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.

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.

Standing with Israel in Carrboro

Standing with Israel 

Josh Ravitch, Amy Rosenthal, and Joel Freelander braved the heat today to bring their love of Israel to the Carrboro Farmer’s Market. They were joined by Emma and Jenny Blass. This joint venture between Voice4Israel and StandWithUs was a great success. 

Josh, Amy, Joel, Emma, and Jenny spoke to college students, families, and members of the community about Israel. Many people, including children and college students, were excited about the complimentary water, sunglasses, and coffee beans and stayed for the friendly and informative conversation. One college student listened intently as Josh discussed Israel’s impressive water recycling and water technology

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Visiting Israel 

Amy, Josh, Joel, Emma, and Jenny warmly greeted the young children who stopped by with their families and helped them pick out sunglasses. 

A college student walked away from the crowded table saying she would like to visit Israel. A family who were considering visiting Israel were provided reading materials for the parents as well as reading materials for their children. The father was excited that he could read to his children about Israel while showing them beautiful pictures. 

Hats off to all involved for sharing their love and knowledge of Israel with the good people of Carrboro!

I Love Israel Series

Be sure and check out Voice4Israel’s I Love Israel series.

Israeli Shabbat Dinner

Shabbat Dinner, Voice4Israel

Raleigh Shabbat Dinner

A few months ago we relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to Raleigh. As we landed with only a few friends, we decided to take it on ourselves to be a part of the local Jewish and Israeli community. Back in the Bay Area, we participated in a few rotating Shabbat Dinners that were sponsored by OneTable, an organization that helps to facilitate these meals. We decided to host our own unique Shabbat dinner, and as Israelis, it was a no-brainer that we should have an Israeli theme.

Shabbat Successs

For our first dinner, we had about 15 people, many of whom never knew each other before coming. We had a great meal (serving Shakshuka with Labane and Mujaddra) and played an amazingly fun and funny game that I have been running for years- Telephonary (if that makes you curious then you should definitely come!). It was so successful, that we decided to host these Shabbat dinners on a monthly basis. Yesterday we had our second Israeli Shabbat Dinner and 30 people showed up!! Again, we had a blast with tons of food, yummy desserts, great conversation and new friendships that were initiated (some people who are doing their Ph.D. in one of the universities in the Triangle and never knew about each other).

 

Shabbat Dinner, Voice4Israel

Open Invitation 

So here is an open invitation, as we are planning to do it again next month, look out for that invite on Facebook or Meetup before all the available seats are filled up. The dinner is free and all are welcome.

Email here for more information: 

israelishabbatdinners@gmail.com

Editor’s note: This dinner is a private event and not an official Voice4Israel event.

On the way to this event listen to some Israeli songs of the summer from Camp Shelanu. 

Don’t Retweet Anti-Semites: An Open Letter to Durham City Council Member Jillian Johnson

Voice4Israel, Durham City Council
Dr. Adam Goldstein, Family Physician, Voice4Israel Board Member

Dear Ms. Johnson,

I saw last week that you chose to retweet a derogatory statement by Jeremy Corbyn against Israel. I suspect you may share his views about Israel in many ways, although I am not sure you are aware of how most mainstream Jewish organizations and leaders across the World view his longstanding and consistent demonization of Israel. His track record of attacks against Israel, in language and actions, bears the hallmark of modern anti-Semitism as it applies to Israel: demonization, delegitimization, and applying double standards. A recent article that succinctly documents these concerns over many years can be found here

 

Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson retweets a perpetuation of the myth that Israel indiscriminately targets civilians.

Israel, Voice4Israel, V4I

Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor

A recent book I have read is one that you may find of interest. It is from Yossi Klein Halevi, one of the most preeminent, progressive writers today about the Palestinian/Israel narratives.

In his just published book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, Mr. Halevi has worked for years to co-Direct, with Imam Abdullah Antepli of Duke, the Muslim Leadership Initiative, that teaches young Muslim American leaders about Judaism and Israel in Israel. He eloquently describes in his book how one of the main obstacles to peace in the Middle East is an inability to hear a side of the narrative different from our own. He says that “One reason that the well-intentioned efforts of diplomats have failed so far is that they tend to ignore the deep religious commitments on both sides. For peace to succeed in the Middle East, it must speak in some way to both of our hearts.” I highly recommend this short book to you that can access here

Demonizing Israel 

A bottom line is that if you continue to listen to and promote only one narrative, whether it be the in the Durham Council’s statement on terrorism and police singling out and demonizing Israel, or giving credence to those with decades long track records of fostering hostility against Israel, and promote both narratives in ways that alienate substantial members of your own community who have a different narrative that is equally valid, you will never get to the place you hope of an enduring peace in the Middle East.

Sincerely,

Adam Goldstein, MD

Adam Goldstein, MD, is a family physician and researcher, who has served in leadership capacities for multiple Jewish organizations in North Carolina, across the U.S. and in Israel. His research on addiction has been cited nationally and internationally, appearing in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, on CNN and multiple other media platforms.

I Love Israel with Limor Schwartz

Linor Schwartz, Voice4Israel
Limor Schwartz, MSW, LCSW. Director of Clinical & Social Services, Raleigh-Cary Jewish Family Service

This is the eigth post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Limor Schwartz!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

My family still lives in Israel, so we visit annually. My favorite moments are when I can walk with my kids around my childhood neighborhood, my old school, and my favorite beaches and see their excitement when they realize how different life is in Israel than the US.

Best food you had in Israel?

That is such a tough question as with the years, Israel grew up to be a real foodie nation! What I miss the most is a big “toast” from Abulafia in Jaffa- a large sesame bagel full of cheese and a variety of toppings (like olives, egg, corn, etc) and then smashed and toasted. Mmmm….

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

This may be surprising or unknown to some, but my favorite place to visit is the Palmach Negev Brigade Memorial in Be’er Sheva. I went to college at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, and quickly found this beautiful site while exploring Be’er Sheva. It sits high on a hill and overlooks Be’er Sheva and the desert and is just beautiful, peaceful and relaxing.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

Definitely the Mediterranean. I grew up in Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv and woke up every morning to the view of the beautiful ocean. I have memories of skipping school and running to the ocean with my friends, or having a wonderful Israeli breakfast on the beach with my family.

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

Tel Aviv for sure. It’s bustling, and happy and so colorful, and there’s always something to do and see. I love sitting in a restaurant, eating amazing food and people watch on Allenby or Shenkin street.

Limor Schwartz grew up in Israel, and moved to the USA after her service in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). She has been part of the Raleigh-Cary community for 16 years, and has worked in the Jewish community for much of it. Schwartz is currently working as the Director of Clinical and Social Services at Raleigh-Cary Jewish Family Services. She lives in Raleigh with her husband, 2 children and 2 cats.

Explaining Anti-Semitism and Discrimination to the Durham City Council: An Open Letter

Israel, Mark Anthony Middleton, Voice4Israel
Amy Rosenthal with Josh Ravitch

Explaining Anti-Semitism and Discrimination to the Durham City Council

Voice4Israel board member Amy Rosenthal sent this letter to Durham City Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton to share her concerns about the discriminatory nature of the Council’s decision to single out Israel.

Hello Mr Middleton,

I have reviewed again your statement from the April 16th hearing regarding police exchanges with Israel. You said “I’m troubled….that the mere mention of a nation is somehow anti-Semitic. I’ve seen that tactic before.” We who support Israel have not said you cannot criticize Israel, I have no idea where you got that notion, but you seem quite pleased to be calling us out on it anyway. All the Israel supporters I know criticize Israel, and America, and Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, and Lebanon, and England, and France, etc, etc. It becomes discriminatory and anti-Semitic when you only criticize Israel, and blame that country while ignoring egregious behavior on the part of others.

"It becomes discriminatory and anti-Semitic when you only criticize Israel, and blame that country while ignoring egregious behavior on the part of others."

You said “the council did not single out Israel.” If this were true, why is that the only country mentioned? Simply because you chose the lines you wanted to select from Chief Davis’ statement, while leaving out the positive experiences she had working with Israel, does not excuse your selective wording. To say “we were just quoting Chief Davis” is a slick way of trying to get out of what you did, but we are not fooled.

You properly asked the question “what does military style mean?”, then never went on to define it. Even so, you and everyone else used the words as though they understood exactly what it means. What kind of research did you do on the matter? How do you know that Israeli police are “militarized”? Based on what data, criteria and research? Did you compare this to other countries who train with American police?

Finally, I found your last words offensive and anti-Semitic. Other groups “would love to have the time we’re spending on this…but when you got more money and you’re better organized….I guess you get our attention”. You should know that the pro-Israel community spent zero dollars on our defense. We had no money, but what we did have, and continue to have, is outrage. That is why we were there. We feel deeply wounded. That is why we will do everything possible to educate people about the wrongs that were done to the Jewish community, wrongs that you played a role in.

Thank you for your time,

Amy Rosenthal

Amy Rosental, Israel

Bio: Amy Rosenthal lived in Jerusalem from 1964-1965. Although I was young, Israel had a powerful effect on me, and I have loved the land ever since. My experience there is an important part of who I am. I am dedicated to seeing Israel thrive in the future.

I Love Israel with Carin Savel

Carin Savel, Voice4Israel
Carin Savel, Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary

This is the seventh post in a series featuring North Carolinians discussing their love of Israel. Thank you Carin Savel!

What is your most memorable moment in Israel?

Hearing my cousin Leeyah yelling my name at the airport when I arrived for the first time. We look alike, talk alike and think alike. We got into her car and drove to a tiny place for lunch. We hadn’t seen each other in years, but it was like we’d seen each other yesterday. We couldn’t stop hugging and crying.

Best food you had in Israel?

Well, that’s easy– halvah. In the shuk in Jerusalem, I bought 4.5 kilos of it thinking we could eat it all before I left. We wound up giving away what we couldn’t eat– and I regretted that later!

Favorite place to visit in Israel?

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It’s just beautiful and walking through the exhibits is peaceful. Art speaks volumes to me, and is always an indication of the soul of the city.

Which one is your favorite and why? Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, The Dead Sea, The Red sea.

The Dead Sea. Who doesn’t like floating while getting a free facial?

Jerusalem or Tel Aviv and why?

That’s a difficult choice, but I’ll say Tel Aviv. It’s an amazing city, full of life, music, lights and laughter. And great restaurants and people watching. Tel Aviv feels like the future and it always asks you back.

Carin Savel is the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary. She grew up in New York City and has worked in the non-profit sector and government arenas for over 30 years. Carin has served on the national board of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, is a member of the JCPA Israeli-Palestinian-American Leadership Relations committee, facilitates the JCRC Kosher Pork series, and is currently a member of the JCPA Delegates Assembly. She lives in Raleigh with her new Boxer, Avi.