Triangle Rabbis Support Durham HRC Draft

Israel, Durham

In November, the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) presented a draft proposal recommending that the Durham Ciaty Council removes the singling out of Israel from their divisive and discriminatory April 16 statement.

12 North Carolina Triangle-area rabbis wrote the seminal letter below to the Durham HRC in support of their draft report. This is likely the single most important letter sent to the HRC. Our Jewish spiritual leaders are speaking in unity and make us proud. Voice4Israel applauds and thanks our local rabbis. Be sure and also read the rabbi’s impressive “punch in the gut” letter sent to the Durham City Council. Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission

December 2, 2018

To the Durham Human Relations Commission:

We, rabbis from Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh, are writing to express our support for the November 12, 2018 “Draft Report, Findings and Recommendations on April 16th Statement by Durham City Council on International Police Exchanges.” We appreciate the report’s thoroughness and thoughtfulness and we believe it charts a constructive way forward for our community to heal. We call upon the Human Relations Commission to adopt the report at its upcoming January meeting.

B’virkat Shalom (with blessings of peace),

Rabbi Lucy Dinner

Rabbi Jen Feldman

Rabbi Jerry Fox

Rabbi Elana Friedman

Rabbi John Franken

Rabbi Daniel Greyber

Rabbi Pinchas Herman

Rabbi Laura Lieber

Rabbi Steve Sager

Rabbi Melissa B. Simon

Rabbi Eric Solomon

Rabbi Jennifer Solomon

Kehillah Synagogue Writes Durham HRC

Israel, Durham HRC

In November, the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) presented a draft proposal recommending that the Durham City Council removes the singling out of Israel from their divisive and discriminatory April 16 statement. 

On behalf of its board of directors, The Kehillah Synagogue’s Co-presidents wrote the Durham HRC the impressive letter printed below. 

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission (December 6, 2018)

Dear Chief Commissioner Standaert, Subcommittee Chair Ricardo Correa and members of the Durham Human Relations Commission,

The Kehillah Synagogue of Chapel Hill thanks you for your Subcommittee’s thoughtful approach to addressing the concerns that the members of the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish community have raised regarding the Durham City Council’s statement on international police exchanges. About one-fourth of our congregants reside in Durham and more work there.

Please adopt the report as drafted when you next meet on January 8.

Thank you for examining in detail the Durham City Council’s statement of April 16, 2018, the circumstances leading to its adoption, and reaching out to the diverse stakeholder groups whom the statement directly affected. Thank you also for attending two community forums, one which the Jewish Federation held that many from the Jewish Community and other faith-based groups attended, and the other that the Judea Reform Congregation hosted where Mayor Schewel answered audience questions. We thank you for considering the many diverse perspectives.

The Kehillah has a deep and well-known commitment to supporting human rights through our Social Action Committee. Our Rabbi and members of our congregation have been leaders in championing the interests of low-income and minority populations in the Durham-Chapel Hill area. We have long-standing, meaningful relationships with many social service and interfaith organizations. The Council’s statement condemning Israel jeopardized these relationships threatening the wellbeing and safety of the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish community. As so many of the rabbis from the Triangle stated in their joint letter, the statement was a “punch in the gut.”

Your Subcommittee’s draft report highlights the many ways the City Council’s process might have been improved and offers suggestions for the future. We concur. In particular, we support the statement, “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…”

We appreciate the Commission’s commitment to both bringing our community together and speaking out against antisemitism. After the recent Pittsburgh shooting, the Kehillah held a vigil in which over 700 persons from many different faith-based churches participated. Our Rabbi Jennifer Feldman said, “We stand in solidarity against hatred with our LGBTQ+, Latino, African American, Muslim, immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters, and with people of faith everywhere.” The Kehillah members fully intend to work with the Commission and the City Council to continue building strong interfaith relations. Everybody wins by such actions.

Jonathan Kotch and Andrew Werden, Kehillah Synagogue Co-presidents and the Kehillah Synagogue Board of Directors

Progressive Jewish Community Leader Supports HRC Draft Proposal

Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, Israel, HRC, Durham City Council

In November, the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) presented a draft proposal recommending that the Durham City Council removes the singling out of Israel from their divisive and discriminatory April 16 statement. 

Durham resident and community leader Pilar Rocha-Goldberg wrote the letter below to the HRC in support of their well researched draft report. Rocha-Goldberg is President and CEO of the El Centro Hispano, an organization that advocates “for equity and inclusion for Hispanics/Latinos in the Triangle Area of North Carolina.”

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission 

November 24, 2018

Dear Diane and Ricardo,

I live and work in Durham. I would like to start by thanking you for the draft recommendations to Mayor Schewel and the Durham City Council regarding the April 16 statement, which included language specifically against Israel and no other foreign country.

I see what transpired at the City Council as a very serious issue of anti-Semitism arising from an action of a Government – I don’t say this lightly, I say this as a progressive community organizer who works hard for equality and human rights.

A small group of anti-Israel activists lobbied the Durham City Council with the message, based on lies and innuendo, that Israel trains police to “terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the US.” It is almost incomprehensible to imagine that these anti-Israel activists succeeded in getting the Durham City Council to single out Israel without a shred of evidence to support such hateful claims.

In addition, I have been troubled by the lack of response by the Mayor Pro Tempore to an anti-Semitic email she received about me when I was applying for the open City Council seat in January (see pasted below my letter). I would have hoped that Jillian Johnson would have responded to her anti-Israel supporters by clearly stating that opposing my candidacy because I attend a certain synagogue is simply wrong and anti-Semitic. She did not.

Please note that the email to Jillian Johnson was written by Elyse Crystall. Crystall is one of the anti-Israel activists who spoke at the November HRC meeting. CC on the email were other leading architects of the virulently anti-Israel petition and campaign – Tom Stern, Sandra Korn, Beth Bruch Noah Rubin-Blose, and Gabriel Baldasare. Some of these anti-Israel activists had the audacity to lecture the HRC at the November meeting on the definition of anti-Semitism. Please don’t take advice on anti-Semitism from people who opposed my candidacy for City Council because of what synagogue I pray in. These folks should be taking sensitivity classes, not lecturing on the subject.

It is clear they have an “agenda” that is not opposed to employing anti-Semitism to see it succeed.

I believe that the Council, with their April 16 “Israel Resolution,” has contributed to an attack on Israel – the Jewish homeland. To many of us, this feels like an attack on the Jewish community. There was no value to mentioning Israel at all in the statement – doing so only caused pain and divisiveness and made the mainstream Jewish community feel attacked and unwelcome in Durham.

Criticizing Israel’s government is totally acceptable. We Jews do that all the time. Specifically targeting and singling out Israel at the City Council level, without targeting any other country, is divisive, discriminatory, and has created an environment that is welcoming and nurturing of anti-Semitism. The April 16 City Council statement – and the fast-tracking, clandestine process that enabled it – is arrogant and undemocratic. It has enabled anti-Semitism to flourish in Durham.

See this important column in the Washington Post by Rabbi Jill Jacobs, “How to tell when criticism of Israel is actually anti-Semitism.” Jacobs, a progressive Jew like me, stated that the Durham City Council’s statement against Israel amounts to an example of left wing anti-Semitism. I agree.

Lastly, I am very thankful for your draft HRC report. In addition to recommending that the City Council remove the singling out of Israel from their April 16 statement, I deeply appreciate the HRC’s careful detailing of the City Council’s lack of transparency and fairness in this entire process.

With all respect,

Pilar Rocha-Goldberg

Durham, NC

Israel, Israel Resolution, Durham HRC
Israel, Israel Resolution, Durham HRC