ISRAEL/PALESTINE AT KAVOD: Where we've been and where we're going
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.