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Jewish Congregation Adopts Palestinian Partner

October 2004

Last weekend I had the opportunity to speak at a progressive Jewish congregation, Kahil B’raira— Community of Choice — Congregation for Humanistic Judaism (KB).

Some time ago, KB contacted Jennifer Lemire and I about possibly adopting a Grassroots International Palestine partner as a project of the congregation. After a painstaking two year assessment and dialogue, the congregation’s Middle East Working Group decided to sponsor two projects – one in Israel and one in Palestine.

One project is Open House in Ramle, Israel, which supports the building of relationships and reconciliation between Israeli Jews and Arabs. The other is support for the Anin Kindergarten through Grassroots International, a project of the Anin Women’s Club, located in the northern West Bank (The Anin Women’s Club is a project of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees.)

KB’s website describes this support as offered “in recognition of the inhumane living conditions suffered by many Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, and to alleviate these conditions in some small way.”

During the weekly service, the Executive Director of Friends of Open House, Don Perlstein, and I spoke about our respective programs. It was an inspiring Sunday morning. It didn’t hurt that the Red Sox had won the night before, a fact that I referred to in my presentation: If Bostonians can stand by the Sox for nearly a century, we can extend a long-term hand of friendship to Palestinian civil society organizations in need of our help.

This morning’s inspiration was due to the KB congregation’s efforts: they had tackled a potentially polarizing issue, moved forward and managed to keep their congregation intact throughout. Don Perlstein commented that there are very few examples in which a Jewish congregation had chosen to lend direct support to both Israelis and Palestinians. It was serendipitous for us to be able to forge a closer relationship with Open House.

It’s likely that the KB congregation will go to Israel/Palestine in the spring for a people-to-people exchange, in which case they’d likely spend a day with our field consultant, Fabricio Lomanto, to visit Anin. Through innovative grassroots fundraising, they have raised over $2000 for the Anin kindergarten and Open House thus far.

It was very encouraging to be part of building a Jewish constituency for a different sort of Israel. A result like this is one of the things that makes being part of Grassroots International’s speakers bureau so rewarding.

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