What inspired you to become a FOR member?
I first learned about FOR in 2005, as a senior in college. My professor knew that I was looking for social justice oriented post-graduation opportunities, particularly around Palestine, and told me about Interfaith Peace-Builders (formerly an FOR program, now called Eyewitness Palestine). I was so fortunate to join an IFPB delegation a couple of weeks after graduation, and it changed so much about what I knew about Palestine-Israel, and introduced me to incredible activists. As a delegate, I signed on to be a member of FOR, and was asked to join the National Council after our IFPB journey–I found FOR to be so inspiring and was blown away by the history of the organization, it was an easy yes!
What is your proudest FOR moment?
I am always proud when I meet people who know of and love FOR. What stands out is that it’s such an intergenerational, diverse love–that’s at the heart of FOR’s work, and I truly see that in the folks who have made connections with the organization.
When did you find your peace witness most challenged and how did you respond?
When I was on the IFPB delegation, there is one day in particular that I will never forget. In the morning, we spent over 2 hours in line to get through a checkpoint, and later held witness at a portion of the wall where Palestinians were divided in their own neighborhood and had created a makeshift entryway by pulling apart the fencing and barbed wire. Watching families crawl through with their young children is an image that still haunts me. Later that evening, we attended Shabbat services as a synagogue–although it was run by an incredible group of leaders involved with Rabbis for Human Rights, I couldn’t stomach sitting in a space of holiness knowing what was happening to Palestinians every day right outside that sacred space. It took several years after that delegation to rebuild my trust as a person of faith, particularly as I had to undo so much I had learned about Israel as a Jewish person, and I credit a lot of that growth and re-connection to finding Kol Tzedek synagogue in Philadelphia–a radical, inclusive space that helped me learn to be an activist through my faith.
What is the most critical issue we’re facing right now?
COVID-19 is so deeply present in our lives and I see so many of the consequences of this virus as a reflection of our societal inequities: injustice, greed, racism, mistrust of science, global capitalism, lack of community, unjust healthcare systems, undue burdens on families, lack of solid childcare and schooling options and on and on…it’s like a mirror on all of the places we need to heal and radically alter our connection to self and others.
What song, book, movie, etc. is inspiring you/ giving you hope in this moment?
I just finished reading “Just Mercy,” and I can’t stop thinking about it. I feel both shaken and inspired. I also look forward to receiving my weekly words of Torah from Rabbi Ari Lev at Kol Tzedek every Friday–his voice is a gift, and he calls us all to understand the connections between our Jewish faith and our call to be radical activists for justice in this world and to hold deep connection to others. I would also say that our children truly give me hope–the generations coming up are so inspiring, so thoughtful, so passionate. I hope that for Ilyas and Naseem.
Shaina with her husband, Brahim, and their children.