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Rabbi Ellen Lippmann changes her mind on the boycott

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On the eve of a significant Open Jewish Conversation about Cultural Boycott of Israel reported here last month Stolen Beauty has published a letter from highly regarded Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, founder of the the Progressive Jewish congregation Kolot Chayeinu in Park Slope, which is hosting the event tonight. The letter is addressed to other signatories of the Brooklyn Rabbis Letter, a letter originally signed by seven rabbis criticizing the boycott of Ahava Cosmetics.

Stolen Beauty prefaces:

After a visit to the West Bank, Lippman wrote to the other rabbis saying that she had changed her mind and now supported the boycott of settlement products, including Ahava.

Dear rabbis,

I am writing this note which I have meant to write since returning from the human rights mission to Israel and Palestine that I co-led in October; a trip organized by Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. It was an amazing trip in many ways, and a sorrowful one too, as we saw the painful places where human rights are damaged if not discarded. I urge you to go on next year’s trip, which will take place in mid-November.

Among many other things, we saw the destruction that is wrought by too many Israeli settlers. We stood on the charred ground that had been a thriving olive grove only days before, before settlers set fire to it, as they also poison and cut down other trees and groves, seemingly just because they are owned and run by Palestinians. We stood with cave dwellers in the south Hebron Hills and a day later they and Israeli advocate Ezra Nawi were attacked by armed and masked “bandit” settlers. We visited Hebron, where streets are empty of life except in the area of the Cave, because Palestinian shops have been locked and so have many homes, and where the main street near the Cave is divided by a cement barrier; Palestinians walk on one side, Israelis, Americans, on the other, watched by a soldier.

Israel has many real security needs. But I have come to know that the ways in which the occupation of the West Bank is enforced go way beyond those needs to the realm of harsh discrimination and ready violence, aided by a complicity military and government.

This is all preface to my main point to you: I have changed my mind about the purchase of products made in the Jewish West Bank. All the rabbis I spoke to in Israel, who were not only RHR rabbis, are not buying West Bank products. I have decided to join them. Therefore, I will no longer oppose those who refuse to buy Ahava products.

The list produced by Gush Shalom is attached, if you want to think about this as well.

I have no interest in embarrassing any of you, my colleagues. I will not be standing in front of Ricky’s urging a boycott. But I have come to think I must support it.

Thanks for “listening.” I leave Monday for a month’s sabbatical, so will have little chance to talk to any of you before going. I would be happy to talk when I return, if you like.

I wish you all a happy and hopeful new year.


Rabbi Ellen Lippmann Kolot Chayeinu / Voices of Our Lives

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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