Passover letter: I've long believed that being Jewish is a calling - a vocation....

Leonard Fein

Dear Friend,

Soon, Passover. I've long believed that being Jewish is a calling-a vocation, if you will-and if that is so, then Pesach is surely an extraordinary contribution to the vocational education of the Jews.

By joining Americans for Peace Now, you will be sending a pro-peace message to Washington and to Jerusalem. By supporting APN, you will take part in the struggle over Israel's future, over Israel's soul.

Think of it: Avadim hayinu-"We were slaves." We! Not our ancestors long ago, but we ourselves. "In every generation, each of us must see himself, herself, as having been redeemed from the house of bondage."

I don't know at what age the little ones at the table begin to understand the power of the Haggadah, but at some point they do come to understand that the elaborate meal and the text that surrounds it are not merely about finding the afikomen or even about asking the Four Questions. (At my seder table, we make a point of saying that the four prescribed questions are there only as examples, that other questions are not merely permitted but enthusiastically invited.)

There is not only a promised land; there is also a promised time. And we are withal, still in the desert. Now we dwell in the land, but the promise turns out to be far more complex than had been imagined. Advocates of peace though we are, we are not oblivious to the fact that Israel has very real enemies, ill-wishers who challenge it at every turn. Nor are we indifferent to the fact that the promise has so far been subverted by Israel's own policies-most particularly, its settlement policy. We, who yearn and labor for a two-state solution, in which Israel and Palestine co-exist as neighbors, each with its own dignity intact, we tremble at what appears to be the closing of the two-state window.

We are Zionists-which means that we deeply believe in the idea of a Jewish state. But the great achievement of Zionism is now plainly threatened. The achievement? Transforming the idea into a living, breathing reality. The threat? The curdling of that reality.

We are a people of dreamers. Indeed, throughout much of our history, all we had were our memories and our dreams. The present was simply too punishing. So now the question becomes: How do we cling to a dream that has been so battered? How do we keep hope alive?

Those are not rhetorical questions. How we answer them is crucial to our prospects-to the prospect of peace, of dignity, even, I may say, of our integrity. We dare not be satisfied with pretty words, nor with idle wishes. How do we keep hope alive? The tradition teaches that we are assirei tikvah-prisoners of hope. Hope is a curious prison, for it is a prison without walls. In the words of Martin Luther King, "We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." That is what it means to be a prisoner of hope. That is how short-term disappointment does not lead to surrender. That is why we continue to march, errantly, through the barren desert, clinging to the dream, clinging to one another.

How do we cling to a battered dream? True, better a battered dream than no dream at all. But there's more to it than that. The window may be closing, but it is not yet closed. And between today and its potential closing, there's Shalom Achshav, Israel's Peace Now movement, guardian of the dream. And-you knew I was going to get to this-there's Americans for Peace Now (APN).

It is no small thing that Shalom Achshav's Hagit Ofran is acknowledged as Israel's leading expert on West Bank settlements. Nor is it an accident that Lara Friedman, APN's Director of Policy and Government Relations, is a towering presence in Washington, DC. Nor, for that matter, is the fact that Jim Klutznick is chair of the APN board incidental. Jim is the son of the late Phil Klutznick, a pioneer in the quest for a Middle East peace-and, I should add, a stalwart supporter of Moment magazine during my tenure there from its founding in 1975 until the sale of the magazine in 1987. (I was, for a time, the Klutznick Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.) The apple does not fall far from the tree.

For better and sometimes for worse, I have served on a goodly number of boards. None has been as rewarding as my service on the APN board, a remarkable group of men and women led by our President and CEO, Debra DeLee, the ablest executive of a Jewish organization I've known. All that said, and meant, APN would mean nothing were it not for you and those who, like you, share our commitment to a secure Israel living side-by-side with an independent Palestine.

Accordingly, as Pesach approaches, I ask that you signify your support for APN (check us out at peacenow.org) by as generous a tax-deductible gift as you can manage. Unlike some Jewish organizations, we don't have a handful of mega-donors who carry the organization. We rely on you. And with you, we will yet cross this desert.

Thanks, and a very happy holiday to you and yours.

Warmly,

Leonard (Leibel) Fein

 


Leonard Fein In 1974, he founded Moment magazine, which became America's leading independent magazine of Jewish affairs, and which he served as editor and publisher for 13 years. In 1985, he founded Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger, which is the American Jewish community's principal vehicle for participation in the campaign against world hunger. And in 1996, he founded the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy, a project for mobilizing the American Jewish community to provide volunteer reading tutors for 2nd and 3rd graders, principally in inner-city schools. The NJCL now has tutoring programs in 29 American cities, where a total of some 12,000 volunteers works with some 20,000 children. Among his books are Against the Dying of the Light: A Father's Story of Love, Loss, and Hope, Where Are We: The Inner Life of America's Jews, which was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection and Israel: Politics and People, which was, for ten years, a required text in all Israeli universities.His more than 1000 articles and essays have appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines, and journals, including The New York Times, The New Republic, Commentary, Commonweal, The Nation, Dissent and the Los Angeles Times. Fein is a longtime member of APN's Board of Directors

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