Rebecca Vilkomerson’s message as she steps down as Executive Director of the Jewish Voice for Peace

Posted on Aug 29, 2019

…And I witnessed the first Gaza war from Tel Aviv. As I took my children to their daycare each morning, noticing how little attention other parents were paying to the massacre happening merely an hour away, I became convinced that Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions was a crucial tool in fighting Israeli apartheid and aggression.

Rebecca Vilkomerson writes: 

It’s hard for me to believe, but I am entering my final weeks as JVP’s Executive Director. As some of you may already know, my last day will be September 27th.

I have been ED for ten inspiring, challenging, difficult, amazing years. I can’t begin to describe how proud I am of all the work, growth, community, and bold political action we’ve created together during that time.

When I became Executive Director, I had already been a member of JVP for eight years. I had seen JVP grow from a local Bay Area organization without any staff to one that had national ambitions. I had lived in Israel for three years, working with the small and brave Jewish Israeli left, Palestinians inside of Israel, and activists across the West Bank, the Negev/Naqab, and East Jerusalem.

And I witnessed the first Gaza war from Tel Aviv. As I took my children to their daycare each morning, noticing how little attention other parents were paying to the massacre happening merely an hour away, I became convinced that Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions was a crucial tool in fighting Israeli apartheid and aggression.

When I got back to the U.S. and started this job later in 2009, JVP had six chapters, a couple hundred members, and four employees.

And if we’ve done one thing since, it’s grow: to 70 chapters, over 18,000 members, and hundreds of thousands of supporters, with over 30 talented staff to amplify and build our work.

When I look back on my ten years at JVP, there are so many moments I am proud of: actions like the launching of our youth wing by interrupting Netanyahu at the JFNA General Assembly in 2010; supporting Presbyterians who worked for ten years to pass divestment in 2014; and convincing the first municipalities not to send their police forces on US-Israel exchanges in 2018 – all the while building deep partnerships with other allied movements working for the dignity and freedom of all people.

And during these years we were also debating and sharpening our political positions and building the resources we needed from the ground up: from endorsing the full BDS call to publishing our book on antisemitism at just the moment such a resource was needed; from launching our Chavurah Network which supports non-zionist spiritual practices to our long-awaited statement opposing Zionism this year.

The reason we get so much done is because of the energy, passion and commitment thousands of people pour into JVP – whether that is talking to your family and friends around the dinner table, leading your chapter, or engaging online.

And in the end, especially in the hard moments, what I am absolutely the most proud of is that we are a community for one another. We offer each other solace, we lift each other up, we have created for ourselves a political home where we can be our full selves.

There have been terrible moments like the war on Gaza in 2014. And there have been hopeful moments – most recently when we were able to welcome Representative Rashida Tlaib back to Detroit to celebrate Shabbat after Trump and Netanyahu colluded to keep her out of Palestine. Moments like that have made me believe that we will win.

Click to donate to the Leadership Fund

One of the things I am most proud of is that we are an organization full of leaders. I have every confidence that JVP’s extraordinary work will continue.

In fact, in August, we made the big leap of launching our sister organization JVP Action, which will allow us to defend our champions and hold our elected leaders accountable through electoral organizing, stretching from city council campaigns all the way to the White House.

This is more than a way to get involved in the upcoming election cycle. It’s a culmination and confirmation that our guiding theory of change is working: by building a strong grassroots base of members and supporters and changing the public narrative, we can now begin to change U.S. policy.

I expect to be a member of JVP for as long as we need a JVP, and I so look forward to cheering on the brilliant strategic work that I know JVP will continue to do.

To make that happen, there is nothing that means more to me right now than leaving JVP in the best possible fiscal position it can be in.

Having the resources it takes to seize opportunities, figure out tough questions, and rise to meet crises has been crucial to our growth. And supporting JVP together has always been key to our power.

A group of JVP donors has put up a $75,000 one-time match for a Leadership Transition Fund – to honor my years here and to invest in the years ahead.

Will you help us match it before my last day, September 27th?

Click to donate to the Leadership Fund

My heart is very full right now, but mostly I want to say thank you – to people who were around before me and have been with me all the way through, those I’ve met along the way, and those who have just joined us and continue to inspire me.

Onward,

Rebecca Vilkomerson
Executive Director

www.Jewishvoiceforpeace.org
Jewish Voice for Peace
P.O. Box 589
Berkeley, California 94701