An open letter to St. Louis Jewish Voice for Peace

To the Members of St. Louis Jewish Voice for Peace:

As Jewish progressive activists, we write to you with deep concern about your open letter to Rabbi Susan Talve.  We are extremely disappointed in your letter and believe that it betrays the movement for peace and justice to which we, too, belong.

Rabbi Talve is certainly capable of eloquently responding if she chooses, but we are speaking up independently of her to register our concern about your letter.

We are not angry because you disagree with Rabbi Talve on issues, methods, or actions. We are angry because you have chosen to be silent in the face of an ugly personal attack by a group with which you are aligned, against a leader in our community whom we greatly respect. 

Your letter was written in the aftermath of the controversy generated by the group Hands Up United, who posted to their Facebook page a meme with a photograph of Rabbi Talve, calling her the vicious slurs of “a terrorist” who “supports genocide.” Political disagreements with her are no excuse for demonizing her with those libelous words. 

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The silence of your organization when your ally publicly refers to Rabbi Talve this way is appalling. You wrote no such open letter to Hands Up United condemning their choice of words. We can only assume that your failure to condemn these lies means you are in agreement with them. This is unacceptable for an organization that seeks to be a “voice” in our community. No serious Jewish organization should sink to such depths of false personal attack.  

We are also troubled by your opposition to Zionism, and your demand that Rabbi Talve unilaterally oppose it.  Zionism is the support for the existence of the State of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people. We stand united in our belief that Israel has the right to exist. Expecting Jewish people and Jewish leaders to do otherwise, especially as a condition for being in a coalition, is wrong. Your absolute opposition to Zionism leaves us to wonder whether you believe Israel should be eliminated.

Make no mistake; we oppose much about the current Israeli government, its policies in the occupied territories, and its treatment of Palestinians. We support a two–state solution and believe that Israel’s current policies are an obstacle to its achievement.  We also know that any fair and truthful reading of history will conclude that all sides have missed opportunities for peace. We hope that leadership in Israel and also among Palestinians and Arab states will take the necessary steps to achieve peace.

We share with you a commitment to seek peace and fight racism, and institutional oppression. We yield to no one in our opposition to oppression whether it be in Ferguson or Israel.  We are advocates against genocide, apartheid, and racism. We will speak out against violence and the murder of innocents wherever it happens.

Your organization of course has the right to take whatever positions and choose whatever allies you wish.  But it is our belief that if you want to strengthen a progressive movement and build a coalition– by definition a tent under which not everyone will agree on every issue—it is not constructive to call another progressive fighter for justice a “terrorist” who “supports genocide.”   

Your open letter to Rabbi Talve asks her to commit to several actions. We ask some of you: Will you denounce the labeling of Rabbi Talve as a terrorist? Will you explicitly recognize Israel and its right to exist, and ask your allies in Hands Up United to do the same? Will you speak out against the continued misplaced opposition to Zionism?

We call on you to engage in the same personal struggle you ask of Rabbi Talve: honest self-examination of how your hopes and dreams collide with brutal realities.

— Steve Sorkin,  Jeane Vogel,  Michael Davenport,  Kathy Davenport,  Jennifer Bernstein,  Ed Reggi,  Joan Lipkin,  Carol Wofsey,  Phil Miller,  Barbara L. Finch,  Lise Bernstein,  Stephen W. Skrainka,  Fran Milsk,  Nancy Weigley,  Joel Frankel,  Margy Weisman,  David Sweeney,  Michelle Shanker,  Scott Emanuel,  Mel Goldman,  Scott Levine,  Lori Becker,  Bill Sitzer,  Jane Grady and Joy Lieberman.




Readers can add their names to the open letter at the following link: