Ari (Ballaban) Jun — In Conversation
How We Thought Through the Iran Deal
By Shep Englander, Suzette Fisher, Michelle Kohn, and Sarah Weiss(Shep Englander is CEO of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Suzette Fisher is President of the Board of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Michelle Kohn is President of the Board of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) and Sarah Weiss is Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council)
Over the last two months, the Iran nuclear deal has become the most deeply divisive policy issue confronting the American Jewish community in decades. In Cincinnati, we tried to use this historic challenge to provide broad opportunities to understand this disturbing and complex issue.
The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati analyzes, educates, provides guidance, and advocates on important policy issues like the Iran deal. In this case, the JCRC leadership reviewed key articles laying out divergent perspectives, consulted with experts, engaged with community leaders, and dialogued with colleagues across the country. Throughout this process, it was clear that our Jewish community is united that Iran must be prevented not only from reaching nuclear capability but also from sponsoring terrorism. The JCRC process listened to, acknowledged, and respected the diverse opinions on whether the current agreement would achieve that outcome.
Ultimately, the JCRC statement expressed disappointment that the deal would give Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, an immediate and long-term economic windfall in exchange for relatively short-term limitations on its nuclear infrastructure. This convinced the majority of the JCRC to vote that the Iran deal as currently understood could not be supported. The Federation Board voted to endorse the JCRC’s statement, following Federation practice of adding its name when issues arise that may have profound impact on the Jewish people or Israel.
The JCRC also honored its mission to educate the Jewish and greater Cincinnati communities on important issues regarding the security of the United States, Israel, and the Jewish people. The JCRC developed an educational series that included a full spectrum of expert perspectives. The speakers included the Israeli Consul General, a policy expert from AIPAC, an American Jewish Committee Congressional liaison, an expert who was part of Secretary John Kerry’s negotiating team, and President Obama himself, who thought enough of the Jewish Federation system to do a live webcast with questions and answers just for us this past Friday.
As part of JCRC’s speaker series a week ago Tuesday, a packed room of over 250 was fortunate to hear Dr. Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. One of the foremost experts in the world on the Iran deal, he has been turned to for guidance by members of Congress and the Obama administration. Cincinnati was one of the few cities where he agreed to speak in person.
Dozens of attendees told us afterward that Dr. Satloff surprised them with his clear, engaging, balanced speech.
Dr. Satloff said that intelligent people of good will can disagree on whether the risks reduced by the deal outweigh the risks the deal would create. He also named and described responsible alternatives to accepting this deal.
Dr. Satloff urged our community to educate ourselves and our public officials. The tragic fact that the Iran deal has been used as a battering ram in Washington actually makes it more important that non-partisan community organizations like ours participate in the conversation and provide balanced perspective. The hyper-partisanship and attacks questioning loyalties have weakened the US-Israel alliance. It is urgent that this alliance be re-strengthened for the sake of Middle East stability and the safety of Israel.
Our Cincinnati community has been an example of Dr. Satloff’s point. Our community, in our discussions with the experts, and with each other, has been engaged, intelligent, and overwhelmingly respectful.
If you were not able to attend Dr. Satloff’s outstanding presentation it is worth watching the video and reading his articles, available on our web page: www.JewishCincinnati.org/Iran-deal.