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An Evening with Mayor Schewel and Members of the Durham City Council

Thursday, October 4, 2018 25 Tishrei 5779

7:00 PM - 8:30 PMSanctuary, Judea Reform Congregation, 1933 W. Cornwallis Rd. Durham, NC 27705

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On April 16, 2018, following a period of passionate expression of views within the community and the Durham City Council about police training practices, the Council approved a statement “rejecting the militarization of our police force.”  Significantly, the statement makes specific reference to the State of Israel and no other nation by endorsing the words of Durham Police Chief C. J. Davis that “there has been no effort while I have served as Chief of Police to initiate or participate in any exchange to Israel, nor do I have any intention to do so.”

While a broad range of opinions about the statement and the events surrounding it exists within the local Jewish community, a particular concern of many relates to the reference to Israel, its implications and possible repercussions.  With the support of the JRC Board of Trustees, then President Steve Simon and President-elect Ziva Raney met with Durham Mayor Steve Schewel on May 29 to discuss these issues and to seek a broader understanding of the Council's resolution and the context within which it was developed.  Their conversation also dealt with related matters of concern within the Jewish community, including a growing climate of anti-Semitism, any form of racism or discrimination in the wider community, and the movement to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel. 

An outcome of the meeting was an invitation to the mayor and interested members of the City Council to visit JRC, meet with members of the congregation, and exchange thoughts and concerns in the spirit of respectful dialogue and listening.  The mayor accepted that invitation and will be our guest on Thursday, October 4, from 7:00 to 8:30pm in the JRC Levin Social Hall. This event is planned and conducted in conjunction with Judea's Israel Discourse Advisory Committee.  All members of the congregation are welcome to attend.

The character of this event is to be that of civil dialogue and any departure from that approach will not be tolerated. 

To open the forum on October 4, Mayor Schewel will be invited to share thoughts on any matter he may choose, including the Council's resolution and related issues. To stimulate discussion on topics of particular concern within the Jewish community, a number of questions, appearing below, will be provided to the mayor in advance of the meeting and will be repeated at the event.  Members of the congregation are invited to ask questions from the floor, as well.

To assist planners of the event, it is asked that you indicate an intention to attend via RSVP below. Congregants may also attend the event without having previously responded to this message and will be asked to register at the welcome table.

The questions to be submitted to the mayor in advance of the October 4 event are these:

  • We understand that considerable discussion was given by the mayor and council to the council's statement on rejecting militarization of the police force before the current wording was agreed upon.  Can you tell us why the reference to Israel was retained in the current version?
  • In light of the concerns that have been expressed about the reference to Israel in the statement, is consideration being given to rescinding or revising the resolution so that the reference to Israel is removed?  How might concerned members of the community best seek an elimination of that reference?
  • We would like to see the Durham City Council take an affirmative and visible stand against anti-Semitism or any form of racism or discrimination whenever it occurs. Can you tell us what the city is doing or plans to do to address these problems?
  • The Reform Jewish Movement, of which Judea Reform Congregation is a part, opposes efforts to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel, known as BDS.  Although some members of the Jewish community feel differently about this issue, the position of our movement is that these efforts are more likely to hinder than to advance the peace process.  Can you tell us your position on boycotts of Israel?

UPDATE 9/24/18:

This is a brief follow-up to our prior communication about the Evening with Mayor Schewel planned for Thursday, October 4. We are writing to let you know about a change in the format of the event that has been requested by Mayor Schewel. The mayor has indicated that he would prefer to respond to questions directly from the audience, providing an opportunity for a robust exchange of views between the mayor and members of the congregation. He has asked only that a reasonable time limit be placed on questions, which the organizers of the event will manage, and of course it is our expectation that all questions and comments will be communicated in a respectful manner. This format will replace the process described earlier of having questions submitted via email prior to the mayor's visit or written on index cards at the event. The mayor will have the benefit of the questions that were included in the  prior communication in framing whatever remarks he might wish to make. Other views and concerns are at the discretion of those in attendance who wish to be heard. Members of the City Council will also be present and will have opportunities to respond. And of course, as a special event intended for members of Judea Reform Congregation, all members of the congregation are welcome to attend. 
You may indicate below that you plan to attend, though congregants may also attend without having previously responded.  
Finally, as requested by a number of congregants, we'd like to take this opportunity to provide a link to the Council's full statement “rejecting the militarization of our police force,” which was one of the considerations that led to our invitation to the mayor to be with us. The statement is officially read into the minutes of the April 16 Durham City Council Meeting:
We realize there is a lot of information related to this dialogue. We encourage you to review the statement above and other information in the public domain that may inform the discussion with Mayor Schewel.
We hope you will be able to join us for the mayor's visit on October 4.


Ziva Raney, JRC President

Steve Simon, JRC Immediate Past President

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