I'm the rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom on University Ave. We're a community of 400 families, Jewish and not, who pray for human rights, and for the safety of Israel. And, as residents of Berkeley, we are concerned at the recent convergence of Israel-condemning resolutions being brought before the Peace and Justice Commission, the forthcoming one at the Berkeley City Council, and the one that caused enormous upheaval at Cal just over a month ago. (This does not include the resolution being brought to the Richmond city council this coming Tuesday or the one scheduled later in the month by the San Francisco City Council.) These quickly spill into antisemitic incidents which have begun to proliferate in our area during recent weeks (measurable incidents like vandalism of Jewish organizations and immeasurable like jibes at these communal discussions).
This is a volatile issue that has already alienated many Berkeley residents and taken enormous amounts of attention away from our pressing local responsibilities in the name of responding to international issues whose details are still emerging. Even if I agreed with this specific criticism of Israel (which I sometimes engage in as well, depending on the facts), I hope my elected city councilmembers would see themselves as distinct from officials elected to congress where foreign policy is handled.
We in the city of Berkeley have more important problems like unemployment, creating jobs, curtailing crime, fixing our streets and creating a positive business climate that will attract revenue and job into our city (not to mention the Library system, which is in serious need of attention, as residents were unable to successfully address at the last Peace and Justice Commission meeting, due to 2 hours of heated and harsh debate on the Israel/Palestinian issue). I believe local governing is the primary responsibility of the elected officials City of Berkeley.
Our communities need leaders who recognize that local government is called, especially in economic times like ours, to lead locally. May the worthy goal of peace by experienced every day in Berkeley, thanks to your work.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom, Berkeley