Letter to Representative Jamaal Bowman on the Politically Courageous Decision to Travel to Israel
The following letter was delivered to Representative Bowman by the New York Jewish Agenda on behalf of a group of Jewish leaders, after the backlash he received from going to Israel:
November 30, 2021
Representative Jamaal Bowman
Westchester District Office
6 Gramatan Ave., Suite 205
Mt. Vernon, NY 10550
Dear Representative Bowman,
We write as leaders in the Bronx and Westchester Jewish communities to commend you on the seemingly simple but politically courageous decision to travel to the Middle East and engage with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict firsthand.
Regardless of our respective ideologies and specific beliefs with respect to the conflict, we all recognize that the conflict is complex and challenging. On any challenging issue, we would want our representatives to educate themselves, study nuances, and grapple with complexities. That process should also include traveling to the region, which you did on a trip sponsored by J Street, to see with one’s own eyes the situation on the ground and hear directly a range of Israeli and Palestinian perspectives.
Just as we bring the same set of values to domestic and international issues, we should also bring the roadmap we use to make sense of complex domestic issues to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some voices on the political extremes are speaking out loudly against direct, meaningful engagement with the conflict. But we know that an appreciation for nuance and complexity that comes with firsthand experience can effectively equip leaders with the knowledge and context to push back on the oversimplified narratives that dominate too much of the conversation around this issue.
As we see the temperature rising once again on this issue, we hope that calmer and more reasonable voices will outweigh louder ones on both extremes. We encourage you to maintain a commitment to rigorous analysis that incorporates a wide range of perspectives and constantly challenges you to stay true to your values. With strong values, we can embrace facts, not fear them.
We recognize that no single trip can provide a comprehensive education of the conflict, with all of its history and challenges. We encourage you to think critically about all of the information you’ve received in this experience and draw your own conclusions. We would be happy to serve as resources as you continue to do that work.
Above all, we appreciate your willingness to engage constructively on an issue that is of great concern to us and so many of our shared constituents. While some of us may have disagreements with you and each other around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other issues, we hope your willingness to hear from multiple sides by traveling to the region will serve as a model to your colleagues and any elected official. We encourage them to follow your lead, and we look forward to working with you and your team on this and other critical issues moving forward.
Talia Benamy, Jewish Communal Engagement Chair, J Street NYC
Rabbi Jonathan E. Blake, Senior Rabbi, Westchester Reform Temple
Kenneth Bob, National President, Ameinu
Peter Frey, Vice Chair, J Street Board
Gili Getz, J Street
Rabbi Howard Goldsmith, Rabbi, Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester
Jack M. Gorman, J Street
Rabbi Daniel Gropper, Community Synagogue of Rye
Jessica Haller, Executive Director, 21 in ‘21
Peter Joseph, Chairman Emeritus, Israel Policy Forum
Rabbi Binyamin Krauss, Principal, SAR Academy
Marc Landis, Member, NYS Democratic Committee
Stu Loeser, Chief Spokesperson for the City of New York, 2006-2013
Rabbi David Evan Markus, Rabbi, Temple Beth El of City Island
Matt Nosanchuk, President and Co-Founder, New York Jewish Agenda (NYJA)
Gary Trachten, Chair, J Street Westchester County Chapter
Michael Young, J Street