This weekend, several of us from Jewschool will join over 2,000 other people in DC for the 2011 J Street conference.  The reasons for my continued involvement with and support for J Street are complex.  On the one hand, I harbor deep moral reservations concerning the idea of religious or ethnic states.  Yet I find the idea of a binational state completely unworkable, in that I don’t think it would materially improve Palestinians’ lives (I tend to think it would worsen them).
J Street conference 2011So what’s a Jew to do?  I realized early on in my activism that J Street was a unique organization.  Unique not only in its policy positions, but in its belief of how those positions should be articulated, advanced, and discussed.  J Street’s dual function – advancing a liberal view of Israel that treats Palestinians as partners in nation-building rather than obstacles to Jewish self-determination while simultaneously establishing a robust space where Israel-Palestine activism can stem from real, respectful discussion – is often criticized as a weakness, but I view it as a strength.  Having spent the last few years getting more and more deeply involved with J Street, and, as a consequence, surrounding myself more and more with like-minded Jews, it’s easy for me to forget the guttural fear and hatred that J Street still inspires in some of its foes.  That fear, itself a symptom of close-mindedness, is what convinces me that J Street is doing something right.  It’s what keeps me passionate about my activism.  And it’s what keeps me excited about the vast amount of work that still remains to be done.
Working with J Street has caused me to question how the traditional pro-Israel narrative is presented, and to reflect on how this narrative permeates so many aspects of Jewish cultural and religious life.  This weekend, I’m looking forward to fresh inspiration from people who’ve dedicated their careers and lives to democratizing that narrative and opening it to criticism, revision, and ownership by those of us who for too long were defined out of its constituency.
If you’ll be at the conference, let us know!  We’d love to see you there.