Brookline Stands Resolute Against a Resolution

Glimpse of Town Meeting At Work - (Courtesy of Brookline Interactive Group)

In Massachusetts, this past Thursday evening, in a large high-school auditorium, our Town made history. Brookline’s Town Meeting, comprised of 255 elected volunteers from 17 precincts, young and old, seasoned and new, voted to table a Ceasefire Resolution created by several members. In this context, to table a motion means to put it away, to end it; no discussion, no debate.

The run-up to this vote was as contentious as are the parallel discussions happening worldwide since October 7th amid the ensuing hostilities between Israel and Hamas. The Resolution sought to bring Brookline in line with more than 100 other cities and towns across the United States that have already passed similar statements.

As others within our Town Meeting group grappled with softening and modifying the original Resolution’s language through a set of potential Amendments, an alternate strategy began to take shape. The rarely used parliamentary procedure of tabling. For this approach to be successful, our team needed to ensure that a two-thirds majority of voting members would choose the tabling option.

So began a dedicated effort over several weeks to personally reach out to as many of our members as possible and determine if a successful tabling vote was practical. Meeting, speaking, and emailing with non-Jewish and Jewish members of Town Meeting was an exhilarating and exhausting experience for many of us. On the one hand, we asked our colleagues to remove the opportunity for the petitioners of the Resolution and their supporters to present their case. On the other hand, we strongly believe that debating this issue will divide rather than unify and hurt rather than heal. The day and night effort to determine the vote count continued. And of course, there was the social media back-and-forth that draws one in and saps one’s energy.

The drama deepened. The petitioners and their supporters organized a pro-resolution standout. It was scheduled to be held outside Town Meeting on the night of the potential vote. Its goal was to garner support for defeating the tabling option and proceeding to a full public (and live-streamed) debate. Quickly, the Brookline Jewish community, young and old, religious and secular, from a broad swath of cultural backgrounds, coordinated, via a group of like-minded Town Meeting members and dedicated community volunteers, a parallel and peaceful standout.

Last Thursday evening, our Town Police department, under the watchful eye of its Chief, positioned officers between the dueling standouts to prevent any buildup of tension. There were nearly 300 people distributed between the two standouts, roughly split in half. The pro-tabling group sang Hebrew songs and chanted the words “Bring them home” – referring to the hostages taken by Hamas last October 7th and still in captivity over 230 days later. We held signs asking Town Meeting members to “Table Article 19” referring to the Ceasefire Resolution. We waved American and Israeli flags. Then, it was time for us Town Meeting members to enter the auditorium, leave the chanting and singing outside, and get down to the business of legislating the Bylaws of Brookline.

As the meeting started, we still tracked how many votes we had collected to “table”. While considering other legislative matters, we knew we were close but we also knew there was still a coterie of undecided colleagues. The night wore on. Finally, several hours later, we reached the final Article to be considered – the Ceasefire Resolution. The Meeting Moderator patiently explained to the attendees, both those in the auditorium and those attending over Zoom, the process that would be followed as we took up this Article. There would be a motion to table and, if that failed, there would be a series of at least four Amendments that would have to be discussed, debated, and voted upon after which there would be a vote on a finalized Resolution.

But first, the vote for tabling. It was now in the hands of our Town Meeting colleagues. It boiled down to less than 60 seconds. The voting choices were electronically provided to each Town Meeting Member and, within 55 seconds, we had our answer. One hundred eighty (or 81%) of the votes chose the tabling option. I recited out loud but to no one in particular – “Am Yisrael Chai” followed by “Thank Heaven.”

Brookline took a brave and resolute step last Thursday evening. We chose to keep this Resolution from being debated before our legislative body in a format of 3-5 minute long speeches, a forum not conducive to real dialogue and more likely to create heat, not light. We look forward to participating in factual and dignified discussions, should they be scheduled in the future on this and related topics. But these discussions do not belong in our Town Meeting.

Now, Brookline joins a small group of communities across the United States that have successfully said no to one-sided narratives that score social media points for some but leave others of their neighbors feeling marginalized, ostracized, and erased.

Our diverse Brookline community supports all of its residents and stands with Israel!

About the Author
Jesse, a Ph.D. chemist/materials scientist, originally from Elizabeth, NJ, completed a 35-year career as a technologist at Verizon Communications where he retired as an Associate Fellow. He lives in Brookline, MA , where he attends the Maimonides Kehillah, built and manages the Boston Eruv, teaches a weekly Daf Yomi shiur, serves as the High Holiday Baal Tefilah at Congregation Kadimah Toras-Moshe, and is working to complete Semicha through Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim. He and his wife, Brenda, are parents to three and grandparents to twelve. He enjoys Torah study, radio-control modeling, skiing, sailing, tennis, woodworking, writing, and volunteering.
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