the Sub-Committee meetings to hear more from those individuals who spoke Tuesday night is an exemplification of the same pattern of provocation these individuals and groups have been using. They will repeat the same claims, lies, and distorted facts you have heard. They claim they have had bad experiences both here and there. That was the same messaging by their friends, heard at the last meeting. If you are going to resume the Sub-Committee hearings, we repeat a request we have made several times to both the Council and the Commission: please also take testimony from Police Chiefs Davis and Ramsey (and many others who participated in such exchanges) in order to hear a clear first-person account of what actually happens in the police exchanges in Israel.

Finally, we have included for convenience (second attachment) our last prepared document. Please read carefully.

Sincerely and gratefully,

On Behalf of the vast majority of Jewish Members in the area affected by the Statement

Robert Gutman, Co-Chair of the Voice for Israel

Jill Madsen, CEO of the Durham Chapel Jewish Federation

Michael Ross, Chair of the Voice for Israel

Larry Rocamora, President of the Durham Chapel Jewish Federation

 

*The phrase “blood libel” refers to the ancient lie that Christian children were killed to use their blood in the making of Matzah.

Standing with Jewish Brothers and Sisters

Voice4Israel, Bishop Ronald Godbee

Voice4Israel is proud and honored to share with you this letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) by our ally, friend, and mentor, Bishop Ronald L. Godbee.

Bishop Godbee, author of Why Leaders Fail, serves as the lead pastor of the River church in Durham, North Carolina. Read Bishop Godbee’s full bio here

Nov 14, 2018

Human Relations commission
807 E. Main Street
Durham NC 27701
Attention: Diane Standaert

Human Relations Commission,

"I’m writing you in regards to the discriminatory statement released by the Durham City Council involving Israel…As an African American leader who has suffered the injury of prejudice and bias I would be negligent not to stand with my Jewish brothers and sisters in this very unfortunate incident. I thank you in advance for your time and consideration in this matter."

Bishop Ronald L. Godbee

I pray that this communication finds you well. I’m writing you in regards to the discriminatory statement released by the Durham City Council involving Israel. I am the lead Pastor of The River Church, Durham NC and I speak on behalf of myself and my congregation. As a leader in the City of Durham I was profoundly impacted by the blatant disregard for the Councils responsibility to represent all the citizens of Durham and to articulate a position that reflected its heart for all those who make up our wonderful city. To cast the Jewish in such a disparaging light is a reckless and egregious use of power.

I’m clear as a leader that certain decisions have to be made, and when made, they may seem to favor one side over the other. The issue here is not who’s being favored, but it is who’s being injured. When the injury exceeds the favor it is incumbent upon the City Council to rethink its approach and to reword this injurious document. The intent of the council is greatly overshadowed by the outcome. When an entire community on your watch as a leader is exclaiming its disapproval and concern, I would think that a responsible, conscientious leader would immediately suggest the wording be altered and not double down to demand the language of the document remain as is.

The naming of Israel as a causal link to police violence against brown communities is not only irresponsible but it exudes a prejudice that for anyone reading this language from a minority group is cause for pause and great concern for the direction this City Council is taking our beloved city. This document and its intent can clearly stand alone and convey its sentiment without the naming of Israel. Please secure the integrity of this city and the melting pot that we hope it to be, by asking the City Council to remove the name of Israel from this document. As an African American leader who has suffered the injury of prejudice and bias I would be negligent not to stand with my Jewish brothers and sisters in this very unfortunate incident. I thank you in advance for your time and consideration in this matter.

Serving into greatness,
Bishop Ronald L. Godbee Sr.
Lead Pastor of The River Church
www.theriverdurham.com

HRC Recommends Durham Removes Israel from Divisive Statement

In response to a complaint jointly filed by the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Federation and Voice4Israel, Durham’s Human Relations Commission (HRC) plans on proposing at their monthly meeting tonight that the Durham City Council rewrite their divisive April 16, 2018 statement by removing the singling out of Israel. 

The HRC recommends revisions to the April 16 statement that are far better written and omits Israel’s name.

Voice4Israel is deeply appreciative of the HRC’s research, outreach, efforts, thoughtfulness, and time spent to bring clarity to this vital issue.  

Voice4Israel is deeply appreciative of the HRC’s research, outreach, efforts, thoughtfulness, and time spent to bring clarity to this vital issue.

In their draft report, the HRC writes, “Because of the process by which the statement was passed and the fact that the statement could have been written more clearly in some parts, we believe the statement contributed to tension in our community. We also believe there are steps that can be taken to address this…The City Council should revise the language in the April 16th language [statement] to provide clarity based on the concerns and findings outlined here…”

The HRC plans to vote on this proposal at their December 4 meeting.

Voice4Israel will be following this issue closely and bringing you more news and analysis in the coming days and weeks.

Show Your Support

We urge you to consider writing the HRC, to their Chair Diane Standaert, using her email: diane1009@gmail.com.

Your email to Ms. Standaert should be brief and complimentary, expressing appreciation to the subcommittee for their intense study and care. Urge all the HRC commissioners to support the draft. Avoid all mention of the anti-Israel activists who petitioned the HRC and City Council. You may be tempted to argue relatively small parts of the HRC’s report, but that will not help and may hinder our getting a vote of approval. If you live in Durham it is meaningful, so be sure to include that in your letter.

We at Voice4Israel are grateful for your support and patience in this meaningful effort.

Thank You for Your Service and Happy Veterans Day

Joel Freelander, Veterans Day, Voice4Israel

Voice4Israel thanks our brave veterans for all they have done to protect the United States and world. Today we feature and honor veteran Joel Freelander of Chapel Hill. Joel is known for his generosity, volunteer work and love of family, Judaism, the United States, Israel, and much more.

"Not all military bases have rabbis. In my later years I became a Jewish Lay leader, filling in for the lack of a rabbi. This was a great experience as I worked with numerous leaders of many other religions and learned how to understand some of the differences that we all have."

Joel Freelander

Mr. Freelander, thank you for your service. Please share with us when and where you served.

I served in the United States Air Force from March of 1953 until February of 1975. I served in numerous locations in the United States, as well as in Alaska, Okinawa,Thailand, Viet Nam, The Philippines, and numerous other locations world wide on temporary duty.

What makes you proud about your service and the United States military?

My father and his family came from Russia to Lithuania, and here to the USA. My father’s younger brother served in WWII, and my father constantly told me about his family’s travels coming here, and what a wonderful country we had and how lucky we were with all of the opportunity and freedoms that we have here.

Tell us about your volunteer work now with the military.

My volunteer work has been with the United Service Organizeations (USO) and the Marines. That has been very rewarding to me as these young people in many ways have never been away from home. Through the USO we offer them emotional support and show them a warm face and positive ideas as to what they may see in the future.

Joel Freelander, Voice4Israel, Veterans Day
Joel Freelander with great grandson, Jack Aaron Arnold, and daughter Lt. col Martha F. Maddox

When active members of the military land back in the United States, what are some of the things they miss and they tell you? 

They have missed their families and loved ones, the meals and food here, and they miss their friends and the ability to either get an education or pursue their profession. Their overall comments are, “There is no place like the good old USA.”

What is something about serving in the military that some people may not know?

 

Many people do not really understand an 18 or 19 year old being on their own for the first time. Being away from family and friends AND starting all over – learning how to make their money last, how to try to save some of it – the responsibilities of so much that is theirs so quickly – how to make decisions, to prioritize, and also about going further with their education. Life is thrown at them quickly before they really understand what is happening.

What was your experience like being Jewish in the military?

Being a jewish person in the military is a rare breed. Not all military bases have rabbis. In my later years I became a Jewish Lay leader, filling in for the lack of a rabbi. This was a great experience as I worked with numerous leaders of many other religions and learned how to understand some of the differences that we all have.

You recently donated an American Flag to your synagogue. Why is that important to you?

I was delighted to donate an American Flag to my place of worship. I am a very proud American and a very proud Jewish man. The American and Israeli flags to me, should be a part of every religious house of worship. The reasons are simple. To show a positive strength and a faithfulness to the USA, and to Israel, for we have been able to have so many opportunities to benefit not only ourselves, but our families and so many other people all over the world. We should be very proud of being citizens of the United States of America, and of being Jewish, and again helping people and countries all over this world.

You are a proud supporter of the United States and of Israel. Why is Israel important to you?

I am also a firm believer in what has been accomplished by this country as well as Israel to help the entire world. My firm belief is that no country is perfect – no person is either. Yet I look back as a young person growing up, and watching how many people and countries that have been helped by us and Israel in so many ways. How many people know that the tiny country of Israel has helped to save our planet by at least 65 different ways. and that Israel and it’s people have invented over 45 of the greatest inventions of all time. These are facts! Look at the number of immigrants that have come here and made this country great. We have opened our doors to so many. Israel has made more contributions to this planet and people without ever asking for anything in return. Look at how the Israeli doctors and nurses have gone all over the world to help people in distress, including many of the countries that have fought against Israel. This is one of the greatest countries on Earth while being one of the smallest democracies. The world needs to praise and thank her many times over.

Connecticut is Not Israel: Mayor Schewel’s Allegation Rejected by Chief Lopez

Background

On April 16, the Durham City Council passed a foreign policy statement making Durham the first city in the United States to boycott police trainings specifically with Israel – the only Jewish majority country on the planet. Voice4Israel has learned through public record requests that Mayor Steve Schewel and Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson referred to the statement as the Israel Resolution.” 

Mayor Schewel Blames Retired Police Chief Lopez 

Speaking at Judea Reform on October 4, Durham’s Mayor Steve Schewel repeatedly alleged that the Israel Resolution he wrote focused on Israel because retired Chief of Police Jose Lopez received militarized training in Israel. Mayor Schewel was echoing allegations made by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) – an organization that promotes boycotting Israel and an organization that Mayor Schewel has financially supported. 

Durham Police Clarification 

On October 10, Durham’s Deputy Chief A.R. Marsh, Sr. set the record straight. In his memo (see right), Marsh wrote that Chief Lopez had “no interaction with the [Israeli] military or training on military tactics, equipment, etc.” The Deputy Chief went on to explain that in response to civil disturbances, the Durham police have employed “best practices” from the United States. 

Police Memo
(October 10, 2018)

Chief Lopez Received No Military Training from Israel

“…As it pertains to Chief Lopez’s (Ret.) training trip to Israel, no one else from our police department accompanied him. There were no policy or tactical changes resulting from Chief Lopez’s visit to Israel. The scope of his training was on leadership in response to terrorist incidents and mass casualty events. There was no interaction with the military or training on military tactics, equipment, etc. I confirmed this with Chief Lopez via telephone.

With respect to the multiple civil disturbances that we have dealt with in our City, I have been in the command post for most of them, and all measures taken by law enforcement have been in response to the behavior of the crowd at that given point in time. The tactics employed were the best practices at that time here in the United States…”

A. R. Marsh, Sr. 
Deputy Chief 
Investigations and Administrative Service
Police Department, City of Durham

Voice4Israel Speaks with Chief Jose Lopez, Sr.

Retired Chief Jose Lopez Sr. spoke with several board members of Voice4Israel. Lopez explained that in 2008 he attended a law enforcement seminar in Israel run by the highly respected Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for commanders on “mass casualty incidents involving bombings.” Lopez stated that he received no military training in Israel and that the only military training he has ever received was through the United States Air Force. 

Rejecting the Mayor’s Allegation: Connecticut is Not Israel 

Responding to Mayor Schewel’s allegation, Chief Lopez stated, “To say I had military training [with Israel] is with the full knowledge I did not.” When asked if Mayor Schewel had contacted him about the Israel Resolution, Lopez stated, “The Mayor has my phone number. He has not once reached out and called me.” Lopez added, “I have never sent out my staff to do any military training.” Lopez explained that no member of his force trained in Israel and that some Durham police officers have military training from their time in the United States military.  

Lopez explained that when he was Chief of Police and responding to what he called out of town anarchists, tactics used by the Durham police were learned in Connecticut at a mobile field force on riot control and not in Israel. Lopez added that these tactics were best practice in the United States at the time.  

"The Mayor has my phone number. He has not once reached out and called me.”

Retired Chief Jose Lopez, Sr.

Opposing White Supremacy

Retired Chief Lopez spoke with pride when sharing that the ADL focuses on anti-black and anti-Hispanic white supremacy which he said is a serious issue in North Carolina.
 

Police Memo: Chief Lopez Received No Military Training from Israel

Durham’s Mayor Steve Schewel recently alleged that Retired Chief Jose Lopez, Sr. received military training in Israel.

Leadership of Voice4Israel contacted the Durham Police Department for clarification about the relevant Seminar that Retired Chief Jose Lopez, Sr. attended in Israel in 2008.

The memo below, dated October 10, 2018, is the answer provided to us by Durham Deputy Chief A. R. Marsh, Sr. In no way does it support allegations that Retired Chief Lopez received military training in Israel.

For background, read “The Israel Resolution” and Rabbis call Durham City Council statement citing Israel a ‘punch in the gut.’

Police Memo
Chief Lopez Received No Military Training from Israel
October 10, 2018

Good morning Mr. Gutman.

I am writing to provide a brief response to the inquiry you submitted to Sergeant Ligo; I have included your original inquiry at the end of this email.

As it pertains to Chief Lopez’s (Ret.) training trip to Israel, no one else from our police department accompanied him. There were no policy or tactical changes resulting from Chief Lopez’s visit to Israel. The scope of his training was on leadership in response to terrorist incidents and mass casualty events. There was no interaction with the military or training on military tactics, equipment, etc. I confirmed this with Chief Lopez via telephone.

With respect to the multiple civil disturbances that we have dealt with in our City, I have been in the command post for most of them, and all measures taken by law enforcement have been in response to the behavior of the crowd at that given point in time. The tactics employed were the best practices at that time here in the United States.

I hope that this has answered your questions satisfactorily.

Best regards,

A. R. Marsh, Sr.
Deputy Chief
Investigations and Administrative Services
Police Department, City of Durham
505 West Chapel Hill Street
Durham, North Carolina 27701

Reform Jews Ask Durham’s Mayor Steve Schewel to Remove Israel from the “Israel Resolution”

by Peter Reitzes and Ethan Hertz

Both authors are speaking on their own behalf and not on the behalf of any organization.

Mayor Schewel Speaks at Judea Reform

On October 4, Mayor Steve Schewel spoke at a 7:00PM members-only event at Judea Reform to answer questions about the Durham City Council’s “Israel Resolution” which made Durham the first city in the United States to specifically boycott police trainings with Israel.

Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson and City Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton arrived before the mayor and sat in the first row of the congregation. A congregation member heard a brief discussion at about 6:55PM asking whether the Mayor had decided not to come. A few congregation members mentioned that they did not see either Middleton or Johnson interact with the Mayor beyond saying a quick hello. Middleton and Johnson did not offer to take any questions, were not asked any questions, and did not say anything to the congregation.

About 60 Judea Reform members attended this intimate event. Several non-members (about 2-3 young adults) were permitted to attend but could not ask questions. One was 15 years old and someone one of the authors of this account happen to know. Two commissioners from Durham’s Human Relations Commission (HRC) also attended. They did not identify themselves at the meeting and did not take or answer any questions.

We did not record the event and do not have a recording of the event, so everything we write here comes from memory. This column was fact checked before publication by several Judea Reform members who were in attendance.

Mayor Schewel spoke for about ten minutes and then took questions. The event was planned to take place from 7:00-8:30PM. There were so many questions that the mayor allowed the meeting to be extended to about 9:10PM. It was clear that more people would have asked questions or asked a second question if the event were even longer.

Mayor Schewel Alleges that Former Chief Lopez, Sr. Received Military Training in Israel 

In his introductory remarks, Mayor Schewel said that the reason the Israel Resolution focused on Israel was because former Chief Jose Lopez received militarized training in Israel. He repeated Lopez’s name two or three times. Schewel did not mention the current Chief of Police Cerelyn “C.J.” Davis in his introduction. Mayor Schewel addressed the question of revisiting the resolution in his introductory remarks. He explained that the April 16 statement was a decided issue, and that revisiting the April 16 statement would just start the whole process over again with angry people on both sides of the issue confronting him and the other council members, and that his opinion would not change. Several people who attended noted that the vast majority of members in the room were extremely disappointed in that answer.

About 95% of the questions could be fairly characterized as critical of the mayor and council for singling out Israel and for embarking upon foreign policy with Israel. Two of the questioners were sympathetic to the mayor, but did not attempt to defend the April 16 Israel Resolution when speaking. Instead, for example, one of the questioners stated being sorry for public record requests made to Durham on this issue.

After the mayor spoke for about ten minutes, congregation members were instructed to form two lines to ask questions from two microphones which were controlled by moderators. Congregation members were allowed one minute to ask their questions – some took longer and needed reminders to finish their statement and question. Approximately 15-20 critical questions were asked of the mayor before a single person asked a supportive question. Many in the congregation were clearly upset with Mayor Schewel and the Council for targeting Israel.

Mayor Schewel Repeatedly Asked to Remove Israel from Statement 

Mayor Schewel was repeatedly asked to have the Durham City Council revisit the “Israel Resolution” and to remove all mention of Israel from the statement. Some congregation members pleaded with the mayor to do so and shared how much pain he had caused them and the Jewish community. Mayor Schewel was reminded by a former Judea Reform board member that 11 local rabbis called the actions of the Durham City Council a “punch in the gut” to the mainstream Jewish community. Mayor Schewel repeatedly said that he and the Durham City Council would not revisit the issue even though he readily admitted that mistakes were made.

Mayor Schewel was asked over and over again to explain why he would not revisit the issue at the Council level. He kept repeating that he had already answered the question earlier and would not answer it again. The mayor said something like “asked and answered” which visibility frustrated many congregation members with some yelling out things like “No you didn’t.” Finally, after being repeatedly asked or “repeatedly badgered” to answer (as one member put it), Mayor Schewel did give a curt answer saying that revisiting the statement was not going to happen.

Mayor Schewel Asked to Focus on Domestic Issues, Not Foreign Policy

A new member of the congregation politely said to the mayor that if this were any other minority group – the Council would have listened and paused the process. The member stated that it is only the Jewish minority in Durham that gets ignored in such a way. We saw and heard many congregation members nodding and speaking up in agreement to this point.

One member of the congregation, who was a former member of another local municipality’s governing council, asked Mayor Schewel why he was focusing on foreign policy. This member explained that when he was on a local governing council he had faced similar issues, but chose to stay away from foreign policy issues. They felt that was not why they were elected. They were elected to get municipal services to their constituents and not to focus on foreign policy.

Mayor Schewel started sharing his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the peace process. The congregation was clearly upset by this with one member asking why the mayor was lecturing on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A member asked why the mayor and council were focusing on Israel and not countries like North Korea or China.

During questions and answers, Mayor Schewel alleged that the training Chief Davis received in Israel was very different than the training Chief Lopez received in Israel. 

Two congregations members from immigrant families both spoke about members of their families and friends who are Arab and Muslim. Both repeatedly emphasized that for the most part, they saw excellent relations between Israelis, Jews, Palestinians and Muslims, and that they felt that actions like the City Council’s created a rift between those communities, rather than helping resolve problems. These two separate speakers, one being college age, rather captivated the congregation with their heartfelt personal stories and pleas to the mayor to remove Israel from the statement.

Mayor Schewel Blames Voice4Israel

Towards the end, Mayor Schewel complained about public record requests made by Voice4Israel. Mayor Schewel repeatedly focused on Voice4Israel. For example, Schewel called Voice4Israel a group of “internet trolls” and said that he felt his wife might be unsafe because she was one of many people included in a public records request. Mayor Schewel repeatedly blamed Voice4Israel for creating the entire situation. Mayor Schewel said that the April 16 Israel Resolution/Statement was not the problem. In his view, the problem was Voice4Israel. Judea Reform members ignored these comments by the mayor on public records and Voice4Israel and returned to asking the mayor to please remove Israel from the Israel Resolution.

The mayor repeatedly called on the Jewish community to hold forums to discuss the Israel-Palestinian conflict. About two members said this was important while the majority of speakers were focused on asking the mayor to remove Israel from the statement. Members were visibly annoyed when the mayor kept returning to the topic of forums on Israel.

One member pressed the mayor on why he ignored Police Chief Davis’ full memo related to this topic and chose instead to use a single sentence out of context from Davis’ memo.

The first author thanked Mayor Schewel and the council for attending and asked Schewel why he opposes the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel (as he stated in his intro), yet donates to Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) – an organization that supports BDS. The mayor was also asked why he didn’t disclose that he was a donor to JVP. Mayor Schewel said he had donated to JVP one time and disclosed this donation to a few people. Schewel said this donation occurred about five years ago. Mayor Schewel did not mention that CauseVox, a fundraising website, reports that around 2017 Schewel donated to JVP. Schewel shared that he also has donated to J Street and the New Israel Fund. While the first author had many follow up questions, he did not ask them, said “thank you,” and returned to his seat.

Sorry, Not Sorry.

A congregation member said right after the event that she never felt satisfied by the mayor’s answers to the question of why you won’t revisit the April 16 statement. The member said, “It felt like the mayor was essentially saying ‘Sorry, not sorry.’” It was clear that many congregation members were unhappy with the mayor. One congregation member even said to to the mayor that this entire situation is not “kosher.”

Marginalizing the Jewish Minority in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools

Voice4Israel, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools Yahoo / Sent

The letter below was sent today. 

Dear Dr. Baldwin and CHCCS Board,

Both of my children attend McDougle Elementary. We absolutely love McDougle and deeply respect the teachers and staff. They take very good care of our children which we are thankful for every day.

I am writing now to share with you how disappointed and hurt we are that you scheduled an inclement weather make-up day on September 19. 

September 19 was Yom Kippur – the holiest day on our Jewish calendar.

It is a day that my family spent in synagogue. To summarize the day, we atone for mistakes, remember loved ones who have passed, and prepare for a productive year.

The night before on September 18th, my son was extremely anxious about missing school the next day because his class was scheduled to take the BOG (Beginning of Grade) test. He repeatedly expressed his concerns that he would be missing something important at school even though we shared that observing Yom Kippur is also important and that there would be a make up test day.

On the 19th, upon leaving synagogue, I attempted to speak with my children about the service and significance of the holiday and my son immediately expressed worry that he missed the BOG. At a time we should have been discussing the messages heard at shul, my son was worried about missing a test at school.

I ask you to consider, would the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools ever schedule the BOGs on Easter or Christmas? Would it be okay if students spent Christmas or Easter worrying about missing school and missing a test?

What message does it send to the community when on the day of “the big test,” most of the Jewish students and teachers are not in school? Scheduling school and the BOGs on Yom Kippur marginalized the Jewish minority in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools and put Jewish families and staff in the position of choosing between their faith and their school.

Scheduling school and the BOGs on Yom Kippur is not consistent with the CHCCS Equity Vision and Value Statements and negatively impacted my family’s religious observance. Please do much better and please show greater respect to the minority Jewish community.

Sincerely,

Peter Reitzes

We are all connected. One fabric of pieces quilted together.

Ari Fuld, Israel

This lovely remembrance was sent to us from a dear friend in Israel who knew Ari Fuld well. 

Shattered

I am shattered by tragic loss of life. It hurts hardest when it’s close to home. And today, I am reeling in the loss, very close to me.

Ari Fuld, my friend, was killed today in stabbing in Gush Etzion.

He was alumnus of my yeshiva, Yeshivat Hakotel, we we’re colleagues on staff at Yeshiva Netiv Aryeh. 

He was an expert in martial arts and taught self defense, he was armed with a pistol he relished never using it, he gave selfless love to individual friends and students, and he was proud strong voice for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Most importantly, he was a married father of 4 – and took great pride in his personal life. He was a teddy bear with a lion heart (his name “Ari”).

His father was my principal in elementary school.
His brother is also a friend of mine (@Hillel Fuld)

Tonight I will join thousands, burying his body in Kfar Etzion 11:30pm.

We are all connected. One fabric of pieces quilted together. 

After being fatally stabbed, Ari still fought to save lives, drawing his weapon (which he hoped would never be drawn) and fired shots to immobilize the terrorist attacker, preventing further carnage, before succumbing to his own wound.

As we mourn losing Ari, we can do what he would have love, connect to our core, our essense or interconnected Jewish souls. And at another level, interconnected humanity, and planetary existence.

It’s not kumbaya. It’s deep strong, proud, unapologetic, Jewish identity and purpose.

We are all connected. One fabric of pieces quilted together.

Voice4Israel would like to thank our anonymous friend in Israel for this lovely remembrance. Also read Ari Fuld: May his memory be a blessing published earlier today.