An Open Letter to AVODAH from Alumni, Participants and other Community Members

We, AVODAH participants, alumni, donors, and community members oppose AVODAH's recent decision to sponsor a trip to Israel through its alumni program, Pursue. In yielding to partisan pressure from wealthy funders Charles and Lynn Schusterman, AVODAH has strayed from its stated mission of focusing on domestic poverty, while also neglecting its core commitments to Jewish pluralism and social justice.

As a domestic-focused service corps, AVODAH has thus far refrained from addressing the potentially contentious issue of the conflict in Israel-Palestine. Yet AVODAH has chosen sides by accepting a grant that requires sponsorship of an Israel trip, bringing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the forefront of our community's discourse.

As a social justice organization, AVODAH is committed to addressing the root causes of poverty and inequality. This service-learning trip, run by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, lacks any engagement with the military occupation of Palestine, one of the primary causes of poverty in Israeli-controlled territory. The trip does not include visits to the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, or East Jerusalem, where ongoing human rights violations have economically and politically disenfranchised over four million Palestinian people. It is grossly irresponsible for AVODAH to whitewash Israeli policies while still claiming to stand for social justice.

This recent decision - made without any community input - is part of a systematic marginalization of alternative voices within the institutional Jewish community. While AVODAH was previously a space where all political viewpoints on Israel-Palestine were welcome, the organization may now alienate a growing generation of Jews who see Israeli policy as inconsistent with Jewish social justice values. In sponsoring this trip, AVODAH has taken a political stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, violating its own commitment to pluralism. Many in the AVODAH community oppose Israel's occupation of Palestine, and some even support the economic and cultural boycott of the State of Israel. These participants, alumni and prospective applicants feel abandoned by the organization, which has chosen to engage in one-sided, uncritical programming.

This decision will set a precedent by which AVODAH leadership prioritizes funders over the values of their own community. This is why we demand that AVODAH publicly commit to:

1. Modify the trip itinerary to incorporate significant critical engagement with Israeli policy in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. This must include visits to occupied Palestine and interactions with Palestinians who live there.

2. Never sponsor another Israel trip in this way again.

3. Never accept money from the Schustermans, or any other group, if it necessitates AVODAH or Pursue's engagement in one-sided programming on Israel-Palestine.

4. Begin a community-wide discussion on how AVODAH and Pursue should handle the question of Israel-Palestine as a Jewish organization committed to social justice.

We are awaiting your reply,

To see the full list of signers and their comments:

(List current as of 11.3.2011 8:19 PM)
Abigail Weber Current Participant
Alissa Wise Alumni
Amanda Hoffman Family
Ana Forman Alumni
Ann Finkelstein Alumni, Donor
Anna Bennett Current Participant
Ariana Kolnsq Alumni, Donor
Ariana Tobias Current Participant
Avi Rosenthalis Alumni
Avital Aboody Alumni
Barbara Friedman Family
Benny Amon Current Participant
Beth Miller Donor
Beth Resnick-Folk Alumni
Briana Carp Alumni
Cara Herbitter Alumni
Carolyn Klaasen Prospective Applicant
Claire Bergen Alumni
David Schmutzer Donor, Community
Danielle Unger Current Participant
David Siegel Alumni
Deborah Rosenstein Community
Diana Hoffman Alumni
Elana Shever Alumni, Donor
Eleni Zimiles Alumni
Eliana Horn Current Participant
Elise Goldin Current Participant
Elissa Vinnik Alumni
Elizabeth London Alumni
Ellen Lippmann Donor
Emily Hoffman Alumni
Emily Robison Community
Erica Weinstein Alumni
Eva Lerner Alumni, Donor
Gillian Locascio Alumni
Gordon Fellman Community
Gracie Greenberg Prospective Applicant
greer paris Prospective Applicant
Hanna Kipnis Prospective Applicant
Hannah Furstenberg-Beckman Alumni
Hannah Mermelstein Community
Hannah Wizman-Cartier Alumni
Hasan Bhatti Alumni
Heath Reynolds Community
Jesse Bacon Community
Jessica Beitch Alumni
Jessie Levine Alumni
Jethro Eisenstein Community
Jill Bratt Alumni
Jonathan Zimbler Donor
Julia Baskin Alumni
k. Feldman Community
Katie Goldstein Alumni
kassia arbabi Alumni
Kirsten Wittkowski Community
Lane Levine Community
Leah Hartman Community
Leila Shooshani Current Participant
Lev Hirschhorn Current Participant
Lily Gordon-Koven Current Participant
Liza Behrendt Current Participant
Lizzie Busch Alumni
Lynn Pollack Community
Mallory Falk Alumni
Marlene Edelstein Current Participant
Natalie Stahl Alumni, Donor
Nicole Kligerman Prospective Applicant
Noah T. Winer Alumni, Donor
Oren Brandvain Alumni
Peter Rachleff Community
Polly Clare-Rothe Alumni
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb Community
Rabbi Brant Rosen Donor
Rachel Lee Alumni, Donor
Rachel McCullough Community
Rae Abileah Alunmi of AJWS Programs
Rebecca Wener Alumni
Richard Semegram Alumni
Robin Blanc Alumni
Rosa Gaia Saunders Alumni
Sarah Guzy Community
Sarah Leitson Current Participant
Sarah Miles Alumni, Donor
Sarah Novick Alumni
Sarah Porzucki Current Participant
SM Prospective Applicant
Stefan Lynch Family
Tamar Toledano Alumni
Temim Fruchter Alumni
Wendy Mironov Alumni, Donor

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