Sally Abed and Alon-Lee Green, leaders of Standing Together, at the March 6 event in the Student Union Ballroom

Standing Together Event Welcomes Open Dialogue

More than 300 people attended the university’s March 6 inaugural event under the Community, Democracy and Dialogue (CDD) initiative. Representatives from the globally recognized Jewish-Arab grassroots organization Standing Together presented on their work in Israel and engaged in a discussion with the audience in the Student Union Ballroom.

In welcoming attendees, Chancellor Javier Reyes noted the origins of the initiative.

“The CDD was born from a need to bring our community together, to engage in civil dialogue around complex and challenging topics,” he said, noting that the effort was undertaken in consultation with graduate and undergraduate student leaders. “The CDD aims to provide opportunities for our community to hear diverse points of view, exchange ideas, and model exemplary discourse.”

Sally Abed and Alon-Lee Green, leaders of Standing Together, explained how their organization is challenging the ongoing occupation of the West Bank and the war in Gaza and mobilizes Jews and Palestinians across Israel in pursuit of common goals, including peace, equality and social justice. 

UMass Chancellor Javier Reyes speaks to a UMass community member with a yarmulke at the Standing Together event March 6
UMass Chancellor Javier Reyes speaks to Rabbi Aaron Fine, Executive Director of UMass Hillel, at the Standing Together event on March 6.

Abed, a Palestinian, and Green, a Jew, also shared their personal perspectives on ongoing challenges in the region.

“I feel very privileged to be here,” Abed said. “There’s one thing that I really want you to understand. With all the immense conditional existence and seemingly impossible reality that we live in, we, as Palestinians in Israel, we also hold a historic role of bridging. We hold the historic role of understanding the reality in Israel, and we have this unique ability to co-lead something together.”

Green related the story of how, as a teen, he organized workers at a coffee café he worked at to unionize in protest of the company violating worker’s rights such as payment for overtime. The owner of the chain of cafés later signed a collective agreement with the workers.

Students line up to ask questions at the Standing Together event on March 6
Students line up to ask questions at the Standing Together event on March 6.

“I think that was the first moment in my life that I felt that, maybe, I do have some control over my reality, control over the things that are feeling unfair, and I understood that it had something to do with organizing with other people that are in the same situation,” Green said.

The event was moderated by David Mednicoff, a CDD member and associate professor of Middle Eastern studies and public policy, who encouraged the sharing of diverse perspectives. 

A recording of the event can be viewed above and on YouTube.