In which Richard Silverstein misses the point

Richard Silverstein is one of my favorite writers on Israel-Palestine.  He’s a principled liberal with an eye for political realities, and an unwavering dedication to peace.  He tends to be one of the best at cutting through whatever the day’s talking points and divisive arguments are (from both the right and the left) and really getting to the heart of matters.  And he’s superb at contextualizing current events in terms of the larger political and cultural struggle for peace.

All of this is to say that he’s generally pretty awesome.  Which is why I was a bit disappointed to see his post from last week fisking an Israel lobby “stop Iranian nukes by ending foreign oil dependence” petition.

I kid you not, the best that the brightest minds behind the Israel lobby could devise in preparation for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s upcoming appearance at the UN in New York is taking out this full-page ad in the N.Y. Times, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and saying the way to stop Iran’s ‘unquenchable thirst’ for nuclear weapons is to stop using oil.

I agree with Silverstein that Iran is too often used by Israel apologists as a distraction from more pressing issues, and I too resent the tendency of the organizations behind this ad (according to Silverstein they include AIPAC, the ADL, B’nai Brith, and others) to paint complicated issues as simple goodguys-vs.-badguys scenarios, but criticizing someone who advocates energy independence puts you in a tricky position.  Silverstein does address this near the beginning of his post:

Well, OK, not all oil, we can keep guzzling good ol’ U.S. crude, but “foreign” oil is bad.

He’s definitely hitting the nail on the head here: focusing only on foreign oil dependence tends to refocus the debate on energy instead of climate change (which in my opinion is the wrong focus).  That being said, anyone paying any attention to the domestic political discourse on climate change knows that some of our strongest allies are the guys with national security credentials and the businesspeople.  The former are already on board; the challenge now is wooing the latter.  The tripartisan (it is ridiculous that that is even a term) climate bill that was supposed to be introduced last week made some pretty excellent progress on this, but it’s slow going.  For some inspiration, here’s what Thomas Friedman thinks Obama should say:

“Yes, if we pass this energy legislation, a small price on carbon will likely show up on your gasoline or electricity bill. I’m not going to lie. But it is an investment that will pay off in so many ways. It will spur innovation in energy efficiency that will actually lower the total amount you pay for driving, heating or cooling. It will reduce carbon pollution in the air we breathe and make us healthier as a country. It will reduce the money we are sending to nations that crush democracy and promote intolerance. It will strengthen the dollar. It will make us more energy secure, environmentally secure and strategically secure. Sure, our opponents will scream ‘carbon tax!’ Well, what do you think you’re paying now to OPEC? The only difference between me and my opponents is that I want to keep any revenue we generate here to build American schools, American highways, American high-speed rail, American research labs and American economic strength. It’s just a little tick I have: I like to see our spending build our country. They don’t care. They are perfectly happy to see all the money you spend to fill your tank or heat your home go overseas, so we end up funding both sides in the war on terrorism — our military and their extremists.”

Climate change is as much, if not more, of a threat to our national security as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The two issues make for strange bedfellows, to be sure.  But right now we need more bedfellows, not less.  These are global problems, and if takes the whole globe in bed together to find solutions, then so be it.

Preregister now for the J Street 2011 conference!

Pregistration for J Street’s 2011 conference is now open.  The theme for this one, which will take place at the Washington Convention Center from February 26th-March 1st, is “Giving Voice To Our Values.”

Preregistering is free, and allows you to receive information about early registration specials.  Whether you made it to the last one or not, you should definitely think about coming this time around.  Who knows, maybe you’ll even meet one of us Jewschoolers?

Breaking news: Bar mitzvah no longer political event

Looks like Judge Goldstone will be going to his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah after all:

Last week, Warren Goldstein, the chief rabbi of South Africa and a persistent critic of the report, wrote in the newspaper Business Day that the judge should be allowed to attend the bar mitzvah because every synagogue “should welcome in a tolerant and nonjudgmental way all who seek to enter and join in our service and pray to God.”

Glad these guys realized the error of their ways.

But Rabbi Goldstein also renewed his criticism of the judge, saying his report “has unfairly done enormous damage to the reputation and safety of the State of Israel and her citizens.”

Oh wait, that’s right.  Never mind.

He [Goldstone] added that Rabbi Goldstein’s “rhetoric” about tolerance “simply does not coincide with how my family and I have been treated.”

That just about covers it.  It takes a pretty despicable lowlife to uninvite someone from their grandson’s Bar Mitzvah because of political differences.  Rabbi Goldstein does not deserve to be a community leader.

One more thing.  They didn’t just invite him back.  They effectively “reached an agreement.”

A day earlier, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, which represents most of the country’s synagogues, issued a statement that outlined something like a quid pro quo: a promise of no protests on the bar mitzvah boy’s big day, in exchange for a meeting between the judge and leaders of the South African Zionist Federation and other Jewish organizations.

Disgusting.  They actually felt the need to make political deals to preserve their image.  Couldn’t have their constituents believing they were bighearted people willing to put aside political differences to celebrate together, or anything radical like that.

Last note: I can’t wait to see what comes out of that meeting.  If Goldstone’s past encounters with his detractors are any measure, the SA Zionist Federation is going to be subject to a pretty thorough in-person fisking.

Rise of the Khipster

TWJ posted a link on Twitter to this article involving a collaboration between hipsters and Hasids.  Aside from the rather fascinating story, it got me thinking about what a combination of hipsters and Hasids would look like.  Thus we bring you the Khipster:  Ironic thick-rimmed sunglasses mingle cleverly with long peyes.  An unshaven beard morphs smoothly into a waxed handlebar moustache.  Untucked white button-down shirt, tzitzit hanging down, almost brushing the tops of bright green Converse.  Truly, the khipster is the most fearsome creature ever to roam this earth.

Other ideas about this most alarming of combinations are certainly welcome (and if anyone’s good with Photoshop, go to town).

Showdown at AIPAC!

Hey Professor, didn’t anyone ever tell you in school to raise your hand before speaking?

Hadar Susskind, J Street’s policy director, was being interviewed at the gathering by a Haaretz reporter when, according to the reporter, none other than Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz “broke in to the conversation with a verbal onslaught against the group.”

Thus reports Tablet Magazine on the latest update in Dershowitz’s thrilling fight against the evil, anti-Israel J Street.

Arguing that J Street “shouldn’t call themselves pro-Israel,” he accused them of prioritizing certain policy positions over others to cast Israel in a negative light. Noting that he, like J Street, opposes settlements, he nonetheless maintained, “But I spend 80 percent of my time supporting Israel.”

Yeah, Dershy!  Hit those anti-Israel punks right where it hurts!  Seriously, though, this is just pathetic.  Compare this kind of angry and reflexive rant to Susskind’s measured and reasonable response:

In response, Susskind told the reporter: “We have disagreements with AIPAC that I don’t want to minimize. But we are all on the same side.”

It should be totally obvious who’s reasonable here and who’s not.

Glenn Beck: Social justice? Not on my watch!

Glenn Beck’s latest cause is social justice.  Not that you should support it, but that it (like progressivism, black people, and the federal government) is actually the root of all evil:

I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words.

What are they code words for, Professor Beck?  Please, enlighten us.

Communists are on the left, and the Nazis are on the right. That’s what people say. But they both subscribe to one philosophy, and they flew one banner. . . . But on each banner, read the words, here in America: ‘social justice.’ They talked about economic justice, rights of the workers, redistribution of wealth, and surprisingly, democracy.

Right.  Clearly, the heinous policies we associate with the Nazis were the result of their social justice programs.  Therefore, social justice leads to gas chambers.  QED. More »

In which Alan Dershowitz displays less understanding of Israel Apartheid Week than most college students (and specifically Roberta Goldman of Brown University)

Alan Dershowitz, professional Israel apologist and demonizer-of-those-who-disagree-in-the-slightest, has done it again, with a new article over at FrontPage Magazine.  It’s a pretty standard condemnation of Israel Apartheid Week (that is, for all the wrong reasons).  Right off the bat, it starts off with this gem:

Every year at about this time, radical Islamic students—aided by radical anti-Israel professors—hold an event they call “Israel Apartheid Week.”

Does Prof. Dershowitz seriously believe that Israel Apartheid Week is only run by “radical Islamic students”? And what does that even mean?  Does he think that the people staffing the BDS tables are all Al-Qaeda members?  For crying out loud, this isn’t just stupid and biased, it’s stupid, biased, and wrong. More »

Decade In Review: J Street

Jewschool’s decade-in-review series began with the best JewFilms of the 2000s, and Independent Minyanim, Social Justice, and the Jewish food movement, and continues with this roundup of the J Street phenomenon.

J Street enters a political arena fraught with peril from all sides. Treading the line between being too far left for the mainstream Jewish community to handle and being too far right to offer any new ideas, J Street’s directors have managed to balance themselves delicately in a position that is new and refreshing, but not threatening. They offer clear and straightforward analysis of Israeli-Palestinian politics, and are consistently true to their Jewish and humanitarian principles.

The clear message that we should take away from J Street’s success and ease of operation is that we are living in a different world, a world where differing viewpoints on complicated topics are no longer going to be acceptable justification for mudslinging and name-calling, a world where mutual peace and security depend on our ability to accept those viewpoints and hash them out.

J Street has proven itself able to listen to others, and to hold constructive dialogues, something that most Jews have never seen an organization interested in doing with regards to Israel. This truly represents a new era of Jewish politics.

How is this smear campaign different from all other smear campaigns?

In short, it isn’t. The latest liberal-minded organization to be targeted by all manner of far-right, close-minded, single-issue, “pro-Israel” advocates is the New Israel Fund. If you haven’t heard of them before, the first two paragraphs from their About page are an excellent intro:

The New Israel Fund (NIF) is the leading organization committed to democratic change within Israel. Since 1979, NIF has fought for social justice and equality for all Israelis. We believe that Israel can live up to its founders’ vision of a state that ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, without regard to religion, race or gender.

Widely credited with building Israel’s progressive civil society from scratch, we have provided more than $200 million to more than 800 cutting-edge organizations since our inception. What’s more, through our action arm, SHATIL, we mentor, train and lead Israeli civil society in an ongoing struggle to empower the underprivileged.

Sounds pretty innocuous, huh? An organization that funds civil society programs in Israel with the result of promoting universal rights and equality. Definitely not free from all controversy, but probably not evil.

Image from Promised Land blog

Image from Promised Land blog

Think again. The Zionist Im Tirtzu organization has taken it upon themselves to smear the NIF with just about anything they can dig up, including but not limited to, caricatures of its leader, former MK Prof. Naomi Hazan, claims that the NIF is responsible for “90%” of the evidence behind the Goldstone report, and that the NIF is behind the British moves towards prosecuting IDF officers for war crimes.

As should be pretty obvious, these claims are patently untrue (Hazan does not actually have a horn on her forehead, the Goldstone report got most of its evidence from Palestinian eyewitness testimony, and no one has produced any kind of evidence whatsoever linking them to British legal action). But that hasn’t stopped current MKs as well as Shin Bet and IDF officials from getting behind them. J.J. Goldberg reports that there are calls for parliamentary hearings on the work of NIF grantees (a situation which my fellow Jewschool contributor chillul Who? points out is eerily reminiscent of the Defund Acorn Act).

From my perspective, which is that of someone without extensive experience in Israeli domestic politics, I see this as misinformation intended to elicit exactly the response it has. Clearly, Im Tirtzu believes that the NIF is an existential threat to Israel (and given the NIF’s mission, that should tell you something about Im Tirtzu), enough so that they believe a smear campaign based on a flawed, narrow, and biased reading of the facts (Goldberg reports on the questionable methodology they used to get the 90% bit) is an acceptable discrediting tactic.

Ultimately, this sort of thing is totally preposterous and regressive. Unfortunately, it’s what I’ve come to expect from too much of the right. Still pushing the same tired narrative of “criticizing Israel or Israeli policy is unequivocally bad”, they resort to underhanded smears and falsehoods to attempt to delegitimize those who they disagree with. It’s no way to offer support or honest advice to a nation, especially one with as complicated a political and domestic arena as Israel.

It’s shameful that members of the Israeli government would cheapen their society by stooping to this level. Organizations like J Street and Peace Now have issued statements in support of the NIF. I echo their call.

Other references not linked in the body of the article:

My day on Twitter with David Appletree

@sarahleah770's Twitter profile picture.

@sarahleah770's Twitter profile picture.

I’m not going to chronicle the entirety of the tweet-battle I just had with David Appletree of the JIDF and some other like-minded people.  I don’t do those things so I can gloat about them later.

However, I do think it’s necessary to point out a few choice tweets that I received during the whole affair, which to me represent the righteous, holier-than-thou attitude that these right-wingers tend to bring to this issue.  In no particular order:

@sarahleah770: @renaissanceboy it isn’t me – it is Torah. And respect for the Sages and Rabonim. And acceptance that there is nothing other than Hashem.

@JIDF: @renaissanceboy  no, you don’t, or else you’d comprehend the fact that i speak the truth and don’t take that label lightly.

@sarahleah770: @renaissanceboy we don’t differ on anything. u r a jew? i am a jew! torah non negotiable.

Look, I have no quarrel with people with significantly more conservative religious and/or political opinions than me.  In fact, I tend to learn from them, as I do from anyone who has a different opinion.  Hence, I seek out respectful discussions because I find that I always walk away knowing more than I did before I started.  David Appletree and Sarah Leah clearly don’t have that M.O.  Fine by me, but it does need to be said that they also don’t contribute anything to the discussion by refusing to engage anyone except on “you are one of us and therefore infallible” or “you are a terrorist-empathizing, anti-semitic, radical-islamist-rationalizing, Israel-hating uneducated liar” terms.

I think of this comic a lot.

I think of this comic a lot.

It’s certainly attractive to boil down complex problems into simple “us-and-them” soundbites, and Twitter is an ideal platform for doing so.  The problem of oversimplifications in politics is certainly not a new one, but it’s taken on a different face with the rise of social networking.

The result of today’s altercation was that JIDF blocked me on Twitter, and then continued to trash me.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with the mechanics of Twitter, if someone blocks you, it means that you don’t see when they “mention” you (put your username in one of their tweets).  By doing this, David has demonstrated that he cares more about making cheap strawman attacks behind my back than discussing real issues (in case anyone didn’t know that already).

@jidf: i’m concerned about my grandmother suffering w/ cancer, chemo, diabetes & @renaissanceboy harasses me about labeling terror supporters

David, if you’re reading this, I’m honestly and truly sorry to hear of her sickness.  I also have a grandmother with a degenerative disease, and I feel your pain.  It’s not something I’d wish on anyone.  Period.

But this?

@jidf: @renaissanceboy what part of “go away” do you not understand? i know children with more common sense and morality than you.

@jidf: the fact that @jewschool_com lets a child like @renaissanceboy blog on it is further indication what a anti-Israel joke the site is.

Mr. Appletree, before you go accusing people of resorting to childish and ignorant tactics to give the semblance of winning an argument, take a look in the mirror.

The News From Lake Jewbegon

Two sharply contrasting views of the secularization of Christmas are presented by Garrison Keillor, writer and stand-up poet (that’s the only way I can think of to really describe the News from Lake Woebegon) extraordinaire, and Michael Feinstein, a Jewish musician who got involved in a tangle about what constitutes a “Jewish” celebration of Christmas.

It’s been a tumultuous Egg Foo Yung season thus far. Between the House of Representatives taking time from its busy schedule (and, as Steve Benen points out, thus facilitating a gigantic Boehner contradiction [say that one out loud!]) to pass a resolution in support of Christmas (proper political response: WTF?), and the Daily Show’s brilliant exposé of a dastardly attempt by the Obama White House to encourage religious pluralism and (gasp) découpage, the pro-Santa coalition has certainly put up quite a fuss about the War on Christmas. For G()d’s sake, they don’t put up this much fuss about the War on Terror, or the War on Drugs, or the War on Allowing The Senate to Function Normally, all of which claim far more casualties, but nonetheless, some interesting content has come out of the Christmas-battles from both sides.

Keillor’s commentary is a notch above the usual xenophobic rants that accompany the defense of Christmas (a phrase almost as vague as Family Values). Calling upon his extraordinary ability to take a complex, subtle, and not-easily-reconciled situation, and reduce all involved to hysterics and/or tears with the sheer power of his snarkiness (“Did one of our guys write ‘Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah’? No, we didn’t.”), he also makes some very good points from an intellectual standpoint: that the obsession with the Perfect Christmas (largely, but not entirely, a commercial phenomenon) has had several unexpected and bad results:

  • that Christmas has become secularized, losing its religious meaning
  • that non-Christians now diminish from the observance of “legitimate” Christians
  • that Silent Night has been rewritten so it doesn’t talk about G=d as much (this one’s a real shame, because that’s a beautiful song).

The secularization of Christmas is not new. From a practical standpoint, tt’s hard for me as a Jew to completely empathize, because there really isn’t an equivalent situation for me. Yes, I went through the “Why does everyone make such a big deal of Hannukah? It’s not even important!” phase, but it’s really not the same. Maybe if Simchat Torah got the Christmas treatment, we’d have a comparable situation.

Another thing that might help would be living in Israel. I’ve never been in the majority as a Jew (although I have no illusions about my majority in racial terms [I'm an upper-middle class white guy from the Northeast, just about as elite as it gets], and, okay, okay, I’ll say it; PRIVILEGE [dlevy is applauding in the wings]), and until recently, Jews hadn’t been in the majority at all anywhere for thousands of years. Christianity has been mainstream in the West for so long that something like this was bound to evolve, and I’d predict that if the State of Israel is still around in five hundred years, something similar will be happening to Judaism.

But to the question of whether the secularization of Christmas is “okay”, Feinstein makes the perfect argument: that “…the spirit of the holiday is universal”. Saying that Christians, or, as some of the more crazy defenders-of-Christmas-as-a-purely-right-wing-religious-experience would say, only “real” Christians (read: not pro-choicers, Obama-Socialists, or anyone who favors any kind of government spending [read: red scum]), should be allowed to celebrate the Christmas spirit that those same people are so desperate to define and keep pure, is like saying that only men can wear a tallit. We live in a constitutionally-enforced religiously free society, and that means that we’re also free to do what, by someone else’s definition, constitutes bastardizing religion as much as we want, whether it’s “their” religion we’re “bastardizing” or “our own”.

And that’s important. Yes, this country was founded by Christians. White male landowning Christians (PRIVILEGE PRIVILEGE PRIVILEGE.  I said it again!). But in my opinion, the Bill of Rights is designed to keep religious groups from becoming so insular that they weaken society’s ability to function cohesively. If all we had were distinct and warring religious factions, we’d have to abandon representative democracy, dismantle the federal government, and let the South secede again (and if they try, this time I say let ‘em go). Which, realistically, is what a lot of the Christmas-defenders would like.  We shouldn’t give it to them. Feinstein offers an eloquent argument for what is really deserving of celebration: the commonalities between us.

So yes, let’s maintain a healthy respect for others’ traditions. I’m not about to affirm that Christ is my lord and savior any more than I expected the a cappella groups performing at Brown Hillel’s Hannukah Bash to daven with us on Friday night; we need to give people their religious space, and take our own when necessary.  At the same time, though, I have for many years gone caroling with Christian friends, and attended the Candlelight service at the West Cummington Congregational Church, one of my favorite religious events year-round. One year, I approached the minister there after the service, and told him that as an observant Jew, his sermons were deeply moving.  And you know what he did? He bowed, and thanked me for coming.

Take Keillor’s biting wit with a couple grains of salt (and some challah), and listen to Feinstein when he says that it’s time to stop enforcing differences, and start celebrating commonalities. Then, Jesus willing, we’ll have a new year with a few less of the former, and a few more of the latter.

Merry Christmas.

Who Will Save Conservative Judaism? How About Conservative Jews?

Haaretz asks, “Who will save Conservative Judaism?”, and does a pretty good job of pointing out some flaws in the USCJ’s biennial plenary sessions, like the rather vague criticism of the movement that the leaders offer (Conservative Judaism “failing to live up to its best ideals”), and the similarly vague statement that the movement’s “detractors” don’t recognize its importance in “Jewish life.”

Really.  The best criticism these guys can come up with is that they haven’t met their ideals and that they’re underappreciated?  Having very little existing knowledge about the prior careers and current work of the leaders in question, I definitely can’t make a judgment on whether or not it’s their “fault” that the movement is, as they seem to be describing, sputtering.  The reason I point out this article is not to blame the evil establishment for guiding Conservative Judaism off the rails.  No, it’s to point out the contradiction of having a body that wants to “centralize” its leadership, as the USCJ does through the reformation of its organizational bylaws described in the article, and accomplishing said centralization by removing “governing” power from constituent synagogues, as these reformations would effect.  In other words, if you need someone to save you, don’t suddenly take away the voice of everyone except your board of directors.  As we know, boards of directors and such executive advising or decision-making bodies are notoriously bad at providing consistent advice or policy in the interest of constituents without some kind of direct responsibility to those constituents.

I’m not calling the USCJ a corrupt organization, or one that doesn’t honestly want to help its members. But I question the judgment of revitalizing a movement by astroturfing it.  Something as large and diverse as Conservative Judaism can can’t be sustained just from the top down.  The job of an organization like the USCJ should be to provide resources and assistance to smaller Conservative organizations, be they synagogues, think tanks, or independent minyans with a focus on Conservative practices.

I was raised Conservative, but with very little connection to our synagogue, a place that never really excited me that much.  I don’t feel beholden to the Conservative movement, as apparently does Yona Schulman, quoted in the article as wanting the USCJ to  ”help us get our message out.”  To me, placing your ability to reach out to constituents in the hands of a distant organization you have no control over is sort of asking for stagnation or disinterest.  The Havurah movement has taught us that when people can get involved, the’re likely to assemble an organization that exists to serve them, not to define them.  When I describe the NHC to people, I say that the essence of the Havurah concept is that it’s not centralized.  It’s not a sect, it’s a social movement.  There’s no governing body.  The NHC is the manifestation of havurahniks’ desire to connect and share.  If the USCJ has a fundamentally different mission, then that’s their right.  But I’d still say it’s a mistake.

Sexin’ Up The Tribe

Getting straight to the point, these (NSFW) two articles raised some pretty serious questions for me.  As a big proponent of personalizing religion (that is, participating in traditions or rituals that have meaning to oneself), it’s challenging to see someone else doing something with aspects of Judaism that I find almost offensive (i.e. it runs sharply contrary to some of the ways I practice).  And as a young man who’s written about the ethics of Jewish dating before, it’s also legitimately disconcerting to see someone else sexualizing the religion as it relates to dating to this extent.

The traditional argument for the legitimacy of pornography holds here: that it’s an act between consenting adults, and there is no reason that other consenting adults shouldn’t be able to see it.

So consider this: one of the best ways to test your own, or someone else’s, philosophy or morals on any subject is to stretch them to the extreme.  When I’m arguing for a public option in health care, I ask my opponents to justify axing Medicaid.  When I’m arguing at the Brown Hillel for the inclusion of prayer alternatives in our Friday night programming, I ask my opponents to justify removing one of the existing services so that other ones won’t have to worry about getting a minyan.  And so on.

Is this really any different?  If we believe that people have a right to do what they will with their perception of their religion, can we oppose its sexualization in such a context?  I don’t believe so.  Our religious experience (and that means the way we relate to the religion as a person, not just how we pray, for example) is the sum total of everything we’ve ever learned about it, everything we’ve ever experienced, and all of the influences on our personal beliefs that come from outside the religion.

If someone feels that using or relating to their Judaism in this way is right for them, we have no right to protest.  Let’s welcome the definition of new ways of practicing Judaism, new ways for the rest of the world to perceive it, and new ways to offend the status quo.  And, both in ourselves and others, let’s welcome the discomfort that this will cause.

RSS redirection

The switchover is complete.  A slight change in expected behavior: the old feed automatically redirects to the new one.  So if you’re subscribed to the old feed, you’re going to keep getting updates for the next 30 days, rather than what we had originally written about a placeholder article.  Please change your RSS subscription to point to:, because after 30 days, the old one won’t redirect anymore, it’ll just stop working.

Thanks a lot!

The relationship between a Jewish identity and a political identity

The J Street conference was one of the most intellectually and physically taxing experiences I’ve ever had.  I learned an incredible amount, met amazing people, and feel compelled to keep educating myself on the issues.

I had an idea for a post near the beginning, and ended up not being able to write it until now because of how tired I was at and following the conference.  So this post represents a thought that matured throughout the conference, undergoing numerous changes in perspective as it did so.

The core question I want to ask is: What’s the relationship between a Jewish identity and a political identity?
More »

Wish you were at J Street? Follow us and friends on Twitter!

J StreetFollow Jewschool and our friends on Twitter for live updates as the conference progresses!

Here‘s a list of our bloggers, and here‘s a list of the people we’re enjoying following.

You can also use the #jstconf09 hashtag to see what everyone’s saying…

J Street conference 2009 webcast

Our friends over at Jewcy Magazine are streaming live video of the 2009 J Street Conference here.  It looks great, so if you’re not here with us, check it out…

Filed under J Street 2009

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Opening session, introductions, and surprises

j_street_largeThe J Street U opening program has just finished.  Technically, this program begins and ends a day earlier than the regular J Street conference, so our individual programming takes place throughout the day tomorrow.  In the evening, we join the conference, and go through their programming on Monday.  We then have the option of our own advocacy session on Capitol Hill, or staying in the regular conference for Tuesday and going to their advocacy session on Wednesday.  I’ve elected to take this option, and so, it turns out, has one of our guest bloggers, Moriel Rothman, whom I bumped into at the beginning of the opening program.  We turn out to have a lot in common (such as us both beatboxing), and we’re spending some time talking about how to cover the events here meaningfully as we go through the program.

Tonight has been very constructive.  I’m looking forward to crashing at the hostel a few blocks away where a lot of us are staying.  Tomorrow’s an even busier day.

There’s a palpable sense of excitement in the air.  But people are surprisingly level-headed.  No one’s flying off the handle with radicalism or unfounded idealistic dreams of changing the world right away.  But there’s real hope here.  We heard some speakers talk about the role college campuses play in the shaping and realization of U.S. Middle Eastern policy; it’s empowering to have people address you like that.  So tomorrow, when we actually make good on these ideas, and have real discussions with real facts, it’s going to come home – we have a job to do, and we’re here to learn how to do it.

I’ll continue to tweet the student and regular conferences.

Cross-posted to my blog.