Leaders of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ returned from a four-day meeting in Washington, DC, with a determination to focus on a wide variety of social justice issues.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs — the umbrella organization of the community relations committees in local Jewish federations — devoted its annual plenum to building partnerships beyond the Jewish community.
The conference “raised really important issues that are taking place around the country,” Greater MetroWest CRC director Melanie Roth Gorelick told NJJN following the Oct. 12 session. “We have been talking about poverty in America; race relations; interfaith relations; lesbian, gay, and transgender issues; and how interfaith communities have been working together toward peace. We are talking a lot about coalition building and working at the community level to make change.”
Also representing the Greater MetroWest CRC were its chair, Elliot Mathias; community partnership chair, Mark Dunec; and Israel and World Affairs chair, Sheri Goldberg. All are Livingston residents.
“The discussion of important issues facing our greater society was extremely helpful for our CRC in Greater MetroWest as we continue to strengthen our local relationships with other communities in our area,” wrote Mathias in an e-mail to NJ Jewish News.
Dunec said he relished the chance to meet Jewish activists from around the country, including people of color.
“This was an eye-opening experience for me,” he said. “We will bring the knowledge back home and hopefully educate people in our own community. These are American justice and equality for all issues.”
Goldberg called the gathering “an amazing experience. We had people from across the country — from the Orthodox Union to very liberal progressive organizations — and all of us were unified in our desire to work together in a post-Iran nuclear agreement atmosphere. It is common goal-setting. Everybody wants to be on the same page on issues such as poverty and income inequality.”
But despite the shows of unity, the JCPA’s outgoing president warned delegates against divisiveness among American Jews. In an Oct. 11 awards ceremony, Rabbi Steve Gutow, who is leaving in December after 10 years as president, addressed polarization in the community, particularly during the recent debate over the Iran nuclear deal.
“The very notion that those who opposed the Iran treaty simply wanted war flies in the face of most of those people whom I know. And equally far-fetched,” he added, is the idea put forth by opponents of the treaty that “those who supported it were traitors and that Obama was Neville Chamberlain.”
He also criticized efforts to isolate J Street, a left-of-center Jewish Middle East policy group.
“If we’re going to have any credibility with the liberal community when we fight BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions aimed at Israel) and any credibility with our consciences, we must be able, in a seemly way, to criticize Israel when we disagree with her policies,” Gutow said.
With reporting from JTA