Three former leaders of Breira (1973-77), the first national Jewish peace group to endorse the concept of two states and negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), reminisce about their successes and challenges. The conversation between founding Board Member John Ruskay, founding Executive Director Bob Loeb, and Publications Director Arthur Samuelson includes a discussion about the tension that developed between their advocacy for open dialogue about Diaspora-Israel relations and their activism on behalf of a specific political agenda.
Steven M. Cohen was raised in a family he describes as “non-observant Orthodox”—keeping Kosher at home, Shabbat candles, Shabbat services, but otherwise fairly lax. He was a member of Young Judaea briefly in his teens (1965-6), but Zionism was relatively unimportant to him at the time. This changed when he entered Columbia University in 1966. As was the case for so many, the Six Day War was a turning point. “With the war, I was swept of in all kinds of pro-Israel rallies. I remember holding an Israeli flag in the street and having people put money in it walking by. And there were celebrations after the war, so on and so on.” He helped to organize a new Jewish organization on campus, Kadima, and soon was working as a liaison with the AZYF (American Zionist Youth Foundation, an extension of the Jewish Agency’s Youth and Hechalutz Department, then chaired by Gen. Morele Baron) <Read Steven M. Cohen’s story here>