Community Relations
Council

 

The mission of the Community Relations Council (CRC) of the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine (JCA) is to educate, advocate and collaborate on issues of vital importance to the Jewish community, based on consensus, civility, and a commitment to Jewish values of social justice. Our Community Relations Council envisions a just society with strong and vibrant Jewish communities world-wide, and seeks to enhance that strength through collaboration with other faith and cultural communities. The CRC strives to present a unified and clear voice for the broader Jewish community in response to incidents of anti-Semitism, bias and hate speech in Maine and to be a resource for Maine’s elected officials on matters that relate to the Jewish community.

 

Opening the Door to a Conversation about Peace in the Land of Israel

In the Spring of 2018, the CRC’s Israel Subcommittee organized two events designed to encourage dialog around the subject of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The first was a class entitled The History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. The concept behind the course was to broaden participants’ understanding of the history of the conflict and to explore a plurality of perspectives on how it has evolved and persisted – and perhaps how it might be resolved. Twenty-five students of varying ages and backgrounds participated in the course, which consisted of four sessions that examined relations between Arabs and Jews in the land of Israel. The course introduced the historical and political background necessary to understand the current state of affairs in the region. Wars, major political events, and turning points were examined to give students an informed perspective. Topics included a discussion of the Yishuv Period, the 1948 War, the Six Day War, Lebanon War and the First and Second Intifadas. The course concluded with a facilitated conversation around the future options for resolution of the ongoing conflict, including exploration of one- and two-State solutions.

The course was taught by Professor Rachel Fish, Associate Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University. Professor Fish’s in-depth understanding of the issues around the conflict ensured students got a balanced and nuanced perspective. Her expertise, as well as her diverse teaching resume that encompasses both academic and continuing education contexts, ideally suited her to reach and connect with a broad array of students.

The JCA and the CRC gratefully acknowledge the generous support provided by Judy and Ben Bertram, which made it possible to engage Professor Fish.

As a follow-up to the course, the CRC sponsored a free screening of the documentary film, The Altalena Affair. This critically-acclaimed film explores a pivotal moment during the early days of the State of Israel that almost led the young country into a civil war. This important event in Israel’s history was briefly touched upon in the History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict class and the film provided a fascinating and revealing window into the crisis, examined the roles played by early leaders such as David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin, and explored the lingering impact the affair has had on Israeli politics. The screening was followed by a moderated discussion.

The CRC has a number of other projects on the table for the coming year. The group is in the early stages of organizing an Interfaith Seder to take place in 2019. Envisioned not as a one-time event but rather as a catalyst to forge ongoing alliances among Maine’s increasingly diverse community, the Interfaith Seder is an example of CRC’s efforts to develop interfaith and intercultural dialogue.

If you’d like to learn more about the CRC or would like to get involved, please contact Ethan Palm: epalm@mainejewish.org

Please note: Those interested in further expanding their perspectives on the  Israeli Palestinian conflict may be interested in the JCA’s upcoming class, Jewish Values and the Israeli Palestinian Conflict. Please visit mainejewish.org for more information.