“Excommunicated” from the Jewish People

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IfNotNow activist Grace Gleason reflects on this video of Reena Bernards, Batya Kallus (Betsy Cohen), and Clare Kinberg, three former activists with New Jewish Agenda, as they recount their experience being excommunicated by a beit din (an authoritative Jewish court) in 1982, following NJA’s publication of open letter critiquing Israel’s actions in the Lebanon War. 

“…the excommunication was a sad moment in American Jewish history. Part of what was so sad for me about it was how I saw that the beit din was just the extreme manifestation of a sentiment that is in fact pervasive and widespread among Jews globally: that a person forfeits her Jewishness by critiquing policies of the Jewish State. The excommunication was simply a magnification of this sentiment. As an observant Jew who draws great value from a sense of peoplehood, the idea of being excommunicated from the Jewish people was such a painful thought (even though in the case of NJA the legal authority was quickly delegitimized).” Read Grace’s full reflection here.

Women Activists: A Dialogue Across Generations

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Reena Bernards, Batya Kallus (Betsy Cohen), and Clare Kinberg, former leaders of New Jewish Agenda (1980-92), a multi-issue “Jewish voice on the left and leftist voice in the Jewish community,” discuss gender parity challenges in their Middle East peace work. Helen Bennett and Ilana Lerman, organizers with the anti-occupation group IfNotNow (2014- present), relate how the Jewish social justice movement has evolved since Agenda.