Written and directed by Ezra Berkley Nepon and Jaclyn Pryor and performed on Sunday, March 12, 2017 at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia.
Written and directed by Ezra Berkley Nepon and Jaclyn Pryor and performed on Sunday, March 12, 2017 at the William Way LGBT Community Center in Philadelphia.
Contact: Matt Berkman
Email: philly [at] jewishvoiceforpeace [dot] org
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
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.
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.
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.
'No hate. No fear': Thousands protest Trump's immigration order at Philadelphia International Airport, by Jeremy Roebuck, Michael Matza, Suzette Parmley and Rob Tornoe, January 29th, 2017, Philly.com Blog
Thousands protest Trump’s travel ban at Philadelphia International Airport, by Kathleen E. Carey, January 29th, 2017, Delaware County Daily Times
Jewish Groups, Individuals, Respond to Trump’s Executive Order, by Liz Spikol, January 29th, 2017, Jewish Exponent
Permanent Protest in Philly: What’s driving the anti-Trump movement, by Anna Orso, January 31st, 2017, Billy Penn
Philly protesters to march against Trump immigration order, by Emily Babay, February 3, 2017, Philly.com
How 30 grassroots groups organized that 5,000-person airport protest — and what’s next. Alaina Mabaso, March 7, 2017, Generosity.org
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.
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
"Palestinian Rights Activists At The DNC Believe Time Is On Their Side," by Daniel Marans, July 26th, 2016, The Huffington Post
"Who Goes To The DNC Anyway?" by Samantha Schuyler and Molly Stier, July 28th, 2016, The Nation
"From Civil Rights to Palestine, the Democratic Party Has Always Lagged Behind its Activist Base", by Naomi Dann, July 28th, 2016, In These Times
Public pressure from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) - Philadelphia activists induced mayoral candidates Jim Kenney and Anthony H. Williams to take a public stand against Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry yesterday. More than six hundred and fifty voters signed a petition organized by JVP - Philadelphia asking mayoral candidates to actively oppose Islamophobia and to distance themselves from organizations that promote it.
JVP - Philadelphia member Matt Berkman stated, “When anti-Muslim hate speech is plastered on buses in the City of Brotherly Love, we need to know that our future leaders are committed to opposing Islamophobia. We are grateful to candidates Kenney and Williams for responding to our campaign. However, we continue to ask candidate Williams to cut ties with the Islamophobic Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)..."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jewish Voice for Peace - Philadelphia | email@example.com
Philadelphia, PA (May 7, 2015) - Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) - Philadelphia challenges mayoral candidate Anthony H. Williams to publicly reject anti-Muslim organizations and activities.
JVP - Philadelphia member Matt Berkman stated, “When anti-Muslim hate speech is plastered on our city buses and our current mayor is forced to hold a major press conference rejecting it, we need to ask whether candidates in Philadelphia’s upcoming mayoral election are committed to opposing Islamophobia.”
In 2013, State Senator Williams accepted a "Friend of Zion Award" from the right-wing Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). “In recent decades, the ZOA has moved to the political fringes, employing dangerous Islamophobic scare tactics to drum up support for Israel,” said JVP - Philadelphia member Ezra Nepon. At the ZOA’s annual banquet in New York last year, ZOA President Morton Klein tellingly referred to the occupant of the Oval Office as "Barack HUSSEIN Obama,” while homophobic evangelical pastor John Hagee denounced the President as “anti-Semitic.” Nepon stated, “The ZOA is one of the only national Jewish organizations willing to host Pamela Geller, the anti-Muslim activist responsible for the recent SEPTA ads that were widely condemned by the mainstream Jewish community.” In a statement to the Jewish Exponent, ZOA’s Morton Klein refused to condemn the ads and instead sympathized with Geller’s position.
Members of JVP Philadelphia and others delivered a letter from over one hundred community members of all faiths to the Senator’s staff, detailing the ZOA’s record of bigotry and requesting that he decline the award. “What happened next was shocking,” said Rabbi Linda Holtzman (of Mt. Airy, member of the Jewish Voice for Peace national board), “not only did Senator Williams inform us that he would accept the award in the name of ‘understanding and tolerance’—an Orwellian thought, given the ZOA's intolerant agenda—but he doubled down, using his platform at the award ceremony to denounce the petitioners, his own constituents, for daring to express their concerns, telling us ‘Don’t ever show up in my office again.’” Sitting next to Williams as he delivered his remarks was fellow award recipient Nonie Darwish, a key speaker on the anti-Muslim lecture circuit known for spreading the conspiracy theory that the Obama administration has been infiltrated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and claiming that the President “has a Socialist/Islamic centered worldview.”
Berkman adds, “It is disturbing that these are the people Williams considers his ‘friends,’ as he described them at the ZOA ceremony.”
JVP - Philadelphia asks all candidates for mayor to commit to actively opposing Islamophobia in Philadelphia, and to distance themselves from organizations like the ZOA that promote it. The recent SEPTA advertisements are only the most flamboyant manifestation of this increasingly fashionable hatred. Confronting it head-on is the best way to ensure a safe and inclusive Philadelphia for all its residents.
WATCH: Williams praises ZOA "friends," disparages constituents
Philadelphia, PA (March 31, 2015) – This week, following a long court battle, SEPTA will begin running the latest in a nation-wide series of shockingly bigoted anti-Islam ad campaigns paid for by the far-right American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI). The ads, which SEPTA initially rejected as defamatory, suggest that Muslims are Nazis and that anti-Semitism is inherent to Islamic theology. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the sponsoring organization a "hate group" and its founder, Pamela Geller, was 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.
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) - Philadelphia stands in steadfast opposition to this dangerous wave of hate speech, as have JVP chapters across the country when AFDI ads have appeared in cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and Seattle.
The ugly message of Geller’s advertisement is factually inaccurate and offensive in its misuse and trivialization of Holocaust memory. Alongside a banner reading “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in the Quran” is a photograph of Adolph Hitler meeting with Haj Amin Al-Husseini, a Nazi collaborator and one-time Mufti of Jerusalem, with a caption labeling Husseini “the leader of the Muslim world.” In reality, Husseini was a British-appointed functionary with a limited following in Jerusalem, much less the entire Muslim world. But for Geller, historical accuracy is less important than exploiting the Jewish people’s ultimate tragedy to defame Muslims and sow prejudice.
While American norms of religious tolerance have so far checked the rise of European-style anti-Muslim mass movements, Geller's Islamophobia network has nonetheless helped create an environment conducive to "lone wolf" attacks on Muslim individuals and institutions. Last month, three visibly Muslim college students were executed in their Chapel Hill, North Carolina apartment by a neighbor with documented animus towards religion and an obsession with firearms. Several days later, an arson attack destroyed an Islamic center in Houston, Texas. According to the Washington Post, the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes has increased five-fold since 9/11, and 6% of Muslim Americans polled in 2011—more than 150,000 people total—report having been victimized.
It is therefore encouraging that a consortium of Philadelphia’s mainstream religious leaders—Jews, Christians, and Muslims—has come together to unequivocally denounce the AFDI campaign. In a statement issued by the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia last October, clergymen and women “condemn[ed] inflammatory messages that serve to divide, stigmatize, and incite prejudice.” Today, that consortium, including the Jewish Federation, will gather at 1pm in Love Park to reaffirm its repudiation of Pamela Geller’s hateful agenda. We at Jewish Voice for Peace – Philadelphia proudly and loudly join the chorus of condemnation. On this important issue, we stand with the mainstream Jewish community in rejecting Islamophobia.
Still, we would be remiss in our responsibility as progressive Jews if we did not highlight the role Islamophobia plays in much right-wing “pro-Israel” discourse. Indeed, Pamela Geller is best known for her New York subway advertisements calling Muslims “savages” and encouraging readers to “Support Israel, Defeat Jihad.” The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), whose influence in the Philadelphia area is outsized, is the only major Jewish organization willing to host Geller and other nationally prominent Islamophobes. And the Center for American Progress has documented numerous linkages between “pro-Israel” foundations and anti-Muslim hate groups.
At Jewish Voice for Peace - Philadelphia, we believe it is both possible and necessary to affirm the right of Israelis and Palestinians to security and freedom without resorting to racism, and we express deep concern that Islamophobic groups like the ZOA continue to be embraced by the mainstream Jewish community.
Philadelphia public transport adverts linking Islam with Adolf Hitler spark outrage, April 3, 2015. International Business Times.
Rabbi's guerrilla war against anti-Islam bus ads, April 29, 2015. Philly.com
Some candid footage of JVP Philly activists at around 3:29 in this excellent short documentary!
Additional press coverage:
"Embracing Israel Boycott, Jewish Voice For Peace Insists on Its Jewish Identity" by Evan Serpick, March 28, 2015, The Jewish Daily Forward
"Jewish Voice for Peace Converges in Baltimore" by Marc Shapiro, March 19, 2015, Baltimore Jewish Times
"At a Jewish Voice For Peace Conference: This Is What Solidarity Looks Like" by Nadia Hijab, March 20, 2015, The Nation
"Surging support for Palestine fuels JVP’s biggest meeting yet" by Alex Kane, March 16, 2015, Mondoweiss
"Inside JVP’s National Membership Meeting" by Nicole Zelniker, March 25, 2015, New Voices Magazine
Comprehensive Storify with photos and tweets:
"JVP National Membership Meeting," by B. Ever Hanna
"Protesters Escorted From Philly Jewish Federation in Handcuffs," by Amishai Gottlieb, Eric Berger, and Lisa Hostein, August 8, 2014, Jewish Exponent
"Jewish Voice for Peace Protesters Occupy Lobby, Demand End to Israeli Siege of Gaza," by Joshua Alber, August 9, 2014, Philly Declaration
"Six arrested in civil disobedience at Federation offices in Philly," by Rebecca Alpert, August 9, 2014, Mondoweiss
"Media ignores Jewish anti-war protest at Federation headquarters," by Daniel Denvir, August 11, 2014, City Paper
The below letter was hand delivered to Senator Williams' staff. The original, pre-release signatories are listed. An additional 100 or so Philadelphians subsequently signed on. In the end, Williams accepted the ZOA's award and used his acceptance speech to denounce the letter's signatories.