Jewish Voice for Peace – Philadelphia Hold Vigil at Rep. Boyle’s Office

Jewish Exponent, May 21 2018

Rabbinical students and Jewish Voice for Peace – Philadelphia activists held a vigil at Rep. Brendan Boyle’s Olney office on Monday, asking Boyle to condemn recent Gaza deaths.
Participants dressed in all black and carried a banner with the names of the dead, as well as signs reading “Jews Stand with Gaza” and “US Jews to Rep Boyle: Break Your Silence on Gaza.”

DOZENS OF PHILADELPHIA JEWS PROTEST MAYOR KENNEY'S CELEBRATION OF ISRAEL

PRESS RELEASE
Local Press Contact: Tali Ruskin, 410-419-7131, taliruskin@gmail.com

Philadelphia, PA -  On Monday, May 14th at 1pm, at the twin flagpoles at Philadelphia City Hall, Jewish peace activists held Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney accountable, demanding he condemn Israel's indiscriminate killings and injuries of grassroots protesters and journalists in Gaza. While Mayor Kenney and several city council members gave speeches at the first-ever raising of the Israeli flag at City Hall in Center City (an event sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia), Jewish Voice for Peace members and allies held a peaceful, solemn vigil in memory of the over 100 unarmed protesters that have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since March 30th, over 50 of whom were killed today.

More than 35 Philadelphia Jews and allies gathered to ask why Mayor Kenney is attending an event celebrating Israel, which killed over 50 unarmed protesters in Gaza today, bringing the total death toll to over 100 since the end of March. JVP members and allies held up a large banner displaying the names and ages of the 51 Gazans who have been killed by Israeli forces from March 30th - May 11th, and also read their names out loud and sang songs of peace.

May Ye, member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council, says: “As an American Jew, I call on Israel to stop killing unarmed protesters in Gaza. I call on my local and federal elected officials to condemn the killings and to enforce the Leahy Law, which forbids the U.S. from funding a foreign military which is engaging in gross violations of human rights, like what Israel is doing right now. The U.S. currently funds the Israeli military to the tune of $3.8 billion a year.”

Since late March, Palestinians have been protesting in Gaza under the banner of the Great March of Return. The protest will culminate tomorrow, May 15th, which is the founding of the State of Israel and marked by Palestinians as Nakba Day (the catastrophe). To date, Israeli forces have killed over 100 unarmed protesters and injured thousands more.

Ben Kuss, a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace Philadelphia chapter, states: “Our message is pretty simple. We believe Palestinians should be free and we expect Mayor Kenney to join those like Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Representative Barbara Lee who have already spoken out against Israel killing unarmed protesters in Gaza. We are ashamed by Mayor Kenney and members of the Philadelphia City Council who chose to celebrate Israel today, while Israeli forces are actively killing and injuring unarmed Palestinians in Gaza.”

Tali Ruskin, Jewish Voice for Peace Philadelphia chapter leader says: “People have the right to protest without being shot or killed and we are here to ask Mayor Kenney and our city council:  “Will you stand with Palestinians, living right here in Philadelphia, whose families have been violently attacked by the Israeli military, and who have been forcibly removed from their land- in violation of international law?”

Date: May 14, 2018
Time: 1:00pm
Place: City Hall

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Jewish Voice for Peace-Philadelphia is the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, a national, grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality and international law for all the people of Israel and Palestine. JVP has over 200,000 online supporters, over 70 chapters, a youth wing, a Rabbinic Council, an Artist Council, an Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board made up of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.


MEDIA COVERAGE

Tali Ruskin, a Jewish Voice for Peace committee member, said it's important that their concerns are heard.
"We're ashamed that our elected officials are out here supporting the state of Israel and on our City Hall property," she said. "We are a group of Jews and allies demanding that our elected officials not celebrate the state of Israel, as they are actively engaging in a massacre of unarmed protesters in Gaza."

City Hall displays Israeli flag for 70th birthday: Ceremony met with celebration, protest (KYW Newsradio, May 14 2018) 

“The move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is also happening today just miles away from where the massacre on Gaza is happening.  We absolutely condemn that move we think that it is it is politically charged and completely out of line with U.S. foreign policy to Israel.”
This is not the only Philadelphia event sparking protests over relations with Israel. At least three times, protesters have picketed outside the Philadelphia Orchestra, upset with the group’s June tour that includes stops in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Israeli flag raised at Philadelphia City Hall (WHYY, May 14 2018)

Among the celebrations was opposition from protesters with the Philadelphia chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace. 
“The sign I’m holding is a list of Palestinians murdered by the Israeli defense forces,” protester Elijah Blanton said.

Demonstrators Protest At City Hall Over Decision To Move US Embassy To Jerusalem (CBS Local, May 14 2018)

While a group of about a dozen Jewish Voice for Peace-led protesters — though more showed up as the event progressed — sang and stood outside of a barrier made around the area by sheriff and police officers, Lachs Adler acknowledged the violence in Gaza.

Philly Celebrates Israel’s Birthday with Flag Raising (Jewish Exponent, May 15 2018)

Pro-Palestinian activists protest the Philadelphia Orchestra's Israel tour

#phillydontorchestrateapartheid

"Sotto voce criticism of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s upcoming tour of Israel began a few weeks ago, but erupted noisily Friday with about four dozen protesters rallying in front of the Kimmel Center as audiences were leaving an orchestra matinee.

Activists urged the orchestra to cancel its concerts in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, citing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in general and, in particular, recent actions by Israeli security forces at Gaza border demonstrations that left more than two dozen Palestinians dead and hundreds injured.

'Tune out Apartheid — Don’t Fiddle for Israel,' read one sign. 'Violins — Not Zionist Violence' was another."


More news about Philly Don't Orchestrate Apartheid:

By touring Israel, Philadelphia Orchestra ignores crimes against Palestinians | Opinion.
Susan Abulhawa, Philly.com (April 27, 2018)

Philadelphia Orchestra Ignores Israel's Ongoing Murder, Wounding Of Palestinians In Gaza As Philly Groups Enter 4th Week Of Protests.
Broadway World, Newsdesk (April 26, 2018)

"Israel no bastion of democracy"
Philadelphia Inquirer Letter to the editor by Matt Berkma
n, 4/23/18
In response to ZOA Philadelphia leadership's supportive letter re: the orchestra's Israel trip

zoa orchestra.jpg

"Wrong Time for Orchestra Trip"
Philadelphia Inquirer Letter to the Editor by Marta Guttenberg, May 3 2018

InquirerLetters2018-05-03.jpg

Quaker group among 20 banned from travel to Israel

Philly.com, January 8, 2018

Marta Guttenberg, who is on the steering committee for the Philadelphia Chapter of Jewish Voices for Peace, said several of the 50 or so volunteer members have family in Israel and visit frequently. While she said the ban was discouraging, she’s unsure how it will be enforced. “We’re an all-volunteer chapter, we’re pretty much all-volunteer nationally,” Guttenberg said. “So it’s not going to be that easy for the Israeli equivalent of the TSA to figure out who actually is a member and hold them.” She said she was pleased to be on the same blacklist with the AFSC, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 for helping World War II refugees, many of them Jews. “We are trying to speak against a totalitarian system that silences people for speaking up in a nonviolent way,” she said.

Read more

'P Is for Palestine': A controversial Sunday story time

Philly.com, December 17 2017
Barhim Benmbark, 39, from Morocco was asked to do the reading of children’s book P is for Palestine by Golbarg Bashi, an instructor of Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University. The public reading was held at the Children’s Community School of West Philadelphia, Sunday, December, 17, 2017.

Trump's Jerusalem declaration sparks fear, joy.

Trump's Jerusalem declaration sparks fear, joy. (Philly.com, Dec 6)

The decision will sharpen the divide among Jews who fall on different sides of the issue, predicted Philadelphia-based Rabbi Linda Holtzman, a member of Jewish Voices for Peace. She and others also said the announcement could have precedent-setting implications.
“The idea of making it easier for Israel to annex more land is something that even many people who are deeply supportive of Israel are trying very hard not to encourage,” she said.
That could upend international precedent, noted Marwan Kreidie, executive director of the Philadelphia Arab American Development Corporation.
“The whole post-World War II world consensus is we don’t allow war to dictate the acquisition of territory,” he said. “If we accept Israel’s annexing of a place that they took through armed conflict, then what’s wrong with the Russians taking Ukraine? What’s wrong with other people taking land by force?”
Like others opposed to the decision, Kreidie viewed the move as a play to evangelical Christians in Trump’s right-wing base rather than a step towards peace.
“Remember, Jerusalem is a special city,” Kreidie said. “It’s a city that’s holy to three religions. It’s supposed to be the city of peace. You don’t give it to one side.”

JVP Philly joins with 15 chapters around the country to protest ADL

JVP Philly joins with 15 chapters around the country to protest ADL

Jewish Voice for Peace members convened at ADL offices in 15 different U.S. cities, in a coordinated effort to spotlight these “Deadly Exchanges.” The demonstrations mark the inaugural day of action to pressure the ADL — a self-described premier U.S. civil rights organization — to end its support for the state-sanctioned discrimination and repression of communities of color in both the U.S. and Israel.

Tell the ADL: End Deadly Police Exchanges!

On October 22nd, we built a sukkah outside the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, where the Anti-Defamation League was present. We were there to demand that the ADL stop funding police exchange programs between the U.S. and Israel, and to condemn the IACP gathering and the ADL’s participation in the conference. #DeadlyExchange #EndDeadlyExchanges #AbolitionWeekend.

Read: Which Side Is the Anti-Defamation League On? Racial Justice or White Supremacy? (Truth-Out)

See more photos

The Zionist Organization of America's gala celebration of Islamophobia is a disgrace

What kind of Jewish organization would host white/Christian supremacist Steve Bannon as a featured speaker at their national gala event? The same racist embarrassment to all Jews who care about human rights and social justice that “honors” outrageous Right-wing figures every year: the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).

The ZOA’s annual local Philadelphia gala is tonight, September 12, and its national gala will be held in New York in November. Along with Bannon on the bill at that NYC event are Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, who supported the Trump campaign with a $25 million donation, and tacked on another $5 million for the inauguration expenses (the largest single donation ever made to an incoming president's inauguration).

Remember those hateful bus ads in Philadelphia promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories? On April Fool's Day 2015, after similar campaigns in New York and San Francisco, anti-Muslim extremist Pamela Geller and her tiny, foolish organization American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) paid for 84 SEPTA buses to run month-long ads linking Islam to Nazism and inciting violence against Muslims. Philadelphia's Jewish, Christian, and Muslim clergy and community members came together to oppose the ads. The city held its breath in fear of the potential outcomes of AFDI's inflammatory fear-mongering. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled AFDI a "hate group." Geller has been identified by the Center for American Progress as among the ringleaders of an "Islamophobia network" of right-wing funders and activists working to foment irrational hatred of Muslims across the country.

Pamela Gellar was the Philadelphia ZOA chapter's honored speaker at their 2012 gala and, in 2015, ZOA was the only Jewish institution in Philly to maintain support and allegiance with Geller and AFDI. In a statement to The Jewish Exponent, the ZOA’s Morton Klein refused to condemn the ads and instead sympathized with Geller’s position.

This year at the ZOA Philadelphia gala, the honorees include: the senior online editor of the neo-conservative monthly Commentary; a major donor we can assume is a big supporter of the ZOA (who else would accept an award from these extremists?); a couple who are leaders in the field of messianic Christian Zionism; and a fundamentalist rabbi who they quote in their gala literature as saying "Israel was given to us before 1948. It was a gift from G-d. It doesn't matter what UNESCO says."

People in Philadelphia, especially its Jewish community, should understand clearly that the ZOA is a far-Right, racist organization that uses the cover of being "pro-Israel" to spread anti-Muslim messages while welcoming white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists. Shame on them!

IfNotNow and Jewish Voice For Peace - Philadelphia to March from Rally Against Hate to Toomey's Office

IfNotNow and Jewish Voice For Peace - Philadelphia to March from Rally Against Hate to Toomey's Office

MEDIA ADVISORY
Email: philly [at] jewishvoiceforpeace [dot] org

IfNotNow and Jewish Voice For Peace - Philadelphia to March from Rally Against Hate to Toomey's Office

Two groups express solidarity with Jewish community and all others targeted by Trump-enabled white supremacy

Today IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace will jointly attend the Jewish Federation’s Rally Against Hate, under banners reading: “Stand With Jews, Muslims, Immigrants, Black and Brown People: White Supremacy Targets Them All.” We stand with our fellow Jews against the horrific anti-Semitic attacks in our city and around the country, especially the desecration of Mt. Carmel Cemetery, where many of us have been helping to restore the graves. The desecration of over 500 Jewish graves is not something we thought we would see in our lifetimes in the United States of America. And yet it is far too predictable that anti-Semitism would find quarter amidst the fascist, white supremacist, and xenophobic politics of Donald Trump.

We applaud the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia for leading the cleanup at Mt. Carmel Cemetery and for organizing today’s Rally Against Hate. In order to fully stand against all the forms of hate that this administration has fomented, we demand that the President and his ally, Senator Pat Toomey, apologize for the administration’s role in emboldening anti-Semites, Islamophobes, and white supremacists. This includes recanting the absurd accusation that Jews might have fabricated the anti-Semitic attacks, and firing the deeply hateful Stephen Bannon.

We will be marching from the Rally Against Hate to Sen. Toomey’s new office at the U.S. Customs House, to demand that Sen. Toomey condemn these anti-Semitic attacks as part of a broader trend of hate crimes against Muslims and immigrants, enabled and emboldened by Trump's rise to power.

In the spirit of solidarity and friendship, we invite the Federations and other Jewish organizations to join us in standing against all forms of hate by being as vocal about Islamophobia and xenophobia as about anti-Semitism, and by refraining from demonizing Muslims, Palestinians, or their advocates as inherently anti-Semitic, which only advances Trump’s agenda of hate and does not make us safer.

We have all been deeply inspired by the solidarity of Muslim-American leaders Linda Sarsour and Tarik El-Messidi, who raised over $100,000 to help repair the gravestones in St. Louis, and are now directing extra funds from that effort to Philadelphia. In that spirit, we redouble our commitments to show up for our Muslim neighbors like they have for us – to show up for immigrant communities, LBGTQ+ communities, and all who are victims of hate - and we ask that you do too.

As we approach the Jewish holiday of Purim, when Esther’s heroism saved the Jews from the Stephen Bannon of their day, we affirm that this mutual solidarity is the most moral and the most effective kind of safety we can ultimately find.

WHO: IfNotNow Philly and Jewish Voice for Peace - Philadelphia.

WHEN: Thursday, March 2, 12 pm.

WHERE: Independence Mall, Philadelphia, PA, followed by Sen. Pat Toomey Office, 200 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA

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JVP Philly Statement on Mt. Carmel Jewish Cemetery Desecration

JVP Philly Statement on Mt. Carmel Jewish Cemetery Desecration

We were profoundly saddened to learn that over 500 gravestones at Mt. Carmel Cemetery were desecrated over the weekend. In the context of the grave desecration in St. Louis earlier this week and a rise in anti-Semitic incidents around the country, this appears to be another outrageous and heinous attack on our community. Yet we also see this attack for what it is: part of a broader assault on all the targets of the white nationalists emboldened by Donald Trump, who refused for months to condemn them, and then only did so in the vaguest terms.

We applaud Mayor Jim Kenney’s condemnation of this attack and demand a swift response from Senator Pat Toomey and other congressional leaders who are working with Trump. They must go beyond mere condemnation by acknowledging the role this president has played in fomenting intolerance and xenophobia across the country. Trump and his enablers in Congress have already done immense damage to our society, and they must take extraordinary steps, immediately, to halt the spiral of hatred they have unleashed, whether it targets Jews, Muslims, immigrants, transgender individuals, or any other group. If they do not, they should expect to hear from us.

In Philadelphia and around the country, JVP is committed to fighting anti-Semitism alongside fighting Islamophobia, xenophobia and racism. We are deeply inspired by the solidarity of Muslim-American leaders Linda Sarsour and Tarik El-Messidi, who raised over $100,000 to help repair the gravestones in St. Louis, and are now directing extra funds from that effort to Philadelphia.

It is in this spirit of solidarity that we continue to resist Trump. We are heartened by the swift response of other Jewish organizations to this attack. We believe Jewish institutions in Philadelphia and beyond must speak openly about the political roots of the anti-Semitism we are currently witnessing. We invite Jewish organizations to no longer hold their tongues when Muslims, immigrants, and people of color come under attack, but to connect the fear and threats against Jews to rising violence against other oppressed groups. We will continue to show up not only for ourselves but for each other, whenever mosques are attacked, cemeteries are desecrated, or immigrants are detained.

JVP Philly Letter to Craig Sellers, Head of Friends' Central, on Cancellation of Talk by Dr. Sa'ed Atshan

JVP Philly Letter to Craig Sellers, Head of Friends' Central, on Cancellation of Talk by Dr. Sa'ed Atshan

The following letter was sent to Craig Sellers, head of Friends' Central School in Wynnewood, PA, in response to the cancellation of a talk by our friend, teacher, and mentor, Dr. Sa'ed Atshan. In addition to cancelling Sa'ed's talk, Friends' Central suspended the two teachers who arranged the talk. You can read about the cancellation and suspensions here, here, and here. A moving piece by Sa'ed about his Quaker values can be read here.

Once a refugee, I now stand in support of those shunned by U.S. government

Once a refugee, I now stand in support of those shunned by U.S. government

JVP Philly member Egina Manachova writes an op-ed for The Philadelphia Inquirer linking her own experience as a refugee to current policies restricting refugee placement and immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries;

Because of my race and my religion, and the political climate of the time, I was fortunate to have been able to access a path to citizenship as a refugee, one that is not available for every community. Now as a citizen, I refuse to turn my back on refugees, regardless of where they are from. As a refugee, I stand with all oppressed peoples of the world regardless of who is oppressing them.

Read the whole piece here.

Coverage of JVP Philly and the Protest Refugee Deportations action at PHL airport

JVP PHILLY APPLAUDS CITY COUNCIL AND MAYOR KENNEY

Philadelphia, PA-

Jewish Voice for Peace-Philadelphia (JVP Philly) commends the City Council on unanimously passing Resolution 161119 against Islamophobia. This resolution upholds the City’s “support for and protection of Muslim communities, condemning violence and hate speech targeted towards Muslims, affirming the religious pluralism of the United States, and urging Philadelphia residents to stand in solidarity with our American Muslim communities - and all other communities - for peace and justice.” We look forward to working with City Council in their efforts to realize the principles outlined in this resolution.

JVP Philly also commends Mayor Kenney on his commitment to maintaining Philadelphia’s ‘sanctuary city’ status and upholding the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. We applaud Mayor Kenney for standing up to President Trump, who on January 25th issued an executive order rendering sanctuary cities ineligible for federal grants and threatening to withhold federal funding from cities that fail to cooperate.

JVP Philly thanks Mayor Kenney and the City Council for taking a stand against the racist and xenophobic policies issuing from the federal government. We hope our city government will continue to take measures to address systemic Islamophobia and racism in Philadelphia.

To this end, we encourage Mayor Kenney to fulfill his campaign promise to end racist stop-and-frisk practices. We also urge the city government to refuse any efforts to register or surveil members of the Muslim community, and to refuse to cooperate with Immigration and Customs officials. In the coming months and years, we hope to see our Mayor and City Council resisting any harmful and discriminatory orders coming from the Trump administration.

JVP Philly pledges to resist Trump’s despicable policies in every possible way. We’ll put our hearts, souls, and bodies on the line to stop these hateful and racist attacks. We all belong here. We will love, protect, and defend one another.

JVP Philly Response in "ZOA Opposes Black Lives Matter Week in Philly Schools"

ZOA Opposes Black Lives Matter Week in Philly Schools (Jewish Exponent, January 20)

A different local Jewish group — the pro-BDS Jewish Voice for Peace-Philadelphia — endorses the [Racial Justice Committee of the Caucus of Working Educators]’ initiative.
“Jewish Voice for Peace-Philadelphia joins the majority of progressive American Jews, and particularly the younger generation, in supporting Black Lives Matter and calling for an end to political and economic systems that disproportionately harm people of color,” JVP’s Matt Berkman said. “We … support the efforts of Philadelphia public school teachers to educate students about the inequalities that affect their communities and their city.”

Commentary: For lasting peace, respect rights of both Israelis and Palestinians

Rabbi Alissa Wise writes an op-ed in the Philly Inquirer:

LAST WEEKEND, the world ushered in a new year, while Jews celebrated the final day of Hanukkah. It is traditional to light the Hanukkah menorah in your window or other public place, so all may benefit from its light.

It is in that spirit that members of Jewish Voice for Peace’s Philadelphia chapter gathered at Mayor Kenney’s menorah lighting ceremony to shine the light on our unflinching dedication to justice for all people. Each candle of the menorah declared our commitments - fighting Islamophobia and racism in our city, resisting white supremacy in our country and reinforcing the message we brought several months ago, when the Democratic National Convention was in town: Palestinians should be free.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Empowered Responses to Occupation from Palestinian Contemporary Dance

View a clip from our November 18th Contemporary Palestinian Dance event, featuring Palestinian dance artist Khaled Barghouthi (shown) in collaboration with Palestinian-American dance artist Samar Haddad King (Artistic Director of Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre aka YSDT) and Associate Artistic Director and performer of YSDT, Zoe Rabinowitz:

Johnathan Stein writes about the event for thINKing DANCE,

For King, “Art is not above politics.” Making art and creating a Palestinian culture that incorporates live, contemporary dance by and for Palestinians living in this fragmented, occupied country, is constantly affected by the political environment. Does she cancel a planned performance because of a nearby “martyr killing” so as not to be disrespectful to the family, or decide to perform to avoid the impact for dancers whose families rely on their earnings. If a program is cancelled because of local protests or a curfew, even the reason for the cancellation can’t be disclosed on Facebook for fear of Israeli intelligence viewing the posting as fomenting the protest. These and other stories brought to my mind the plight of artists in the Soviet Union or China.

Read the whole article here