There’s an old expression: There are two things you never want to let people see being made: legislation and sausages. The notion is the stuffing of either, with undesirable filling, makes watching its creation unenjoyable (if not outright nauseating). That’s not always the case.
If you have read the front page of this month’s Reflector or are in anyway digitally attached to the JCFR you know the Virginia General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to forcefully condemn the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS). The story of HJ177, the House Joint Resolution which condemns BDS, is the story of how statewide community relations teams came together. It is a story that makes us proud.
Our JCRC has been fighting BDS for a long time. Similar efforts are underway across the Commonwealth and nationally. As the consensus building and government affairs apparatus of the Jewish communities, JCRCs are naturally placed opponents of BDS and its nefarious agenda. As always, months before this year’s legislative session was gaveled in, the statewide JCRCs met; fighting BDS was on the agenda from the onset.
There were several meetings about which approach was most appropriate here in Virginia. What is right in one state is not necessarily right in every state. Opinions were aired and open discussions led both to consensus and a shared roadmap to success. We pursued HJ177 as a powerful educational opportunity and to have Virginia, a state known as pro-Israel, take a firm stance against BDS.
Our JCRC partnered with the Community Relations Council (CRC) of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater Jewish Community (UJFT), the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, and the Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula. Together we engaged with the Israel Action Network, a strategic initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, with the AJC Washington Region, and with Hadassah.
However our partnerships did not stop there. Through the CRC of UJFT we were able to partner with the Christian Broadcasting Network. Their community relations enabled them to invite the CBN to join our joint promotion of HJ177. Adding their voice was a triply important. First, it showed support for Israel is not at all limited to the Jewish community. Second, it created another level of partnership between Jewish and non-Jewish Zionists. Finally, it reinforced the notion that the more engaged we are with the greater Virginia community, the stronger we can be for our shared agenda.
We met fierce resistance. The BDS movement engaged local, statewide and national resources in pushing against HJ177. We argued for HJ177 on its merits and we overcame many objections. This is a powerful example of how our JCRC can stand up for what is right, gain allies while doing so, and strengthen our local community, our broader community and Israel in the process.
Looking forward to next year, the JCRC will continue to expand our outreach, building relationships outside the Jewish community. Indeed, doing so is what privileges us to stand up for our partners and to have them stand up with us when we share common goals.
Daniel “Doni” Fogel is the director of Jewish Community Relations and Israel & Overseas Programing. Reach him at DFogel@JewishRichmond.org or (804) 545-8626.