November 16, 2023
I haven’t shared a Director’s Note in a long time. I’ve sat down several times since the terror attacks to write, but each time I’m pulled away by something urgent. The text below isn’t what I planned in my first Director’s Note post-October 7. I had hoped to share personal reflections, or some of the amazing work the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) team is doing to support our community. But over the last two weeks, rabbis, professionals, and volunteer leaders from JCRC member organizations have shared personal notes of concern with me about a multi-faith solidarity statement with Jews and Palestinians that has been circulating. I’m sharing this note today because I need to bring voice to their (and my) feelings of sadness, anger, and hurt, at the misrepresentation in this statement and what seems to have been an intentional effort to tokenize and exclude much of the Jewish community.
In 2018, after the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh, so many people showed up for our community’s vigil at Temple De Hirsch Sinai that rabbis spontaneously started a second vigil outside. I will never forget seeing thousands gathered in solidarity with our community and the feelings of love and support we felt in that moment of allyship.
Since the attack on October 7, I have been grateful for the outreach and allyship from partners in our community. This week, though, I was disappointed to come across a solidarity statement circulating on behalf of “Jews and Palestinians” (authors have since changed the title) that does not represent the vast majority of Jews in Seattle or the United States. I lead an organization that supports and builds consensus among 35 diverse local Jewish institutions, and as far as I’m aware, not one of us was even notified of this letter before it was circulated, let alone invited to help draft it.
I appreciate the effort that went into creating this statement—the desire to find common ground and elevate the shared humanity of Jews, Muslims, Israelis, and Palestinians. But where this statement misses the mark is in its claim of solidarity with the Jewish community. There can be no solidarity without allyship, and allyship requires inclusion. However, the authors excluded the leadership of our mainstream Jewish community, including the 35 member organizations of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, who collectively, represent tens of thousands of Jews in the Puget Sound Region. The authors in effect erased the voices of thousands of Seattle-area Jews and ignored our views and lived experiences.
We share the authors’ grief and pain at the death and destruction in Gaza and deep concern for the Palestinian people who are suffering in this war. As one of our JCRC members said, “I want to be in a space in which I can mourn all the babies who have perished.”
We share the authors’ desire for all Israelis and Palestinians to live in safety and freedom. We too yearn for a future in which, as the authors say, “our beloved Israeli and Palestinian children alike will be able to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness together.”
Why were we excluded?
As I write this, 290,000 Jews and allies, (the largest such gathering in U.S. history), including dozens from Seattle, are marching in Washington, D.C. to:
Support Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, a terrorist organization intent on killing as many Israelis as possible, and efforts to prevent another massacre of innocent civilians.
Call for the safe return of the hostages being held by Hamas.
Stand up in support of Jews who are experiencing antisemitism, which was already at record levels, and has continued to skyrocket.
This is where the major points of unity are across the Jewish community in America and locally today.
At a time when authentic solidarity is more necessary than ever, our exclusion is deeply painful. Rather than feeling supported and in community with others who are suffering, many in our community feel even more isolated.
This is why, when the authors hold their press conference later today, conspicuously missing from the podium and the signatory list will be the rabbis, executive directors, cantors, and board chairs from the mainstream Jewish community.
We thank our allies who noticed our absence in this effort and reached out to share their concern and love. This is the kind of allyship that helps the Jewish community feel welcomed, safe, and seen in Seattle.
Director of JCRC and Government Affairs