Our letter to Jewish Federation of Rochester regarding Bari Weiss

To the CEO and Board:

The SURJ ROC (Showing Up for Racial Justice – Rochester, NY) chapter of the National organization (SURJ) regards itself as an intersectional, multi-racial movement for racial justice. As such, we have been delighted to be part of the Anti-Bias Collaboration organized by the Levine Center to End Hate for the last few months. However, learning of the Federation’s April 21st event calls into question the Federation’s commitment to racial justice, and causes us to wonder whether we should continue this affiliation.

Like many others in our community, we were surprised and dismayed at the decision to bring Bari Weiss to Rochester. This decision is harmful not only to the local Palestinian community, but also to all Rochesterians who are concerned about the human rights violations committed by the Israeli government and its current policies. Inviting a speaker well-known for long standing, unquestioning support of the Israeli government’s policies toward Palestine seems to reflect a surprising and unfortunate lack of empathy for our diversified Rochester community.

We are pro-Israel. At the same time, we stand with the Palestinians in their opposition to hate and oppression, abuse, and terror.  SURJ advocates ending all forms of hate and supports the oppressed in every corner of the world. 

We call on you to withdraw your invitation to Ms. Weiss as a display of understanding and compassion for all who reside in our community. At the very least, we suggest that the Federation offer your members and the public the opportunity to hear someone of equal stature present the opposing point of view. And in selecting future speakers, it would be helpful to remember that anti-Palestinian rhetoric is unwelcome in anti-racist communities.

Respectfully,

For the SURJ ROC Steering Committee

Liz Brown, Barbara van Kerkhove, Ann Shaughnessy, Sam Waters, Kathy Castania, Paula Hansen, and Anne Thomas