Letters to the Ledger Opinion

Speaking about Israel: Finding Common Ground

In hopes of nurturing and encouraging a broad community conversation about Israel, we share the following principles of common ground, and affirm our commitment to:
The right of Israel to exist as the Jewish state.
The safety and security of Israel and its people.
The conducting of full and open discussion on the range of issues concerning Israel.
The use of civility in language and in behavior in dialogue about Israel, even in the face of disagreements.
For over four decades, Ambassador Colette Avital has served Israel. She was Israel’s consul general to New York in the 1990’s. She was ambassador to Portugal. She served for ten years in the Knesset, where she was the deputy speaker. And, this week, she was in Hartford at an event co-sponsored by J Street and the Greater Hartford Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).
The Connecticut Jewish Ledger’s June 10 editorial, about what it means to be supportive of Israel is just the sort of conversation the JCRC thinks is important to have. That is why we are helping to bring in Ambassador Colette Avital, whose current national tour is being sponsored by J Street.  She is a leader that the Ledger agrees is an important one for us to have in the community. It did not cost the JCRC anything to participate and no campaign dollars were used for this event nor have any campaign dollars ever been used to support J Street.
The JCRC understands that the issues surrounding Israel’s security are complex, emotional, and difficult.  If they weren’t, the issues would have been resolved long ago and even our brothers and sisters in Israel would have a much less contentious debate among themselves. While it is reasonable to discuss and debate which organizations represent various points of view most effectively, or whether some organizations are not very open to diverse political perspectives in the pro-Israel discussion, let’s not lose sight of a couple of very important things.
First, the JCRC is proud to have brought Colette Avital to the Hartford area where we can learn about and discuss some of the issues. Second, while clearly J Street has taken some controversial positions, their co-sponsorship of this event does not mean that JCRC endorses their organization. We co-sponsor events with many organizations, including Christian and Muslim ones, and do so in an effort to bring good programs to our community. Ambassador Avital is a well credentialed Israeli politician, a seasoned public figure and highly regarded former ambassador and she is comfortable being on a J Street speaking tour, and nobody questions her dedication to Israel. Nor should there be any question of the JCRC or Hartford Federation’s dedication to Israel or the Jewish community.
If members of the community wish to discuss the best options for a secure and safe Israel, we are here to facilitate such meaningful and smart discussions.  Such discussions need to recognize that there are differences of opinion within our Jewish community, both here and in Israel, and that if we drive wedges between us, we will be doing the work of Israel’s enemies.  Let us keep the focus on our respect for each other and on the topic of Israel’s secure future.

Judy Singer
Chair, Jewish Community Relations Council

Laura Zimmerman
Director, Jewish Community Relations Council

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