By Rachel Fayne Gruskin
Jews from across Atlanta met Sunday, Jan. 8, to express distaste for the incoming Trump administration and to develop a plan of action for a variety of social justice issues that reflect progressive Jewish values.
The gathering was organized by Bend the Arc, a progressive Jewish partnership that aims to bring together people from across the country to advocate a more equal and just society. Because Bend the Arc focuses strictly on domestic issues, it avoided questions about Israel that can split the progressive side of the Jewish community.
The word “occupation” was never mentioned.
Organizers Leah Fuhr and Bonnie Levine split the crowd of 60 into smaller groups for brainstorming on issues such as establishing relationships with other communities, specifically Muslims. Several speakers expressed a fear that President Donald Trump will try to suppress the Muslim community.
One speaker ended by saying that as Jews, we are all Muslims, harkening to the rescue of Danish Jews by other Danish citizens during the Nazi occupation.
Also discussed was the need to support a progressive candidate in the special election that will be held in the 6th Congressional District if Republican Rep. Tom Price is confirmed as Trump’s health and human services secretary. Former state Sen. Ron Slotin has presented himself as the progressive option in the race.
The overwhelming sentiment that washed through the room was that Atlanta Jews have not shown up for the causes that matter because of the fractures that appear when a Jewish organization takes a public stance on Israel.
Organizer Abbie Fuksman said Bend the Arc’s domestic focus attracted her for that reason. “I found myself invested in Bend the Arc due to their progressive ideas regarding domestic issues with Jewish values that weren’t weighted down by international affairs.”
Several organizers said Bend the Arc, which aggressively opposed Trump during the election, has a unique opportunity to support whatever causes people are drawn to. The organization is not sponsored by major Jewish donors or organizations with an Israel agenda.
Bend the Arc (www.Facebook.com/BendTheArc), which is holding organizational meetings across the country, is trying to begin an Atlanta chapter and plans to meet again Feb. 8.
Levine emphasized that this group is for everyone who aligns with progressive Jewish values, regardless of views about issues abroad. “Bend the Arc has a place for everyone,” she said. “That includes people who feel uncomfortable getting involved in many other progressive causes due to those organizations’ stance on Israel.”