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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