APN's Debra DeLee on Sara Ehrman and "The Sara Fund"

Encountering Sara Ehrman — whether for a single conversation, or a lifetime of friendship — was a life-altering experience. Sara was smart, funny, strategic, irreverent, and relentless. She crossed generations, status, gender, and just about every arbitrary boundary, excluding ideology. And for the ideology, values and organizations that Sara unwaveringly supported, she was a ferocious advocate. What a gift for APN that we were a beneficiary of that commitment and incredible life force. Sara committed herself to peace between Israel and Palestine as a teenager and had not backed away from that work as she began her 97th year!

Because I not only loved Sara Ehrman, but because I admired, respected, trusted and was in awe of her, I cannot think of any legacy that I would rather leave of my 21 years at APN, than a fund in Sara's name to support programs that celebrate and promote the cause of peace that Sara believed in and fought for. And so, APN has established The Sara Fund. Monies contributed to The Sara Fund will be used to support programs, both in the US and Israel, that foster intergenerational engagement on the issue of peace between Israel and her Palestinian neighbors, particularly focusing on women — from the youngest advocates, to the oldest among us.

I urge you to support The Sara Fund, not only because it will promote and support important and meaningful programs, but because it is an appropriate tribute to this remarkable woman. To quote my dear friend Sara, "I'm hanging up now".

— Debra DeLee, APN President & CEO

My last week and our New Year's letter to you

Debra and JimI’ll make it quick – I would rather have you read the letter below – but I do have news for you, both bad and good.

The bad news: our beloved CEO Debra DeLee has retired from APN after 21 years.

The good news: APN will remain a vibrant important player working for you as a preeminent voice for a two-state solution. And APN will continue speaking the truth in the New Year – as is our hallmark.

We will miss Debra dearly – she’s truly one of a kind. You can tell this by just reading her letter below. But we must move on and persevere, and grassroots donations from supporters like you are the foundation of our existence and efforts.

To honor Debra and APN, I am offering to double your donation of up to $25,000 until the end of this month. It is with your help that our truths will continue to be heard.

Shanah tovah,

Jim Klutznick
Chair, APN Board of Directors

 


 

A version of this essay also appeared in The Forward on August 29, 2018

By the time you receive this letter, I will have stepped down from my position as President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now (APN), after serving in this capacity for 21 years. However, I’m writing this with six weeks left in my tenure at APN, and I’m anxious to share my thoughts and feelings with you, this being the last time I will have this forum through which to speak to you.

I was hoping to put into words the many feelings I’m experiencing at this time:

Gratitude: for having the honor to serve the dedicated and supportive APN Board, my talented APN colleagues and you, our generous and committed supporters.

Pride: in the important work that APN does both here and in the Middle East.

Awe: at our colleagues in Shalom Achshav (Peace Now, the Israeli peace movement) — many of them among the signers of the original officers’ letter establishing the organization in 1978 — who work tirelessly for a future that their children, grandchildren and those of their Palestinian neighbors deserve.

Excitement: about new possibilities ahead.

But, sadly, I am also feeling rage. The targets of my rage are those who know right from wrong, yet have chosen wrong for personal or political expedience.

Continue reading

My Book of Ruth

Ruth

On January 11th, my mother, Ruth Epstein, died at the age of 100.  She was born in 1915: World War I was raging, Woodrow Wilson was president, the typhoid epidemic was spreading and Congress rejected giving women the right to vote.

Her mother spent her early years in County Cork Ireland, being part of a large group of Lithuanian Jews who hired 3 boats to take to them to America, only to learn that the "goniffs" had dropped them in English-speaking Ireland instead. Her father came from Russia, and shared numerous stories with us - none of which were ever confirmed - of his exploits with the Czar. She was engaged in the world, offended by injustice and devoted to the state of Israel until her last breath.

Continue reading

APN CEO Debra DeLee in the Jewish Journal: When the Knesset tries to muzzle free speech

Debra-approved-headshot-study-tour-2014-245x250I am a product of the '60's. I demonstrated against the Viet Nam war, marched for civil rights and against racism. I have boycotted lettuce and grapes, in support of the United Farmworkers; Dow, for manufacturing napalm during the Viet Nam war; Coors, for discriminatory hiring practices against people of color and gays; Nestlé, for its aggressive campaign to sell breast milk substitute to young mothers in developing countries; Target, for its significant contributions to Tom Emmer, the rightwing candidate for Minnesota Governor whose agenda included positions I abhorred on everything; and Walmart, for its poor labor practices (except when my mother Ruth Epstein, who turns 100 this August, insists on going there “for the bargains”).

You get the picture. And while I don't support the boycott of Israel or Israeli-made products, I do support boycotting products made in settlements – and I urge others to do the same. In taking this position, I stand with friends, colleagues, and loved ones in Israel – including Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), the veteran Israeli peace movement. I seek out Israeli wine at my local stores, but only buy it if it comes from one of the vineyards inside the Green Line.

I boycott settlements – and urge others who care about Israel to do likewise – because settlements and their expansion is the greatest obstacle to achieving a two-state solution for Israel and her Palestinian neighbors, and thus the greatest threat to an Israeli future that is Jewish, secure, and democratic.

Continue reading

Leibel Fein Remembered - A Letter from APN's Debra DeLee

Leibel_Fein_zl_784

Dear Friend,

I'm writing this letter to those of you who knew, loved, or simply read the eloquence of Leibel Fein. Leibel died last night, and we are still reeling from this unexpected loss.

I am one of those people who subconsciously thinks in "Top Ten Lists" - it helps me prioritize life's overwhelming chaos. It turns out that Leibel makes all of the best of them - Top 10 writers, thinkers, joke-tellers, do-gooders (in the very best sense of the term), friends.

Leibel was brilliant. He had the rare ability to put his thoughts on paper in a way that persuaded, enlightened and altered your thinking, while all the while your mind was carried along by the beauty of his eloquence. He used words as an artist uses paint - it was beautiful and powerful, while the content was often courageous and bold. Those of us at APN were grateful that he was so generous with this gift.

Continue reading

Peace: The Jewish Priority

melchior186x140When we at Americans for Peace Now discuss the necessity of the two-state solution for the future of a Jewish and democratic Israel, we typically do so in geopolitical and security terms. We talk about the occupation as a terrible liability that damages Israel's democratic character, its international standing, and, obviously, its ability to live in peace and security with its neighbors.But the impassioned case that we make for peace for Israel stems from our caring about the future of the Jewish national home and its adherence to Jewish values.

Continue reading
1