Judea Reform Supports HRC Draft Critical of Durham City Council

Judea Reform Congregation, JRC, HRC, Durham City Council

Judea Reform Strong

On December 13, 2018, Judea Reform Congregation (JRC) announced that President Ziva Raney, Rabbi (Interim) John Franken, and the Board of Trustees sent a letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission (HRC) in support of its draft report.

Judea Reform is the largest congregation in the North Carolina Triangle area with approximately 600 family memberships. Dr. Robert Gutman, co-chair of Voice4Israel and former Judea Reform member, responded, “The community has united in this cause in a beautiful fashion and with clarity of purpose. And now we have the largest Congregation taking a firm stance. Thank you.”

After thanking the HRC for its “thorough and thoughtful report,” The JRC letter stated, “It is our hope that the full HRC, and subsequently the City Council, will adopt the recommendations of your subcommittee as submitted, especially the rewrite of the Council Statement that omits the unnecessary and disruptive reference to the State of Israel. These recommendations go a long way to correcting misinformation and the pain felt by many in the Jewish community.” Read the full JRC letter here

Judea Reform Members Embrace Their Synagogue’s Letter to the HRC 

Larry H. Rocamora told Voice4Israel, “I am President of the Durham-Chapel Hill Jewish Federation and a past President of Judea Reform Congregation. I am proud of my Congregation coming out in support of the draft HRC report and recommending the removal of Israel from the April 16 statement. Singling out Israel served no purpose in furthering Durham City Council business and has led to hurtful rhetoric that is painful to the Jewish community and makes many of us feel unwelcome in the city where we live.”

Ethan Hertz shared with Voice4Israel, “As a member of Judea Reform Congregation for almost three decades, and as someone who has served JRC in a variety of capacities, including as a Vice President, and as someone who knows the Durham Police well, having served on Durham’s Civilian Police Review Board for nine years, I am delighted that JRC’s President, Rabbi and Board joined other area congregations and our local Federation in asking the Durham Human Relations Commission to adopt its subcommittee’s draft report related to the City Council’s resolution on police training and Israel. This unfortunate resolution implies that there is a linkage between Israel, Jews and police misconduct. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Mark Rodin, a 38 year member of Judea Reform, shared with Voice4Israel, “I am pleased Rabbi Franken and our board support it, and hopefully the full commission will approve the reference to Israel be taken out of the City Council’s April 16 statement.”

“Collectively, we need to check our American privilege at the door since Palestinian rockets aren’t being fired at our own homes, and the leadership at Judea Reform get this, as they have publicly supported the terrific work of the Durham Human Relations Commission on the anti-Israel resolution,” said Durham resident and Judea Reform member Kathryn Wolf. “It’s so imperative that our Jewish leaders stand up to anti-Semitism in all its forms, whether it comes from the Right or the Left.”

Peter Reitzes, a five year member of JRC, stated, “I am proud of Judea Reform for encouraging the HRC to approve its draft report and for encouraging the Durham City Council to accept the recommendations.” Reitzes added, “When Mayor Steve Schewel spoke at JRC in October, he stubbornly and repeatedly refused to revisit the April 16 statement. Hopefully that will change now.”

Dr. Stanley Robboy, a former Judea Reform member and more recently co-president of the Kehillah Synagogue shared, “I am proud that the three area synagogues (Beth El, Judea Reform and Kehillah) and 12 of the area rabbis all have denounced the ill-conceived statement. I am also proud that the Durham Human Relations subcommittee has drafted a report (to be voted upon at it Jan 8, 2019 meeting) that will tell the City Council it should remove the word Israel while amending the statement in many areas to improve its over all content. We all strongly support its adoption.”

Read more Letters to the Durham HRC

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

Letter to HRC: Standing in Solidarity with the Jewish Community

Rene Paul de la Varre, Israel, Durham HRC, Durham City Council, Israel Resolution

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. 

Rene Paul de la Varre, a valued friend and ally of the Jewish community,  wrote the Durham HRC the heartfelt letter printed below. We are proud to have such strong allies as Rene.

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission

December 1, 2018

Dear Ms. Standaert, and Mr. Correa,

I want to compliment and thank you and your committee for the excellent draft report which I have read. No doubt, the April 16 statement from the Durham City Council singling out Israel was wrong. The group who initiated this is known for their anti-Israel activism, who constantly base their opinion on lies and disinformation. I am not Jewish, but my Jewish friends feel unwelcomed in Durham, targeted, and marginalized by the reckless actions of the Durham City Council. I am in pain because my Jewish friends are in pain. “Durham for all” should include the Jewish minority.

I have also lived and worked in Israel on five different occasions. I respect your hard work, therefore, I purposely left out a list of seminars police departments around the country have had in Israel. All who took part raved about what they had learned.

I have followed this situation closely. The City Council fast-tracked anti-Israel foreign policy using non-transparent procedures that make the Jewish community and their allies feel marginalized. Your draft report captures this injustice using evidence and research. Thank you!

I implore all HRC commissioners to do the right thing. Support the draft as its official position for the good of Durham, its Jewish minority, and our country.

Respectfully,

Rene Paul de la Varre
Chapel Hill, NC

Israel Singled Out: HRC Draft Zeroes in on Facts

Voice4Israel, 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. 

Adam Goldstein, MD, Chair of North Carolina Hillel, 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 10, 2018
 
Dear Diane and Ricardo,
 
I want to add my voice to those representing thousands of others in the Durham community who have reached out to you and others on the HRC who wrote the Draft report of November 12th, 2018, on the Durham City Council statement singling out Israel on International Police Exchanges. 
 
Your Draft report has zeroed in on the facts that the Durham City Council singled out Israel in their April 16 statement and it displayed a lack of transparency and diligence in its approach. Your Draft report goes a long way to helping recognize and begin to rectify the discriminatory nature of the City Council’s actions that have harmed so many in our community. Over the last six months, I have witnessed a community that has been the subject of tremendous derision and hate from extremist groups bent on bringing their agenda to our community.  Efforts by groups wanting to use City government to single out and demonize one country in the world, the Jewish homeland, that decry large segments of our community, including most institutions and members of the Jewish community, must not be encouraged.   Your Draft statement would be a breath of fresh air to bring the great majority of Durham’s citizens together and to make a clear and unequivocal distinction between policy decisions based on facts and one’s personal beliefs based on opinion. The HRC appears to be taking its obligation to look at the facts, and the facts alone, of this issue.  
 
I am currently the Chair of North Carolina Hillel, the organization that represents Jewish life for students on 13 campuses across North Carolina. In that role, I have seen and heard of dozens of anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish organizations and students across our state.  The rise in anti-Semitism alone in Durham over this past year, in targeted attacks throughout Durham and on Duke’s campus, have been alarming but perhaps not surprising from many who might feel emboldened by the tolerance.  Many of our Jewish students on campus are fearful for the first time expressing their Jewish faith or their love of Israel.  After the synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh, however, moderates of all faiths came together on vigils across North Carolina campuses and communities to express support for tolerance and to say no to acts that directly or indirectly encourage intolerance.
 
I applaud you again for your leadership, and I hope the HRC will adopt its sub-committee report at its January meeting. Please do circulate my letter to the entire Commission.
 
Sincerely,
 
Adam Goldstein, MD
Chair, North Carolina Hillel

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

Discrimination is Singling Out One Among Many

Herman Sperling
Herman Sperling

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. 

Herman Sperling and Robert Gutman, both Durham residents, sent the Durham HRC the strong letter printed below. 

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission 

December 9, 2018

Dear Dianne and Ricardo:

Thank you so much for allowing us to address the HRC in support of the well-researched and considered recommendation from the subcommittee about the reference to “Israel” in the Council’s April 16 memorandum. Not only do we hope that our message resonated with the Commission, but we benefitted from essential insights into how the issue is being considered.

While we understand the main issue to be whether the inclusion of the specific reference to Israel in the document ratified by the Durham City Council is discriminatory to us here in Durham, it became clear that at least one of the members sees the issue as being about alleged discriminatory practices within Israel. We see these as two separate and distinct issues.

If the issue in front of the HRC is about training practices that are alleged to promote militarization of the Durham Police, then we ask that either the singular mention of Israel be deleted, or that all counties, including the US, the UK, Germany, Jordan, Egypt and all countries that offer similar training also be included.

If the issue is about countries where discrimination exists, we ask that Israel not be the singular mention. But if she is to be mentioned then every other country where at least as much discrimination exists such be included as well. Examples would include: The US, South Africa, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan Iran, Egypt, Morocco, Japan, The Islamic Republic of Iran, The Philippines, India, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, China, Russia and France to name but a few.

We do understand the immediacy of concern about others who might be close friends and neighbors in our city having experienced discrimination in Durham, Ferguson, Pittsburg, Baltimore and elsewhere. Afterall, those espousing discrimination attacked both people of color and Jews in Charlottesville and elsewhere. The hundreds of centuries of discrimination, persecution and murder the Jewish people have suffered compels us to be aligned with them to fight any type of discrimination everywhere it occurs, including here in Durham.

We do not understand the claim that removing the name, which was needlessly added is an insult to others. There is no right to insult gratuitously. The expressed interest in returning to the original claim by the petitioners that perceptions of discrimination in Israel are relevant to what happens here is itself discriminatory

In conclusion we simply do not understand how discrimination is not defined by singling out one of many. And, as the Supreme Court of these United States has ruled, harassment is based on impact, not intent. Let there be no misunderstanding but that citizens of Durham have been adversely impacted by a discriminatory memorandum. Therefore, there cannot be any reasoned conclusion other than recommending an adjustment to the City Council’s memorandum of April 16 eliminating the singular reference to Israel.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Herman Sperling and Robert Gutman
Citizens of Durham North Carolina

Durham City Council Sued Over Alleged Violation of Open-Meetings Statute

Durham HRC, Israel, Durham City Council

Using public records obtained by a Voice4Israel investigation, a Durham resident filed a lawsuit yesterday alleging that the Durham City Council used email communications in violation of the open-meetings statute related to the writing and passing of the April 16 anti-Israel City Council statementMayor Steve Schewel and Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson initially called the April statement the “Israel resolution.” The lawsuit asks, “For judgement declaring…the  simultaneous email communication among a majority of council members were official meetings of the Durham City Council in violation of the Open Meetings Law and clearing that any action taken, considered, discussed or deliberations as a result is null and void.” For details, read these articles:

Durham Council Members Sued Over Alleged Violations of Open-Government Law

Indy Week article

Durham leaders face a second lawsuit about policing statement that mentioned Israel

Herald Sun article

Heartbroken about Durham City Council – Thankful for HRC Draft Report

Durham HRC, Israel, 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. 

Judith Siegel, a Durham resident, sent the Durham HRC the strong letter printed below. 

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission 

November 29, 2018

Dear Mr. Ricardo and Ms. Standaert,

I reside in Durham and have lived in this area for 52 years. I was heartbroken to think that my own city could issue such a hurtful and untruthful statement about “military” policing by Israel. I also watched the proceedings leading up to its being passed and could not believe the venom expressed that day. Could this be my city? It left me in tears.

So it was a relief to read your knowledgeable and thoughtful draft report. Thank you, thank you, for helping to right a wrong. I want to express my fervent hope that it will be passed by the full Commission.

Sincerely,

Judith Siegel

Respected Professor and Jewish Federation Leader Supports HRC Draft Report

Lewis Margolis, Israel, HRC, Durham City Council, Letters to Durham HRC, Israel Resolution

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. 

Dr. Lewis Margolis wrote the letter below to the Durham HRC. Lewis Margolis, MD, MPH, is a Jewish Federation leader and retired associate professor of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. He has received the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs’ (AMCHP) Vince Hutchins Leadership Award.

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission 

November 25, 2018

Dear Ms. Standaert and Mr. Correa:

I am deeply troubled by the mis-guided April 16 resolution of the Durham City Council and expect, hope, that the Human Relations Commission will act according to its purpose and advise that the reference to Israel be deleted. I expect and hope that the Human Relations Commission will help the Durham City Council to understand that the mis-informed singling out of Israel amounts to an anti-Semitic intent and has no justified place in the resolution of April 16. Many members of the Jewish community, leaders and non-leaders, feel marginalized by this action of the Durham City Council. The first step in the re-emergence of anti-Semitism is when it moves from the fringes to the mainstream of politics, such as a Council resolution. Sadly and alarmingly, the members of the City Council have acted as if this resolution poses no political harm to them, the second ominous step in the emergence of anti-Semitism.

As long-time resident of the Durham-Chapel Hill community, I appreciate the value that open-minded tolerance has added to our community and fear the harm that results when that value is diminished by careless political thinking. Please keep me informed of your actions. I trust that the Human Rights Council will act appropriately, consistent with its mission.

Lewis Margolis
Chapel Hill, NC

World Renowned Historian Supports HRC Draft Report

Gerhard L. Weinberg, Israel, Durham City Council, HRC, Durham Human Relations Commission

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. 

Gerhard L. Weinberg wrote the letter below to the Durham HRC. Dr. Weinberg is a world renowned historian, North Carolina resident, and Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Weinberg is author of many highly acclaimed books including A World at Arms: A Global History of World War II and Hitler’s Foreign Policy 1933-1939: The Road to World War II.

Read more letters to the Durham HRC here.

Letter to the Durham Human Relations Commission 

November 17, 2018

Dear Ms. Standaert,

While my wife and I live in Efland, we belong to Judea Reform Congregation in Durham.  As a retired professor of history who taught the first course on the Holocaust ever offered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill I was astonished and disappointed to hear about the Durham City Council’s anti-Israel action.  Now I have been pleased to learn of the excellent report on this matter prepared for the city’s HRC which you chair.  I do hope that the HRC will approve the report as its official position on this issue.

Respectfully yours,

Gerhard L. Weinberg