On April 8, 2014, Boulder community member Joan Nagel was honored at the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) annual luncheon with their 2014 Volunteer Recognition Award. The JCRC, a program of JEWISHColorado, is a coalition of nearly 40 Jewish organizations, synagogues as well as at-large members in the Denver and Boulder metropolitan area that have come together to speak with one representative voice on issues of concern to the local and global Jewish community.
The Boulder Jewish News is pleased to present Joan’s remarks given at the luncheon:
Thank you so much for this volunteer recognition award. I couldn’t have accomplished anything without the many people in Boulder who have been my partners in all these efforts. I’d like to take this opportunity to let the larger Denver community know more about us and our activities in Boulder–and to let my Boulder friends learn more about the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).
We really appreciate the way in which the JCRC has made special efforts to reach out and support the Boulder Jewish Community. You provided advice on countering anti-Israel boycotts of local Boulder businesses and served as an important voice at a C.U. Regents meeting addressing anti-Israel divestment.
In Jacki Cooper Melmed’s much appreciated introduction there was mention of our involvement in opposition to a proposal for a Boulder Sister City Relationship with the West Bank town of Nablus. This was a very, very painful experience for us as many of us are very supportive of Sister City relationships and other programs that work towards cooperation and peaceful coexistence.
However, the main leadership of the Boulder Nablus Sister City Project were activists with strong ties to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. It was very clear that their main goal was to have a platform from which to promote their BDS agenda and provide only one narrative of the complicated situation in Israel and the West Bank.
After many weeks of organizing, meeting, educating, and letter-writing, many of us spoke at a very long special session before the Boulder City Council. Jacki Cooper Melmed, JCRC Chair, and Scott Levin, ADL Regional Director, joined us in speaking. The proposal was voted down by a vote of 7 to 2. I especially want to thank Bill Cohen who did the lions’ share of the work with a lot of help from Jane Rubinstein and so many others.
I also want to thank JCRC Director Janet Sherman, Israel Shlichah Michal Uziyahu, and Israel Action Network’s Noam Gilboord who provided us with valuable advice, training and support. The Israel Action Network is a strategic initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America and was created to counter assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy. It is a partner of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
We are now working in Boulder very hard to repair the damage to previously good relationships with Palestinians and others living in Boulder that resulted from our opposition to the Sister City proposal. We have formed an Israeli Palestinian Environmental Work Group headed by Peter Ornstein to raise awareness about cooperative environmental projects in Israel and the West Bank. We would love to tell you more about the Kidron Valley Wadi El Nar sewage clean-up project so please ask us later. We received a micro-grant from JEWISHcolorado’s Israel Action Network and are grateful.
Our rabbis in Boulder inspire many of us to pursue social action projects. I especially want to thank my rabbi, Marc Soloway, for his leadership and involvement in many important issues. For example: He is working with Sheriff Joe Pelle and an interfaith group of ministers and priests on gun violence prevention; he participated with Truah, The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, in Florida helping migrant farm workers in their fight for food justice; he has met with Palestinians and spent the night with a Palestinian family on the West Bank through the Encounter Program and listened to their story. We’d be glad to tell you more about Encounter if you’re planning a trip to Israel. Rabbi Marc also has traveled to Ghana with the American Jewish World Service to learn about a group that is rescuing children who have been trafficked as slaves.
I also want to thank Rabbi Deborah Bronstein for her leadership helping us resettle many young South Sudanese women refugees in Boulder and founding the Southern Sudan Health Partnership which brought medical supplies to a part of the devastated South Sudan region and also helped build a well to provide fresh water.
And I especially want to thank Bonai Shalom Social Action Committee, led by Beth Ornstein, for its continuing commitment to engage our community in projects that help the hungry, homeless, job-seekers and so many others. In addition, they have held a series of dialogues about the Israel Palestinian Conflict–facilitating civil discussions among our Jewish community and now reaching out to include Arab Americans.
I want to thank my family–especially my husband, Bill, for all his support and non-interference in my total inability to say no. I am inspired by all the volunteer work you do helping the elderly. Also I want to thank our daughter Robin for making the trip from Seattle to be here today–your work to assure that everyone has good and affordable health care and your commitment to the Amigos program has been an inspiration to me. And thanks to our son Sam who couldn’t be here today because he’s in the final rehearsals for a show in Philadelphia–you are so good about expressing your love and support and adding good humor to any situation.
Finally I want to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Boulder Jewish community, to thank JEWISHcolorado. We are very, very grateful for all the flood assistance. My congregation, Bonai Shalom, is still out of our building while we work to rebuild and restore it with significant financial assistance from JEWISHcolorado. Your grants have helped many individuals in our community as well. Your young adults of YAD came to Boulder and helped clean up the Islamic Center and Mosque as well as other sites. You arranged for emergency assistance crews from Israel–IsraAid–and Nechama to come into our residents’ homes and help with the heavy restoration and cleaning work.
Please come visit us in Boulder. There is always a lot going on. The Boulder JCC, under the able direction of Jonathan Lev, will be breaking ground this summer on a new building.
Thank you all very much.”