In an effort to get beyond divisive arguments and rally support for Israel, local organizers have lined up two programs, a panel debate and a video contest. They are intended to reach across the spectrum of age, denomination, and political views.
Conrad Nadell of Scotch Plains, chair of the four-congregation Israel Support Committee, which is involved in organizing both events, says that while the debate — on Sunday, Jan. 29, at Temple Emanu-El in Westfield — is expected to draw a cross-section of the adults in the community, “we wanted to reach young people, too.”
In explaining the idea for the second event, he said, “There is so much misinformation and outrageous lying about Israel; we thought the best way to get across the message might be to create a video or song, and then we realized — the best people to do that are the kids.”
And the best way to engage those young people, thought organizers, was to challenge them through a competition — open to creative types of all ages.
The Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey has added its support — and a financial contribution — to monies raised by the Israel Support Committee, which includes members from Congregation Beth Israel in Scotch Plains, Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah in Clark, and Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in Cranford.
Three cash prizes are being offered — $1,000, $500, and $300. Nadell said the winning videos will be posted on YouTube and everywhere else supporters can place them. Information inviting entries is being sent out to Jewish day schools and yeshivas, synagogues, Rutgers Hillel, community centers, and Jewish radio programs.
Videos — which must be submitted by June 30 — should be three to five minutes in length and must make the following points:
- Jews have lived in Israel for over 3,000 years.
- Israel is the legitimate homeland of the Jewish people.
- Israel is a democracy like the United States with equal rights for all its people.
- Israel wants and has made sacrifices for peace.
Some expert assistance has been offered to help contestants accomplish these goals effectively. Neil Lazarus — the Israeli-based advocacy trainer who recently addressed Jewish leaders from across the state while on a visit to New Jersey — has agreed to serve as a consultant.
The panel debate at Temple Emanu-El is being organized in conjunction with the Reform temple’s Varied Voices project, an undertaking designed to foster civil, respectful discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and greater community solidarity in support of Israel.
Events held under the project’s auspices last year included talks by representatives of J Street and AIPAC, and a training session for congregation members in how to exchange contrasting opinions without acrimony.
The Jan. 29 debate, from 4 to 6 p.m., is titled “Peace between Israel and the Palestinians — What Will It Take?” It will feature four speakers from across the political spectrum. Five or six questions will be posed and each speaker will have a chance to respond. The audience will then have an hour to put their own questions to the panel.
The moderator will be Jonathan Knopf, a senior broadcasting consultant with The Coaching Company. He is a former news director and general manager of News 12 New Jersey, with a 35-year career in TV broadcasting.
“I look forward to a rousing discussion examining the diverse points of view,” he said. “I think the participants hope to both inform and influence the audience. As moderator, my role will be to maintain order and make sure all voices are heard.”
The panelists are:
• Nadell, a retired accountant. In addition to chairing the Israel Support Committee, he is a board member of the Central federation and a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Central New Jersey.
• Jared Silverman, an attorney and former adjunct professor at Seton Hall Law School in South Orange. He is former chief of the NJ Bureau of Securities, a member of the Community Relations Committee of MetroWest and Central NJ, and an op-ed columnist for NJ Jewish News.
• Rabbi Charles Kroloff, rabbi emeritus of Temple Emanu-El, past president of the Association of Reform Zionists of America and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and a member of the board of J Street.
• Larry Lerner, a retired attorney who serves as president of the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union. He is immediate past president of Meretz USA, an organization that seeks a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.