What Are You Doing?

A little over a month ago, my in-laws drove up from St. Louis to visit us in Madison. My mother and father-in-law, Gloria and Sandy, are in their late 80s, so my sister-in-law, Linda, joined them to help with the driving as well as to visit. But my father-in-law drove the entire distance, which was quite impressive for an 89 year old man who broke his hip a little over a year ago! As an added treat, our son, Josh, who attends the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, took the bus down to visit his grandparents, aunt, and of course, my wife and I.

After dinner on Friday night, as we were all sitting around the dinner table, my father-in-law asked my son, “What are you doing?” Josh’s initial answer stuck to the typical college student response as he told him that he is busy with his classes. But my father-in-law was not satisfied with that response, and asked the question once again. Josh added that he played intramural hockey. However, his grandfather clearly wanted more and asked Josh, “What are you doing?” for a 3rd time.

At that point, Josh opened up to his very busy life as a progressive Jewish activist. Indeed, he had spent the previous weekend at an IfNotNow training in Oakland, California and he is very involved in his local chapter in the Twin Cities. IfNotNow is dedicated to ending Israel’s occupation of the occupied Palestinian territories and to end the American Jewish community’s support for that occupation. Josh went on to explain to his grandparents that is also very involved in Open Hillel which promotes pluralism and open discourse on Israel-Palestine in Jewish communities on campus and beyond. Josh spent the next hour and a half explaining his work for peace and justice both locally and in Israel-Palestine, to his grandparents, who mostly patiently listened. Josh was articulate  and clearly and calmly answered their potentially explosive questions, like “What about Hamas?”, calmly and cogently, explaining that Palestinians are not all represented by Hamas, and that they deserve to live in peace and justice in a land of their own.

Josh has also been involved in J Street U which is the campus arm of J Street which works to achieve a just and equitable two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Josh and I were fortunate enough to lobby many Wisconsin members of Congress on this issue last spring, including Rep. Ron Kind, pictured  below.

L-R: Me, Kent Johnson, Rep. Ron Kind, Josh Spitzer-Resnick, Ben Gellman

As my wife and I, and his Aunt Linda listened, our pride in Josh’s ability to articulate his very progressive activism to his grandparents grew steadily. As I told Josh afterwards, I was also proud of my in-laws, as many people of their generation would not show the patience, tolerance and interest in their grandson’s progressive activism.

Last week, Josh thanked me for advice I had previously given him when working with reporters, to ask to see his quote and the article before publication. Of course, that got me curious, and I was please to see him quoted in this Forward article a few days later which exposes that Hen Mazzig, a well known right wing speaker on American college campuses, had illegally failed to disclose that he was being paid for his services by the Israeli government.

“There is precedent for the Israeli government doing these types of things, but the most problematic part about [this case] is that so much of that has been pushed under the table,” Josh Spitzer-Resnick, a senior at University of Minnesota and an organizer with the left-wing grassroots group Open Hillel, told the Forward.
He connected Mazzig’s lack of disclosure with the anti-BDS blacklist website Canary Mission, which, the Forward revealed, was being supported by funds connected to major Jewish federations.
“A lot of its power has been that it is, or has been for so long, very much anonymous, and there’s no one to really hold accountable for that,” Spitzer-Resnick said.

Last night, Josh sent me a message to watch the IfNotNow Twin Cities Facebook page around 8 AM this morning. I was pleased to see that he was taking live video of a group of Jews and allies who were protesting in front of the Republican Party’s office in Minneapolis to remember the Jewish lives taken by a white nationalist in Pittsburgh, and the black lives taken by a white nationalist outside a Kroger grocery in Kentucky in recent days. They were demanding that the Republican Party renounce its support for white nationalism.

I am so proud of my son, Josh, for all he is doing to advocate for peace and justice. I will continue to support his activism in any way I can. Josh had a great answer for his grandfather’s question. Josh is doing the work that we all need to do to engage in tikkun clam to repair the damage being done to this world on a daily basis. Each of us should be able to answer the question, “What are you doing?” with our own version of our small part to repair the world.


For more information on how I can help you accomplish progressive, effective systems change, contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his web site: Systems Change Consulting.

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