The Kavod community acts as a spiritual and political home to justice-seeking Jews who collectively understand that no one is free until all people are free — who believe that justice, dignity, and thriving for all people is a Jewish moral imperative.
Our relationships to Israel/Palestine are varied in terms of our familial connections and histories, our knowledge and involvement in movements, and our orientations toward different political strategies. As we look across the ocean together and navigate grief, longing, confusion, anger – and everything in between – Kavod commits to remaining a space in which all Jews fighting for collective liberation can learn, shift, and act on this issue in ways that are meaningful to them.
When called upon to take action against the occupation and state violence toward Palestinians, we will turn to the following principles for clarity and grounding.
Right to Thrive | פּוריח | Poreakh
Every Kavodnik, by virtue of choosing Kavod as a spiritual and political home, demonstrates an investment in the safety of the Jewish people of past, present, and future, and a steadfast commitment to fighting for a world where all people live free from the compounding systems of racial violence and oppression that dehumanize and abandon human beings. Kavod’s orientation to the occupation itself, as well as any given political event or moment, is one that attempts to hold the safety, dignity, and concrete material realities of every human being impacted – including all people of Israel/Palestine, Kavodniks, our Jewish and non-Jewish BIPOC friends and neighbors, and the wider Jewish community.
*Poreach: to flourish, bloom, blossom
Courage | אומץ לב | Ometz Lev
We are a community of risk-takers. Our members are known to courageously raise their voices in service of pushing Kavod and our local Jewish community toward braver public positions and a deeper liberation analysis – and we will continue to strengthen this muscle as we pave new pathways for Kavod to take new, strategic, and meaningful action on Israel/Palestine.
*Ometz Lev: “heart strength”
Complexity & Clarity | מורכבות ובּהירות | Murkavut v’behirut
We understand that terms like “complexity” and “nuance” are often used by the mainstream Jewish community to silence righteous dissent about violence in Israel/Palestine. We fundamentally resist this cooptation, while holding that we are, indeed, a community of complex individuals, navigating complex questions about history and events on the ground that are in fact, complex. AND we commit to using a sharp analysis of systemic power differences between Israelis and Palestinians, and within the racial hierarchies that impact Mizrahim, Ethiopians, and others, as the guiding lens through which we understand the events on the ground, and how best to respond as a community.
*Murkavut: an appreciation for complexity; Behirut: decisive clarity
Interconnectedness | מחובּר | Mechubar
While Kavod has long focused on hyperlocal community organizing, we know that issues of injustice cannot be separated from one another. What happens on the ground in Israel/Palestine is intimately connected to violence taking place in our own neighborhoods and communities. Recognition of the interconnectedness of struggles to dismantle white supremacy and nationalism across the globe serves Kavod in deepening our political analysis and strengthening relationships with local partners, old and new.
*Mechubar: to connect, to join
Relationships First | חברותא | Chavruta
The story of the survival of the Jewish people is rooted in relationships and mutuality, and we carry this deep knowing into our movement work. Without relationships, we cannot push others. Without relationships, we, ourselves, cannot be pushed. When responding to calls to action on Israel/Palestine, we commit to staying in relationship, to tending to relationship, and to moving at the pace of relationship* – with each other, with our BIPOC non-Jewish partners, and our local Jewish community.
*Chavruta: “partnership, friendship,” one of the most sacred relationships in Judaism – learning partners.
*based on adrienne maree brown’s “speed of trust”
Okay, but where do we *stand*?
(as of July 2022)
Kavod has entered a local Israel/Palestine ecosystem that has already been thriving among the Boston left for years. As such, we are following the lead of our partners and comrades as we begin to take action and publicly articulate our values on this issue.
The Boston Worker’s Circle (BWC), a local secular leftist Jewish community, of which many Kavodniks are also an active part, has published guiding principles that we believe reflect many of the values of Kavod’s membership at this time. We’ve reshaped and built upon them with our own language that reflects Kavod’s unique voice:
We call for an end to the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and an end to the blockade of Gaza.
We demand that the Israeli government recognize and uphold the same human and civil rights for all people under Israeli jurisdiction, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, place of residence, or political status etc.
We reject all state repression of Palestinians, Mizrahi Jews, and other marginalized groups – as well as collective punishment and denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return.
We promote a future in Israel/Palestine where all peoples can live and thrive together in equity and peace, with respect for human rights and a commitment to collective flourishing in every sector of life.
We encourage full, open discussions in Jewish community spaces of the Nakba (“catastrophe”), the history of Israel’s ongoing repression of Mizrahi communities, and other vital and often overlooked historical, political, and moral dimensions of Israel/Palestine.
While not every Kavodnik supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), Kavod unequivocally recognizes the right of all individuals and organizations to engage in BDS, free from harm or consequence. Kavod rejects the conflation of support for BDS or antizionism as inherently antisemitic. We also reject the weaponization of antisemitism, especially by the mainstream Jewish community, to silence good faith dissent against Israel’s violence towards Palestinians.
We commit to fighting antisemitism. Full stop.
We commit to fighting anti-Palestinian bigotry, Islamophobia, and all other forms of oppression. In that vein, we commit to joint struggles across communities and differences, for collective liberation against the systems of white supremacy and white Christian nationalist movements that threaten us all.
We hope these guiding values make transparent who we are as a community. May they offer a different voice than that of the mainstream Jewish community, who tell us that us Jews who fight for Palestinian liberation don’t know how to fight for our own. May they illuminate a path toward bold, brave action in service of building the world of our dreams.
HISTORY/CONTEXT: Israel/Palestine at Kavod 2005-2021
(how we got to our principles)
History of Israel/Palestine at Kavod:
The Kavod Boston community began in 2005 as a spiritual/political home for young progressive Jews, where pluralistic ritual and local community organizing could be an expression of Jewish life. Kavod has historically held space for people with an array of positions on Israel/Palestine (I/P), including Zionist, non-Zionist, and anti-Zionist. (Notably, in the early 2000s Jewish landscape, it was bold and courageous to unequivocally welcome non- and anti-Zionist Jews).
Six months into Kavod’s existence, we became a member of the Moishe House network. Common to many mainstream Jewish institutions, their funding restricted partnerships with organizations engaged in Palestinian solidarity and anti-occupation organizing. Nevertheless, Kavod members used their power in the Jewish community to shift the I/P conversation. For example, we engaged the institutional Jewish community in Boston in conversations about the harmful implications on Jewish young adult participation in Jewish life when red lines are drawn around standing against the occupation.
As Kavod began taking louder and firmer stances opposing white supremacy, developing an anti-racism curriculum for Jewish institutions and partnering with explicitly abolitionist organizations, our apparent silence about I/P invited questions about our integrity from both our membership and our partners, and increasing pressure from funders to stay silent on I/P limited some of the direction we considered possible. As our organizing has grown, our values have sharpened, and our grassroots partnerships have deepened. In the wake of rising and increasingly violent white nationalism, we began showing up to actions alongside other Jewish groups who were also moved to take action, including IfNotNow (INN), Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), and others. Moishe House prohibited such affiliations, and when they saw us post about showing up altogether as a Jewish bloc they required that we take it down and not associate in any way with INN or JVP. (A similar incident occurred the year before.) In 2018, Moishe House ended their formal relationship with Kavod, and with it, their funding (about 70% of our budget). Moishe House shared that Kavod had “outgrown” their network, and that it was “difficult for them to fundraise for us” based on our social justice work. Given our fricticious relationship with Moishe House on I/P in the past, we assume that a large part of their decision was driven by Kavod members’ public involvement with I/P work, including our participation in informal coalitions like the above.
Consequently, we asked ourselves, “how will we survive financially?” and “what will we do with our new political autonomy?” We convened an I/P taskforce in 2018 and turned to community members for input. Over half of our members were actively participating in, and in some cases, leading local anti-occupation work, but in order to establish official guidelines, the taskforce surveyed our entire community in 2019.
We learned that our members still held complex relationships to I/P and Zionism. Many felt that, given the thriving landscape of Jewish and non-Jewish-led Palestinian solidarity work in Boston, it did not seem wise at that time for Kavod to “reinvent the wheel” and begin its own I/P organizing. Our members also unanimously expressed a strong preference for the following:
Kavod can partner with any organization, including those involved in Palestinian solidarity and anti-occupation organizing. However, our members expressed a preference that we partner with such organizations on work connected to Kavod's local focus rather than organizing directly centering I/P. Kavod’s leadership body (the Coordinating Team) is trusted to decide on a case-by-case basis which events and partnerships are strategic and reflective of our values.
Kavod should not accept any funding that would put any restrictions on our work. Within a larger landscape of restricted funding around I/P within the Jewish community, this was a critical expression of Kavod’s values.
In February 2020, our I/P Task Force developed partnership and funding guidelines reflecting this consensus. By 2021, we already recognized a serious shift in needs that these guidelines were unable to address, leading to a new chapter for Kavod’s relationship to I/P.
Where are we headed now?
The global political landscape has shifted dramatically since 2018 when we created our first survey, with national and global movements for justice and liberation flooding the streets with unprecedented support. These remarkable growth moments have had far reaching implications for the Jewish community in the US, including Kavod. Our organizing has stretched into exciting new terrain (through our community safety organizing and abolition work, for example) and so too have our valued partnerships.
In May 2021, amidst escalating Israeli state violence and uprisings in Sheikh Jarrah, Gaza, and throughout Israel/Palestine, it became clear to Kavod leadership, with important feedback from local partners, that our guidelines were insufficient in supporting some rapid-response decision-making (e.g. signing onto public statements). Our lack of public clarity and transparency on I/P was no longer an option, as it has left some of our partners and many of our own members hurt and confused. We know that silence is no longer sustainable or acceptable. Our community is ready for change, and we’re turning to our members to drive that change.
The I/P taskforce has reconvened to survey the community once again. The outcomes of this process will be a driving force in carving out the next chapter of Kavod’s work on I/P. It will help us shape Kavod’s communal voice in this new era, and determine how we will use it in the years to come.
We recognize the importance and gravity of Israel/Palestine in all of our lives, both within our community and amongst many of our partner organizations, and strive to live out our vision for collective liberation in a container that can hold and carry all of us.