Israelsohn and Noss to receive social action award

By Shelley A. Sackett

JANUARY 11, 2018 – BEVERLY – When Eve Israelsohn Noss was a child, her mother, Elaine Israelsohn, and a friend started the Ipswich League of Women Voters (LWV). The two women held planning meetings at each other’s homes, usually in the kitchen. Eve recalls sitting under the table, coloring and “listening to them talk about voter education and water resources.”

Elaine’s dedication to social issues and activism extended to the family supper table. “We encouraged our kids to participate and be knowledgeable of what was going on around them politically,” she said by email.

Her mother’s community involvement and growing up in Ipswich, where she and her brothers were the only Jewish kids in the entire school district, shaped Noss’ career choices and her commitment to social justice and interfaith community building issues. “Ipswich has always been ethnically and economically diverse,” Noss said.

When the educator and mediator returned to the area years later, she followed in her mother’s footsteps, joining the Beverly LWV, co-chairing two local studies on domestic violence and child abuse, and serving as its co-president.

Mother and daughter remain dedicated to tikkun olam (“repairing the world”) at Temple B’nai Abraham in Beverly and throughout the North Shore and Essex County, their multi-generational commitment spanning half the temple’s history.

On January 12 at 7 p.m., the TBA Social Action Committee will acknowledge them at its Social Action Shabbat with the third annual Leah Shriro Social Action Honor, which pays tribute to members who represent the best of TBA through their community involvement.

“Eve and her mother represent two generations of compassionate, caring, engaged members who are also active in the larger community,” Rabbi Alison Adler wrote by email. “It became clear that honoring Eve and her mother, Elaine, had special significance on MLK weekend, as we remember all who were engaged in the Civil Rights Movement together across religious boundaries.”

The inclusive Shabbat service includes a speaker and reflections from Dr. King, Rabbi Abraham Heschel and other sources that fit with themes of social justice and interfaith activism.

The social action award was created in 2016 in memory of Leah Shriro, a longtime temple volunteer and founder of the Social Action Committee who died in 2015 at the early age of 62. The award brings into focus and salutes the passionate dedication of members who have been working for social justice and creating caring community both within TBA and in the world at large.

In addition to her work with the local and state-level LWV, Israelsohn also served on the board of Bridging the Generations, a Beverly coalition that dealt with social issues and city-wide preventative programs, and represented TBA on the Beverly Interfaith Council.

She served on the temple’s board for many years, including as vice president, and created its historic archive collection. “Preserving the history of our community is so important and she has done so with great love,” Rabbi Adler said.

The seed for Noss’ work embracing interfaith marriage and community relationships was planted when she moved back to the North Shore in 1985 and started attending temple programs as a young interfaith family. “It became clear at High Holiday and regular services that in a Conservative congregation, the Jewish spouse was expected to convert the non-Jewish spouse to Judaism,” she said by email.

She met many other couples that were grappling with similar issues, including Leah Shriro, who became one of her closest friends. In response, she helped develop an interfaith family group for couples with and without children and parents whose young adult children were dating non-Jews. These families celebrated holidays together and discussed what it meant to raise children together. “Eve really helped change TBA into a more welcoming place for interfaith families,” Rabbi Adler said of the TBA past president.

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Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism collide at Chicago Dyke March

By Shelley A. Sackett

JOURNAL CORRESPONDENT

 

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From left: Marlene Copland Dodinval, Co-Chair of the A Wider Bridge Metro Council, Laurie Grauer, and Donna Fishman, past President of the Chicago Northshore NCJW Chapter.

 

An ill wind blew across Lake Michigan at the June 24 Chicago Dyke March when three women carrying Jewish Pride flags — a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center — were asked to leave the rally by its pro-Palestinian organizers who claimed their flags were an unwelcome “trigger.”

 

Laurel Grauer, one of those ejected, told the Journal by phone, “one of the Dyke March Collective’s representatives told me this was an explicitly anti-Zionist march, and my flag was making people feel unsafe.”

 

Grauer has carried the same flag, which is from her congregation and celebrates her “queer, Jewish identity”, for over a decade. “The only difference this year is I was asked to leave,” she said.

 

The hint of trouble started before the march when Grauer noticed anti-Zionist comments on the Dyke March Collective’s social media pages and contacted Alex Martinez, its core organizer, to let her know she intended to march with her flag as she always had.

 

Martinez assured her that the march was not anti-Jewish and that there shouldn’t be an issue.

 

All was fine until the march concluded at a nearby park, where the rally continued with a bar-b-q and other activities.

 

Grauer stepped off the march and onto the green still holding her flag. “That’s when I was approached by several people telling me I had to put away my flag or leave,” she said.

 

“This is a community I care a great deal about,” Grauer said. “The way I had demonstrated my Jewish and gay pride for so long was being silenced because of some people’s conceptions of Israel.”

 

The annual Dyke March attracted some 1,500 people this year. It is billed as a more inclusive event than the larger Chicago Pride Parade, held days later.

 

In its official statement issued three days later, the Dyke March Collective reasserted its anti-Zionist platform.

 

“Zionism is an inherently white-supremacist ideology. We welcome and include people of all identities, but not all ideologies…We welcome Jewish allies and marchers who are as invested in liberation as we are,” the statement said.

 

“The Chicago Dyke March Collective is explicitly not anti-Semitic, we are anti-Zionist,” the statement continued. “The Chicago Dyke March Collective supports the liberation of Palestine and oppressed people everywhere.

 

“From Palestine to Mexico, border walls have to go!!”

 

Reaction from the local, national and international Jewish communities was swift and united, labeling the Dyke March’s action as anti-Semitic.

 

Locally, Robert Trestan, the Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional director, decried what he saw as a political litmus test designed to exclude Jews from what is supposed to be an inclusive event.

 

“They’re creating their own definition of Zionism to fit their political purposes,” he said.

 

Although disheartened by the experience, Grauer sees a silver lining. “People see there is more than one way to perceive a term or an identity, whether it be pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian, Zionist or anti-Zionist. I think it’s a touch point for a new conversation that needed to happen and maybe that’s why this story was picked up, and continues to be covered, by so many communities.

 

JewishTribe4Pride

Jew(ish) Tribe for Pride, of the North Shore, participated in the Salem pride march on June 24.

 

In stark contrast to the stormy Chicago march, a kinder, gentler ocean breeze wafted over the June 24 Salem Gay Pride March, where members of Beverly’s Temple B’nai Abraham and a new group, Jew(ish) Tribe for Pride, were among the over 10,000 participants.

 

Temple B'nai Abraham Pride Parade 2016

 

Those interviewed had nothing but praise and gratitude towards North Shore Pride, the six-year-old nonprofit that sponsors the parade.

 

“What happened at the Chicago Dyke March is unsettling and I believe anti-Semitic and it demands our attention, but it is not what happens here,” said Temple B’nai Abraham Rabbi Alison Adler.

 

This is the third year the temple has marched as a Jewish organization and the second year members wore labels with the same rainbow Jewish star that has long been a symbol of LBGTQ Jewish identity and pride. No one has said anything about it except, ‘thank you,’” Rabbi Adler said.

 

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The sticker worn and handed out by members of Temple B’nai Abraham which resembles the flag Laurie Grauer was not allowed to carry at the Chicago Dyke March.

 

 

Sandy Freiberg, a Beverly resident and Temple B’nai Abraham vice president, marched for the first time this year and found the experience encouraging and powerful, “in large part due to the fact that I was simultaneously celebrating my gay and Jewish identities,” he said.

 

 

All of which is music to North Shore Pride president and founder Hope Watt-Bucci’s ears.

 

“The premise of our organization is really building community with pride, so we’re all about inclusivity,” she said. She started North Shore Pride six years ago as a result of hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community.

 

North Shore Pride is purposefully apolitical. “We are all about unity,” Watt-Bucci said.

 

Rabbi Adler seconds that. “North Shore Pride’s theme this year was ‘Stronger Together’ — and they live by it,” she said.