The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta is convening a special discussion about how we discuss Israel on Tuesday, May 22, the first full day Jewish institutions will be open after the holiday of Shavuot.
“How We Talk (and Listen) About Israel” will be held at 4 p.m. at Temple Sinai, 5645 Dupree Drive, Sandy Springs.
The free event is a response to events this week involving Israel — the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Israel on Monday; the killings of 62 Palestinians (most of whom were members of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad) during protests, riots and infiltration attempts at the Gaza-Israel border; the condemnation of Israel by nations other than the United States, including the U.N. Human Rights Council’s call for an investigation of Israel — and the resulting angry dialogue within and beyond the Jewish community.
“This has been a challenging week for all of us who love and care about Israel,” Federation CEO and President Eric Robbins wrote in an email announcing the Tuesday event. “I have heard from many of you this week, and your comments make it clear how passionately you care. They also make it clear how carefully we need to choose our words and how easily they can be misinterpreted, especially in email.”
Federation both supports Israel’s right to defend its borders and is deeply saddened by the loss of life, Robbins said. But he added that Federation’s purpose is not to make statements or take stands, but “to ensure we are providing opportunities for the community to come together around education, service and dialogue.”
A core part of Federation’s Front Porch initiative is to foster open conversation and respectful dialogue about Israel, so that’s what is planned Tuesday, the same day that anti-occupation organization IfNotNow plans to hold vigils of mourning around the country (none in Atlanta as of this writing).
It’s also the day of the Georgia primary elections (polls open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) and the annual meeting of The Temple, whose 6:30 p.m. start is half an hour after the event at Temple Sinai is due to end.
The scheduled panelists for the Federation conversation are Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder of Be’chol Lashon, Rabbi Ilan Feldman of Congregation Beth Jacob, Rabbi Brad Levenberg of Temple Sinai, Co-Executive Director Shari Dollinger Magnus of Christians United for Israel, Regional Director Dov Wilker of American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta Chapter and President McKenzie Wren of Congregation Bet Haverim.
“At this moment, it is important to affirm that our community is made up of wonderful Jews who share essential core values and yet view this conflict in vastly different ways,” Robbins said. “Let us hold room in our hearts and minds for each other and listen to each other. And let us all use the sweet island of time that Shabbat and Shavuot offer to take a collective deep breath, send our prayers to heaven and renew our hopes for peace.”