CORRECTION: In the original text of this post, we neglected to specify that the names read at the Workmen’s Circle interfaith vigil on Wednesday included those of both Palestinians AND Israelis who were killed over the past month.  The original text read simply “people killed in Gaza.”  

Boston, MA: This week, three separate Jewish organizations held events on Israel and Palestine with messages that contrasted sharply with that of the nation’s largest Jewish organizations.  While Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) continue to advocate full support for Israel’s actions against Palestinians, hundreds of Boston Jews this week felt compelled to oppose Israel’s bombing and take part in peaceful vigils calling for an end to Israel’s military occupation of Palestine.

On Thursday, August 7, over 100 activists associated with Jewish Voice for Peace – Boston held a silent vigil in opposition to a “Rally in Solidarity with Israel,” sponsored by JCRC and CJP.  They gathered to demonstrate sorrow and anger at the massacre of Palestinians, to oppose Israel’s human rights violations, and to condemn U.S. complicity with the Israeli war machine. They asked the Boston Jewish community to join with the rest of the world in calling for a negotiated ceasefire that ends the blockade and siege of Gaza.

“CJP and JCRC claim to support citizens of Israel,” said JVP member Lisa Stampnitzky, “but this war rally ignores what truly puts both Israelis and Palestinians at risk: Israel’s unjust military occupation, sustained by US support.”

August 5, a new organization led by young Jews called “If Not Now” held a vigil outside of the CJP and JCRC offices in Boston, to observe Tisha B’av, a traditional Jewish day of mourning. Over 100 Jewish people lit ritual “yahrzeit” candles and recited the “mourner’s kaddish” to honor the dead.  They had invited the leaders of CJP and JCRC (Barry Shrage and Jeremy Burton, respectively) to join them in mourning, but received no response.

The following day, the Boston Workmen’s Circle, a center of secular Jewish life for over a century, hosted over 200 people in an interfaith vigil to end violence from both sides. They spent nearly two hours reading the names of Palestinians and Israelis killed over the past month, inviting Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faith leaders to read with them.

“A growing segment of the Jewish community opposes the violent policies of Israel and its occupation of Palestine,” said JVP member Lina Morales, “yet CJP and the JCRC claim to speak with a monolithic Jewish voice.  They do not speak for us.”

Across the country, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) chapters have organized dozens of street protests, demonstrations and civil disobedience actions to call for an end to the invasion, an end to the 7-year-old siege of Gaza, and an end to the 47-year occupation of Palestine.  JVP has added 50,000 new people to their national mailing list in the past three weeks, and “can’t keep up with the demand for new chapters. This is the final straw for many Jews, who have decided that their silence implies consent,” said Rabbi Alissa Wise, JVP Co-Director of Organizing and Chair of the JVP Rabbinical Council.

Since July 8, Israeli forces have killed over 1900 Palestinians, while 64 Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians have died since the fighting began.  JVP Boston calls on Jewish leaders within the organizations that sponsored the rally to support Israel to join the international voices of compassion and reason in demanding a negotiated ceasefire and an end to the status quo of the blockade and siege on Gaza.  It is time for Israel to take real steps towards a policy of peace, to “beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks” in the words of the prophet Isaiah (2:4).  The balance of power is tipped disproportionately in Israel’s favor, and Gaza faces a desperate humanitarian crisis.

Photos by Aurora Levins Morales

Jewish Voice for Peace (www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org) is a national, grassroots organization dedicated to achieving a just and lasting peace that recognizes the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination. Jewish Voice for Peace has over 170,000 online supporters, 40 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Cabinet, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.

Press:

Boston Herald

Wafa Palestinian News & Info Agency

The Jewish Journal