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Guest Post: Unitarian Universalists & Palestinian Solidarity - A Personal Reflection

February 20, 2015 11:14 AM | Anonymous
EDITOR'S NOTE: This week, we are pleased to publish this blog post by MUUSJA supporter and Twin Cities activist Ilana Rossoff, speaking about how her faith traditions--both Judaism and Unitarian Universalism--have brought her to work in solidarity with the people of Palestine.  While Palestinian Solidarity is not currently an area of issue focus for MUUSJA, it certainly is in wider Unitarian Universalist circles--particularly among the national group Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East.  We're grateful to Ilana for sharing about how her faith calls her to work for justice!

I am a Jewish and Unitarian Universalist (a JUU, I like to say).  My roots in Judaism run deep; my dad is a Reform rabbi and I grew up in a religious household and community in New Jersey. I joined a Unitarian Universalist congregation in New Jersey two years ago when I was searching for a community of both spiritual connection and real engagement in social justice work. Finding Unitarian Universalism gave depth and substance to my spiritual experience in a community that truly lived out its very global principles of respecting and protecting human dignity and the interconnectedness of all things. 

While I have been deeply fulfilled by the connection and support I have felt in UU communities, I have been most impressed with the history and legacy of UU institutions standing up for what is right regardless of whether society was ready for it or not. This inspires me to pursue what I know to be right and true, and makes me proud to be a part of a community of people who share that commitment. 

A truth that most of the U.S. is not willing to accept or recognize is that Palestinians endure a brutal occupation that enacts daily violence against civilians, with full approval by the U.S. government. The occupation serves as part of a whole system of racial apartheid (akin to South African apartheid) that devalues Palestinian life and denies basic human rights in nearly aspects of life. Palestinians ask for solidarity and justice, and it falls on so many Americans’ deaf ears. Personally, when I think about what community of faith would lead the call to support Palestinians in their quest for justice, I think hopefully about Unitarian Universalists – because I think if anyone is going to stand up for what is right, it is going to be UUs. 

On March 4th, UUs in Minnesota have a unique opportunity to be one of the only organized faith communities to show up for an issue of international justice.  In March, the State Board of Investments will consider whether or not to continue investing the state pension fund in Israeli bonds. The Minnesota Break the Bonds campaign has been working for over six years to divest the state from its $10 million dollar investment in Israel bonds in response to the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society for solidarity in their struggle against occupation and racism through boycotts, divestments, and sanctions against the state of Israel until it complies with international law.  These bonds expire on June 30, and March 4 is the State Board of Investment’s last opportunity to weigh in on whether or not the state of MN should reinvest in Israel bonds, or say good riddance. Not only do we need more people to show up for March 4, and to sign the petition calling on them not to reinvest, but we need more people of faith to heed the Palestinian call for solidarity and human rights. 

Presently, I have the privilege to work for a national organization called Jewish Voice for Peace as their new Midwest Regional Organizer. I welcome the opportunity to connect with more UUs who support justice in Israel/Palestine. You can reach me at ilana@jvp.org for more information.

I also encourage UUs to connect with the growing Twin Cities chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace by coming to our house party on March 1.

Please consider signing the MN Break the Bonds petition telling the State Board of Investments not to invest in Israeli bonds, and send it to your friends and colleagues to sign as well. 

Onwards towards justice… 

In faith, 
Ilana Rossoff

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