Young Jews Challenge American Jewish Leadership At Jewish Federation General Assembly in New Orleans

Contact: Eyal Mazor: 408-718-2942
Matan Cohen: 917-460-6350
Antonia House: 646-541-3174

November 8th, 2010

[November 8, 2010, New Orleans] A group of young Jews with the Young Leadership Institute of Jewish Voice for Peace has traveled to the largest gathering of Jewish leaders in the US, the Jewish Federation General Assembly, to confront leaders on an approach to saving Israel's reputation and building young Jewish identity they say actually turns young Jews away.

Five of the young adults, including 3 Israelis and Israeli-Americans, disrupted a speech this morning by Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu with banners that said: and one of the below-

The Settlements Delegitimize Israel
The Occupation Delegitimizes Israel
The Siege of Gaza Delegitimizes Israel
The Loyalty Oath Delegitimizes Israel
Silencing Dissent Delegitimizes Israel
and The Settlements Betray Jewish Values
(and in Hebrew:) Justice justice you shall pursue - Deuteronomy 16:20.

The young Jews faced a violent backlash from some audience members. Some audience members attempted to hit and gag Rae Abileah, a young Jewish protester and member of CODEPINK. Three of the young Jews, Matan Cohen, Matthew Taylor and Emily Ratner, were temporarily detained, but not before they interrupted Netanyahu's speech five times with chants, and forced him to address them directly. Two of them were captured on the conference live TV feed as they were removed from the crowd. Flipcam footage will be available soon.

The young Jews' website,,  presents the group's Young Jewish Declaration, a compelling vision of collective identity, purpose and values written as an invitation and call to action for  peers who care about Israel and Palestine. It is also a strong challenge to elders.

These actions are in part a protest of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and Jewish Public Affairs Council (JCPA) newly announced $6 million dollar program to target campus, church, peace and human rights groups that are working to end Israel's human rights violations through nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions pressure campaigns. The Federations and JCPA are calling this initiative the “Israel Action Network.”  Critics say it is a "Shoot the Messenger" approach.

“We're here to call out the elephant in the middle of the room. Israel continues to expropriate Palestinian land for Jewish-only communities, passes increasingly racist laws in the Knesset, the foreign minister wants to strip Palestinian citizens of their citizenship -- these are the reasons Israel is becoming a pariah in the world, NOT the human rights groups that are using nonviolent economic pressure to hold Israel accountable. We would be dismissing the values we were raised on if we did not speak up,” says Eitan Issacson, Israeli-American, Seattle.

“The Jewish establishment thinks that all we want are free trips to Israel and feel-good service projects. That is in insult to our intelligence and to the Jewish values we were brought up on. What we want is for the American Jewish community to stand up and say that Israel's ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights are wrong and that we will not continue to support it with our dollars, our political strength and our moral abilities. We are the next generation of American Jews, proud of our heritage, strongly committed to Jewish life. We live our Jewish values in opposing Israel's human rights violations and we invite – no, implore –all Jews to join in this urgent struggle.”
Hanna King, Swarthmore College, Philadelphia

“We were surprised by how many other young Jews were enthusiastic about the perspective that we brought to the General Assembly. It was scary to ask questions of sometimes hostile panelists, but in fact many people our age were supportive and even asked their own critical questions. We realized this is a terrific opportunity to organize.” Antonia House, graduate student, NYU

“Right now, the choice for those of us who care about the future of Israel and Palestine is between the status quo--- which includes continued settlement expansion, the siege of Gaza, and the racist Israeli foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman-- or Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions. Given that choice, Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions will win every time.”  Matan Cohen, Israeli, Hampshire College

The students also announced the creation of a spoof Birthright Trip called Taglit-Lekulanu , Birthright for All, open to Palestinian and Jewish-Americans which they followed up with a spoof denial. The goal of the spoof was to highlight the one-sided narrative that Birthright presents, the ways it renders Palestinians invisible. The rebuttal laid bare the problematic assumptions underlying Birthright such as the emphasis on marrying Jews and procreating.

Participants in the institute include students from schools as diverse as UCLA, NYU, UC Berkeley, Hampshire, and Swarthmore.

A new Jewish Voice for Peace campus chapter was recently started at Brandeis University.


Jewish Voice for Peace is America's largest Jewish grassroots peace group dedicated to reaching a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians based on the principles of equality and international human rights law.

JVP recently led a campaign to support Israeli artists' boycott of the Ariel settlement. The campaign secured the signatures  of over 200 artists dozens of Broadway and Hollywood's leading figures including Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince, Theodore Bikel, Eve Ensler, Julianne Moore, Mandy Patinkin, Miriam Margolyes, Cynthia Nixon, Roseanne Barr, Ethan Hawke, Ed Asner, the architect Frank Gehry and more.

JVP works with activists in Palestine and Israel, and in broad coalition with other Jewish, Arab-American, faith-based, and peace and social justice organizations to support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for justice, security and self-determination.

Jewish Voice for Peace calls for:

* A U.S. foreign policy based on promoting peace, democracy, human rights, and respect for international law
* An end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem
* A resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem consistent with international law and equity
* An end to all violence against civilians