‘Absolutely not!’ — Young Colorado Jews meet hostility when they try to talk to organizational leaders

Israel/Palestine
Front Range JVP activists who tried to deliver the petition to the office of JEWISHcolorado pictured here after the action with the JEWISHcolorado sign and the signs they used during the action. left to right, Abby Harms is the woman on the far left wearing the skirt, next to her (the only one not in black) is Evan Herzoff, next to him (towards the back) is Neal Feldman, next to him is me, Julia Wedgle and next to me, on the far right is Zoe Handler.

Front Range JVP activists who tried to deliver the petition to the office of JEWISHcolorado pictured here after the action with the JEWISHcolorado sign and the signs they used during the action. left to right, Abby Harms, Evan Herzoff, Neal Feldman, Julia Wedgle and Zoe Handler.

 

As part of a coordinated set of actions by Jewish Voice for Peace chapters across the US, activists in Denver visited our local Jewish Federation to demand that Jewish community leaders stand up for justice in Gaza. Mobilizing as the newly reemerged chapter of Front Range Jewish Voice for Peace, we attempted to deliver a petition to JEWISHcolorado, the Colorado affiliate of the Jewish Federations of North America on Tuesday, August 19. The petition, signed by 30,000 supporters of JVP, calls on Jewish Federation President Jerry Silverman and other Jewish community leaders to publicly demand an immediate ceasefire and an end to the blockade of Gaza. We visited the office of our local Federation to deliver this petition, hoping that they would listen to our concerns and join us in calling for an end to the siege of Gaza.

At first, we were received warmly when member Abby Harms requested information about Federation programs. Susan Weinberger, the outreach coordinator, came down to speak with Abby and offered her a glass of water. The hospitality ended when the rest of our group joined her and introduced ourselves as Jewish Voice for Peace members. When we asked to deliver our petition, a member of the office staff said, “Absolutely not.”

Our group was then locked out of the offices, but continued our demonstration in the lobby. We read the petition and a letter to Doug Seserman, CEO of Jewish Colorado, out-loud. When Abby pushed the petition and letter under the locked door, it was promptly shoved back to us. Other attempts at communication were rebuffed by the receptionist, who was on the phone with the police. We stood our ground and, in an act of mourning and solidarity, we read names of some of the over 2000 Palestinians who have been killed in the last 43 days.

At one point, Jewish Colorado CEO Doug Seserman stuck his head out of the door, and then promptly shut it when we began reading our letter to him.

As young Jews, we are appalled by the fact JEWISHcolorado claims to represent all of the Jewish community here in Colorado, including us, but wouldn’t even hear us out. They were more than willing to be receptive to a young Jew interested in their programming, but were hostile when they found out this same person was a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. They would not engage in conversation and any attempt to take a sheet of paper voicing our opinion as Jewish Coloradans was ignored. Instead of engaging with us, the Federation called the police and deliberated with them about pressing charges.

Abby Harms, the JVP member who initially entered the building, says, “Their change in attitude was frankly frightening. The words ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ shouldn’t be conceived as a threat. All we had was a petition. We were there to say ‘enough violence, enough of Israel using our name to commit war crimes, and it is time that American Jewish institutions stood up to Israel as well.'”

“The Jewish Federation has an obligation to represent and respect the views of all Jews in Colorado, but instead the Federation has shut out Jews who are against the occupation of Palestine and continues to support the occupation,” Front Range JVP member, Evan Herzoff, says.

While we did not get the chance to speak to Doug Seserman as we had hoped, this was still a successful action. This summer, the Front Range JVP chapter was resurrected by a group of Jews fed up with Israel’s war crimes, time and time again, in Gaza. Our horror at the deliberate targeting of Palestinian civilans during Operation Protective Edge and the underlying conditions of siege in Gaza have motivated us to speak out to hold our Jewish leaders accountable.

“As a result of Operation Protective Edge I decided to become more actively involved with Jewish Voice for Peace. Even in my short time being involved with Palestinian solidarity work I’ve seen how unwilling my community is to hold any kind of constructive dialogue toward accountability in Palestine-Israel, all while simultaneously claiming to represent my values,” said Zoe Handler, another Front Range JVP member.

We want the Denver Jewish community to know that we are here and we are a growing group of Jews that stand up to Israeli government policies and American Jewish institutional complicity in them. We encourage other Jews to speak up and say “not in our name.” This is the first direct action of this kind in the Denver Jewish community and has helped to ignite our chapter. We look forward to our upcoming events in the near future and hope to create a space in which Colorado Jews speak out against apartheid.

This piece was written by members of Front Range Jewish Voice for Peace. If you are in the Denver area and wish to get involved with JVP please email [email protected] We look forward to hearing from you soon.

About Front Range Jewish Voice for Peace

Front Range Jeiwsh Voice for Peace is a Colorado branch of the national organization. If you are in the Denver area and wish to get involved with JVP please email [email protected]

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28 Responses

  1. seafoid
    August 20, 2014, 2:23 pm

    “but instead the Federation has shut out Jews who are against the occupation of Palestine and continues to support the occupation,”

    Welcome to the world of power.
    The donors are hardly going to roll over.
    Seserman is the local rep for people like Adelson.

    North American Zionism claims the allegiance of all local Jews but access to the decision makers? Forget about it. You are just there to give an impression of communal support for extremism.

    • Mooser
      August 20, 2014, 6:07 pm

      “You are just there to give an impression of communal support for extremism.”

      JVP’s actions will go a long way towards making that apparent, even to people who may not want to see it.

      • Pixel
        August 20, 2014, 10:34 pm

        @M

        Your serious side is as interesting and valuable as your humorous side.

        A hat tip to you, sir!

      • Mooser
        August 21, 2014, 5:42 pm

        Why, thanks for the compliment Pixel.

  2. just
    August 20, 2014, 2:30 pm

    That’s some kind of fascism.

    Stay strong FRJVP. You’re right in that “this was still a successful action.”! Thank you.

  3. American
    August 20, 2014, 4:27 pm

    This is interesting. My first thought when I see a way out anti semite statement on a thread is that it is a zio provocateur. I would not be surpirsed if this was a hasbara tactic.

    link to commondreams.org

    The Double Identity of an “Anti-Semitic” Commenter
    Smearing a Progressive Website to Support Israel

    Like many other news websites, Common Dreams has been plagued by inflammatory anti-Semitic comments following its stories. But on Common Dreams these posts have been so frequent and intense they have driven away donors from a nonprofit dependent on reader generosity.
    A Common Dreams investigation has discovered that more than a thousand of these damaging comments over the past two years were written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel.
    His intricate campaign, which he has admitted to Common Dreams, included posting comments by a screen name, “JewishProgressive,” whose purpose was to draw attention to and denounce the anti-Semitic comments that he had written under many other screen names.
    The deception was many-layered. At one point he had one of his characters charge that the anti-Semitic comments and the criticism of the anti-Semitic comments must be written by “internet trolls who have been known to impersonate anti-Semites in order to then double-back and accuse others of supporting anti-Semitism”–exactly what he was doing. (Trolls are posters who foment discord.)
    The impersonation, this character wrote, must be part of an “elaborate Hasbara setup,” referring to an Israeli international public-relations campaign. When Common Dreams finally confronted the man behind the deceptive posting, he denied that he himself was involved with Hasbara.
    His posting on Common Dreams illustrates the susceptibility of website comment threads to massive manipulation. As another illustration, he even audaciously tricked the white-supremacist Vanguard News Network, posing as “DeShawn S. Williams,” a “Pro-White/Black, anti-jew.” One of “DeShawn S. Williams” profile pictures on the Vanguard News Network.On Vanguard, where this African-American persona posted more than 1,400 times, he encouraged the ……

    • Mooser
      August 20, 2014, 6:14 pm

      “written with a deceptive purpose by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel.”

      Or maybe a Jewish Harvard graduate in his late fifties who is just so all-fired handsome and fit people often think he’s in his thirties?

      • Bumblebye
        August 20, 2014, 8:25 pm

        I have a brother and a sister who got genes like that. Look 20 years younger than they damn well are!

      • Sycamores
        August 20, 2014, 8:29 pm

        Mooser,

        be nice, he’s only been 39 for 20+ years.

        JewishProgressive

        By routinely conflating Isreal actions with Jews collectively, progressive communities are alienating their Jewish members, many of whom, like myself,have been stalwarts in the community since the Civil Rights era.

        link to commondreams.org

    • Pixel
      August 20, 2014, 10:42 pm

      @American

      Brilliantly diabolical.

      “By way of deception, thou shalt do war?”

    • Naftush
      August 21, 2014, 2:18 am

      On first thought (reaction): what of it? On second thought, it’s telling that this troll cut such a broad swath without running into a moderation firewall or arousing the suspicions and wrath of legitimate commenters.

    • Annie Robbins
      August 21, 2014, 6:11 pm

      american, not sure if you saw our coverage of this story link to mondoweiss.net

      • American
        August 21, 2014, 7:35 pm

        no I didnt see that article, missed it.
        but its a good case for moderation of blog posters.

  4. seafoid
    August 20, 2014, 4:34 pm

    What Walt said last year. The only thing that will work against a colonial project over 40 years old is the application of power.
    It’s not fair or right that JVP are virtually the only ones standing up to the insanity. They can’t do much on their own.

    Israel is a Jewish catastrophe.

    • Mooser
      August 20, 2014, 6:20 pm

      “Israel is a Jewish catastrophe.”

      Certainly not the first, by a long shot, to face the Jewish people, I would think. Perhaps we should look to the past, to other events which led to crisis in the religion, and see how our Jewish leaders, (that is, the panoply of people and organizations which claim that title, or may actually be such) handled them, and what they did for us.

      • SQ Debris
        August 20, 2014, 9:25 pm

        Mooser, look under Golden Calf for suitable action items. In this case it’s a Blued Steel White Phosphorus Calf. Same difference.

      • seafoid
        August 21, 2014, 12:26 pm

        Self appointed Jewish leaders appear to have a history of failure but it’s all different now, right ?

      • Mooser
        August 21, 2014, 5:59 pm

        “Self appointed Jewish leaders appear to have a history of failure but it’s all different now, right ?”

        Things change so much as conditions change in just one or two generations. One of the disturbing perceptions (admittedly highly subjective) I have when I read stuff about the I-P issues (it extends, in some measure, to both sides of the issue) is that American Jews don’t do failure anymore. We just don’t, not catastrophic failure. It’s once again very subjective on my part, but behind the pretexts embroidered with a victimography, there seems to me to be an absolute refusal to consider a possibility of catastrophic Jewish failure. That just doesn’t happen anymore.
        I’m not sure how meaningful that observation is.

      • American
        August 22, 2014, 11:10 am

        ‘It’s once again very subjective on my part, but behind the pretexts embroidered with a victimography, there seems to me to be an absolute refusal to consider a possibility of catastrophic Jewish failure. That just doesn’t happen anymore.”’

        Humm…that is the impression I get also. That they believe they can continue their domination plans and no one will ever stop them.
        I call it delusional….those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.

      • Mooser
        August 22, 2014, 12:49 pm

        It works both ways, I think. It also goes, to some extent, for the American Jews on the other sides of the issue, too. I think it colors their perception of how urgent the situation is, and what the consequences are.

  5. radii
    August 20, 2014, 6:29 pm

    You vil mahch in lockstep vith da party line!

  6. ProudZionist
    August 20, 2014, 10:07 pm

    “The Jewish Federation has an obligation to represent and respect the views of all Jews in Colorado, …”

    Do anyone really believe this??????

    So if some Jews in Colorado believe that all Palestinians should be transferred to Jordan, you’d agree that the Federation has an obligation to represent and respect that view?????

    • Mooser
      August 21, 2014, 6:08 pm

      Proud Zionist, you are completely wrong! The Jewish Federation of Colorado represents all Colorado Jews who agree with Israel! If Israel decided on “transfer” I’m sure the Zionists of Colorado would agree, and so would the JF.

  7. Pixel
    August 20, 2014, 10:43 pm

    .
    Abby, Evan, Neal, Julia, Zoe, and Handler…

    GREAT JOB!!!

  8. hophmi
    August 21, 2014, 10:23 am

    I’d like to know how many of these people are genuinely interested in Federation programming. Perhaps they are interested in taking part in one of the many charitable programs Federation has, programs which benefit Jews and non-Jews alike.

    • Mooser
      August 21, 2014, 6:04 pm

      “Perhaps they are interested in taking part in one of the many charitable programs Federation has, programs which benefit Jews and non-Jews alike.”

      So what’s the ratio, Hophmi? How many meals served or blankets distributed per murdered Palestinian child? What do you think would be fair?
      Or maybe a split, say X% monies for charitable causes and X% for occupation and settlements?

      I await your proposal, Hophmi. I’m sure you can calculate it down to the penny.

  9. Sudhama
    August 21, 2014, 11:31 am

    This article really reminds me of how we constantly hear that it’s necessary for Israel to attack and occupy sovereign Palestinian lands out of a need for security. During a debate some time ago, noted Jewish American scholar, whose parents both survived internment camps during the holocaust, had a very interesting response to that assertion. He said, “Israel is ranked as the 4th leading military power in the world (now roughly 6th – 11th). Does it have real security claims against the Palestinians? Let me quote to you former Foreign Minister of Israel Abba Eban. He said ‘Israel has as much to fear from a Palestinian State, as the (former) Soviet Union does from Luxembourg.’ How many people here feel the (former) Soviet Union has a real threat from Luxemburg?
    “Furthermore, if we apply the logic of Abba Eban, the (former) Soviet Union had more rights to occupy Afghanistan, than Israel does to occupy the West Bank and Gaza. Because, certainly Afghanistan poses a greater security threat to the (former) Soviet Union than Luxemburg. How many people (…) support the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan? Now let’s look at what Amos Oz says in his (…) book The Slopes Of Lebanon. He asks, to me, (…) a reasonable question. ‘What does Israel (…) have to fear from a state that would be 1/5 the size of Albania and 1/2 the population of Kuwait?’
    “Is that a real threat to the state of Israel, or is that simply an excuse to continue the occupation?” It is not racist, anti-Semitic nor does it make you a self-hating Jew to disagree with Israel. It might make you a person of compassion, with good morals and strong character.

  10. Annie Robbins
    August 21, 2014, 6:09 pm

    thank you so much Colorado Front Range Jewish Voice for Peace! it’s awesome to see these actions taken by young jews all across the nation. jvp is really stepping up right now. it’s wonderful to see.

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