fbpx
Friday, August 7, 2020

Opening Up American-Israeli Conversations at Z3 Conference

https://jewishjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/jj_avatar.jpg
Esther D. Kustanowitz
Esther D. Kustanowitz is a Contributing Writer at the Jewish Journal. She previously was the Founding Editor at GrokNation.com. She is an experienced freelance writer and consultant specializing in social media, pop culture, grief and Jewish community conversation. She is frequently sought-after as a source on social media engagement and culture, and is known as a Jewish community social influencer.

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

More than 1,000 people from across the political spectrum gathered at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto on Nov. 10 for the opening of the fifth annual Z3 conference, which was designed to create a new model for how world Jewry and Israelis engage in the 21st century. 

Former Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni gave the opening keynote address and New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens delivered the closing remarks.

At the opening plenary, Oshman Family JCC CEO Zack Bodner introduced the three core principles of Z3: Unity, Not Uniformity (honoring differences while working for unity of the Jewish people); Engaging as Equal Partners (gathering Israelis and Diaspora Jews to build a common future); and Diversity of Voices (including Zionists of differing political and religious backgrounds and perspectives.) 

“We have to find a new way to engage with each other, to transcend our differences and rise above them,” he said, adding that when bombs fall in Israel and Jews are shot in Pittsburgh, Poway or Paris, “we feel the pain, the suffering of our brothers and sisters.” 

In her remarks, Livni thanked American Jews for their support of Israel, calling it “touching.” 

“We are at our best in times of problems,” she said, “but I want to ask, is that enough? I believe we need more than being united because there are those who are against us.” 

She also spoke about the loss of Israel’s underdog reputation. “We feel we are the David and [the world] sees the Goliath.” She also said she believes that for Hillel students, being liberal “means [being] vegan and [pro-] BDS” (boycott, divestment and sanctions). She added that on campus “it’s becoming problematic to defend and stand with the State of Israel. We can criticize Israeli policy as long as we have the understanding that Israel has the right to exist as a secure, democratic state and has the right to defend itself.” 

“We have to find a new way to engage with each other, to transcend our differences and rise above them.”
— Zack Bodner

She closed her remarks by comparing the State of Israel to a jigsaw puzzle with different parts coming together to create a “wonderful picture.You are part of this picture,” she said, “and the responsibility of the Jewish community is to make the connection between the different parts of the puzzle.”

‘The Anti-Semitism That Binds Us’

Throughout the day at the conference, there were 23 breakout sessions attendees could choose from.  

A panel discussion on “The Anti-Semitism That Binds Us” featured professor Adam Ferziger, who holds the R.S.R. Hirsch Chair in the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Ferziger, 55, who was born in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., and moved to Israel when he was 22, said there has been a big visual change since his childhood, as guards now stand in front of synagogues in America. 

“What does it mean to grow up with the sense that you’re under attack, that there are clear groups that intend violence?” he asked, wondering if this was becoming part and parcel of American Jewish identity.

Panelist Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, said, “In crisis narratives, the panic and fear that drives us is morally limiting. We miss out on a lot of what’s possible for the Jewish community.” 

He attributed the increase in anti-Semitic incidients to gun violence and the rise of “political polarities which identify minorities and ethnic communities.”

Panelist Tehila Friedman, director of the Jewish Peoplehood Department and a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, said there is a clear rise in anti-Semitic sentiment from the far left.

“Where is the line between legitimate criticism against the Israeli government and policy and anti-Semitism?” she asked. 

‘Zionism and Feminism’

During a session titled “Three Generations, Three Voices: Zionism and Feminism,” Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance Founder Blu Greenberg said, “Jewish, feminist, Zionist. They mean everything to me, each of those identities. To be a Jew has always meant to be a Zionist.”

Greenberg reflected on her past responses to anti-Israel criticism, including her participation in a dialogue group involving Palestinian women where she had what she called “a seat at the table of historical conversation. I think I checked out when the going got rough and the uphill battle looked too difficult,” she said. “I have to not throw the towel in and say. ‘Let someone else do it.’ ” 

Civil rights attorney and Zioness Movement Executive Director Amanda Berman weighed in, saying, “You can be a proud Zionist and feminist and fight for social justice without checking any part of your identity at the door. We don’t have to be held responsible for Israeli policy to participate in our social activist agenda. We need to remind the world that we’re not just fighting for Jews. It’s too important for us to allow the division that is anti-Zionism in these spaces,” which, she said, can distract attention away from issues like health care and equal pay. 

Knesset member and former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Rachel Azaria spoke about her experiences fighting segregated buses and streets in religious neighborhoods. Her experience, she said, gave her “a peek into the black hole of the Israeli rabbinate. I knew I was Orthodox and a feminist, but I never put them together.” 

She added, “We always sit on the shoulders of the women who came before us and always make room for the next generation.”

Closing Address

Stephens called out the Donald Trump administration for using language that is anti-Semitic dogwhistling, including singling out “ ‘globalists’ … conspiring to undermine American sovereignty in part by opening the borders to replace American workers with cheap foreign labor.” 

He identified these tropes as the ones at play when neo-Nazis chanted in Charlottesvile, ‘You will not replace us.’ “Cultivate your instinct for danger among those who you imagine are on your side,” he said, addressing the right.

He added that because no one calls for the end of any other state except Israel, “it behooves you liberals, because you’re so attentive to microaggressions and mansplaining and racist dogwhistles … to call out veiled prejudice when it comes to hatred of Jews.”

“We’re not yelling in the wind,” Bodner concluded. “We have active partners who want us to succeed. We are ready to be a part of this conversation. Let’s get going.”

A Los Angeles Z3 event co-sponsored by the Jewish Journal will be held on Jan. 26 at Stephen Wise Temple. 

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

Adin Steinsaltz, Acclaimed Scholar Who Made the Talmud More Accessible, Dies at 83

(JTA) — Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinzaltz, the acclaimed scholar whose landmark translation of the Talmud enabled a vast readership to access one of Judaism’s...

An American Pickle? Sounds Crazy, No?

Erin and Esther dive right into the barrel and pickle their minds in the majestic, artisanal brine that is Seth Rogen's "An American Pickle,"...

Local Teen Creates Quarantine Essentials for the Homeless

The 17-year-old said that after seeing homeless people lacking the proper COVID-19 protection, she felt compelled to take action.

The Surprising Beauty of a Zoom Funeral

My beautiful and kind, brilliant and resilient father, Paul Amir, died on July 13. He was a gibor among gibors, a hero among heroes. We...

The Real Problem on College Campuses Is Zionophobia

By hiding behind anti-Zionism — which is more acceptable in polite circles — Jew-hatred can continue undetected.

B’nai Brith Canada Calls on Police to Investigate Polish Paper for Blaming COVID-19 on Jews

"To publish something like this in a Canadian newspaper, whether it’s in English or non-English, is criminal," B'nai Brith Canada said.

Jewish Veteran Who Had Democratic Party Backing Loses Tennessee Senate Primary to Progressive Activist

The progressive activist who won is an environmental activist with the Sierra Club.

Cherish the Small Comforts that Bring Your Joy in an Unsettled World

But to brace ourselves for the ongoing struggle, we must find those comforts that nourish, replenish and restore. 

Pandemic Times Episode 76: Jason Greenblatt on the Elusive Dream of Mideast Peace

New David Suissa Podcast Every Monday and Friday. A conversation with the former Mideast envoy on the dreams and harsh realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How...

Culture

Virtual Theater: ‘Fugu’ Tells Little-Known Holocaust Story

"Fugu" is based on the little-known history of how Japan sheltered 6,000 Lithuanian Jewish refugees in the city of Kobe, to protect them from the Nazis.

‘A League of Their Own’ Gets TV Remake Starring Abbi Jacobson, D’Arcy Carden

Amazon Studios is turning “A League of Their Own” into an hour-long series from creator and star Abbi Jacobson who will executive produce with Will Graham.

5 Budget-Friendly Decorating Necessities for At-Home Schooling

Here are some great décor additions that will make your online classroom setup more efficient — and even fun.

‘Nazi Menace’ Serves as Timely History Lesson

Hett usefully observes that by studying history, perhaps we are not condemned to repeat it.

Latest Articles
Latest

Adin Steinsaltz, Acclaimed Scholar Who Made the Talmud More Accessible, Dies at 83

(JTA) — Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinzaltz, the acclaimed scholar whose landmark translation of the Talmud enabled a vast readership to access one of Judaism’s...

An American Pickle? Sounds Crazy, No?

Erin and Esther dive right into the barrel and pickle their minds in the majestic, artisanal brine that is Seth Rogen's "An American Pickle,"...

Local Teen Creates Quarantine Essentials for the Homeless

The 17-year-old said that after seeing homeless people lacking the proper COVID-19 protection, she felt compelled to take action.

The Surprising Beauty of a Zoom Funeral

My beautiful and kind, brilliant and resilient father, Paul Amir, died on July 13. He was a gibor among gibors, a hero among heroes. We...

The Real Problem on College Campuses Is Zionophobia

By hiding behind anti-Zionism — which is more acceptable in polite circles — Jew-hatred can continue undetected.

Hollywood

Roy Moore’s Lawsuit Against Sacha Baron Cohen Over Being Pranked Can Proceed, Judge Rules

By the time the episode aired, it was widely known that Cohen was punking public figures.

‘Expecting Amy’ Highlights a New Comedy Dynamic of Jewish Mothers Making, Not Being, the Jokes

Jewish moms like Amy Schumer, who were once the material, have become the premier comics of this age.

Podcasts

An American Pickle? Sounds Crazy, No?

Erin and Esther dive right into the barrel and pickle their minds in the majestic, artisanal brine that is Seth Rogen's "An American Pickle,"...

Pandemic Times Episode 76: Jason Greenblatt on the Elusive Dream of Mideast Peace

New David Suissa Podcast Every Monday and Friday. A conversation with the former Mideast envoy on the dreams and harsh realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x