Judaism Unbound Episode 124: IfNotNow - Ilana Levinson, Jill Raney


Dan and Lex are joined by Ilana Levinson and Jill Raney, two members of IfNotNow, a national campaign led by young Jews, working to end American-Jewish support for the Israeli occupation and promote freedom and dignity for all Palestinians and Israelis. [1] Their conversation looks at a wide variety of issues, ranging from fear and trauma in American-Jewish life, to the idea that no Jew should be deemed "not Jewish enough" to express their viewpoints on Israel and Palestine.

(0:01 - 14:24): To begin the episode, Raney and Levinson talk through IfNotNow's institutional structure. They emphasize the decentralized nature of the organization, and how that distinguishes it from many other institutions (Jewish and otherwise). Levinson tells IfNotNow's origin story, reflecting in particular on the summer of 2014, when it arose as a voice for young Jews who opposed violent Israeli action towards Palestinians in Gaza. [2] Raney then outlines a few key components of many IfNotNow actions, including song, Jewish ritual, and civil disobedience. [3] 

(14:25 - 27:11): The two guests reflect on the role that genuine forms of fear and trauma, resulting from Jewish communal memory and experience, play in many people's understandings of Israel. Raney looks back on their own Jewish life, which has manifested largely outside of Jewish institutions, and asserts that all Jews should be recognized as "Jewish enough" to voice their authentic opinions on Israel and Palestine, regardless of their institutional affiliations or lack thereof. Levinson reflects on her journey from the founder of an Israel-advocacy group in high school to an outspoken opponent of Israel's Occupation of Palestinians. [4] She distinguishes between Israel education, which was sparse in her upbringing, and advocacy training, which was prevalent.

(27:12 - 39:56): Raney discusses some of the ways, distinct from conversations about Israel, that have caused her to feel other-ed in some Jewish communities. They tie the fears and traumas associated with Israel to communal discourse and apprehension around intermarriage. [5] To close the episode, the co-hosts and guests wrestle with antisemitism that is present in the world today, and explore ways in which we can work towards ending it.

[1] Learn more about IfNotNow's work by visiting IfNotNowMovement.org, and explore the principles in which its work is grounded by clicking here.

[2] For more on the origins of IfNotNow, see this July 2014 Huffington Post piece, written by Antonia Blumberg, entitled "Jewish Group Delivers Mourner's Kaddish For Gaza Victims."

[3] Gain a sense of what IfNotNow's actions look like by viewing the video on the left of this screen.

[4] Hear more about Levinson's story by viewing this video, which was part of IfNotNow's #YouNeverToldMe campaign.

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