CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 3

society that absolutely must change. However,
these feelings are manifestations of my bond
with Israel, not impediments to it, and they
are overwhelmed by the pride I feel at what is
admirable, exemplary, even miraculous about the
Jewish state. When I have a quarrel with Israel, it
is a lover's quarrel.
But while criticism and attachment can surely
coexist, there are proper and improper times,
places, and ways to critique others if we
want our admonitions to be heard and to do
more good than harm. The Torah commands,
"Reprove your neighbor, but incur no guilt
because of him." Rashi explains: Rebuke him,
but do not shame him publicly. Going further, the
Talmud likens those who embarrass others in
public to shedders of blood.
Israel needs many things, but one thing it does
not need is more public criticism, which is
ubiquitous. Some is legitimate but lacks context.
Much of it is exaggerated, unfair, uninformed,
or plainly wrong. Increasingly, it lurches from
offensive to anti-Semitic, rationalizing the
shortcomings of Israel's adversaries and ignoring
the worst abuses of others, focusing exclusively
and obsessively on the Jewish state. This willful
blindness finds expression in such ways as a
blatantly anti-Semitic study guide circulated
by the Presbyterian Church and the immoral,
hypocritical, and pernicious BDS Movement,
which denies the legitimacy of a democratic
Jewish state, even alongside a Palestinian one.
Thus, although I am a lifelong Democrat and
a political liberal in both American and Israeli
terms, I cannot, in good conscience, associate
with organizations on the left, even those
defining themselves as pro-Israel, that welcome
and provide a forum to supporters of BDS,
engage in public criticism of Israel heedless of
how that criticism is exploited by her adversaries,
prescribe policies its government should follow,
and urge the U.S. to pressure Israel to adopt
them. I am utterly repelled by organizations
on the right that profess to support Israel but
oppose compromises that its government is
prepared to make for peace and agitate against
such measures.
As I see it, all such entities, left and right, exhibit
implicit disrespect for Israel as a democracy.
They believe they understand Israel's best
interests better than Israel does, that Israel can't
be trusted to do the right thing absent outside
influence, and that they know best what risks
Israel should take and sacrifices it must make,
even though they, themselves, will not have to
face or bear them. I choose, instead, to heed the
CCAR's Centenary Platform on Reform Judaism
and Zionism, which lists "political support" as
the first of "our obligations to Israel." I elect to
make common cause with others who believe
that Israel's security depends on broad bipartisan
political support for the U.S.-Israel alliance,
regardless which party controls Congress, the

White House, and the Knesset.
Though essential at all times, that is all the more
urgent when the leaders of Iran, the foremost
state sponsor of terrorism, deny the Holocaust
and quite evidently seek the capacity to threaten
or perpetrate another. And when the latest round
of U.S.-sponsored, Israeli-Palestinian peace
talks teeters on the brink in the face of President
Abbas's updated version of Khartoum's three
No's-no recognition of Israel as a Jewish state;
no compromise on the claimed "right of return,"
no commitment that a peace agreement would
end the conflict-if that failure occurs, many
will reflexively blame Israel, even if Palestinian
intransigence is again the cause, and the next
phase of the invidious international campaign
to delegitimize the Jewish state will begin in
earnest.
I am not suggesting we pretend Israel is
perfect, ignore the complex moral challenges
it faces, disregard its occasional failures or
excesses in the exercise of power, or encourage
unquestioning approval of whatever its
government does. Ardent support for Israel
does not permit us to deny that Palestinians,
too, have rights that deserve acknowledgment
and suffer hardships no one would willingly bear.
But, for example, when Israel's security barrier
is described with preposterous obscenities like
"apartheid wall," we must make sure people
know the facts: that 96 percent of it is a fence,
that there are Palestinians and Israelis, Jews,
Christians, and Muslims on both sides of it, that
it was erected as a last resort by a prime minister
long opposed to doing so, after more than a
thousand Israeli women, men, and children
were murdered by suicide bombers in cafes,
malls, buses, and Passover seders, and that
Israel's Supreme Court has ordered it moved
when it caused unjustified privation. Whatever
our views on the security barrier, settlements,
and "the occupation," we are morally obliged to
make it clear: that Palestinian terrorism preceded
them; they were not its cause; that they are
not the conflict's origins, but its manifestations;
and that they will not be resolved by boycotts,
denunciations, or unilateral measures, but only
by a permanent peace agreement that the
parties alone can achieve.
Ecclesiastes reminds us, "There is...a time for
silence and a time for speaking." The challenge
for us as rabbis, individually and collectively, is
determining which time it is, and when the time
comes for words, to choose them with utmost
care. Thankfully, I do not fear professional
repercussions or criticism for sharing my true
views about Israel. Nonetheless, I exercise
discretion as to which truths I speak and to
whom, where, when, and how I do so. We
have precious few opportunities to address
our entire congregation or community on
matters of paramount concern. To me, it feels
unconscionably self-indulgent to squander them
criticizing Israel, even when it may be deserved.
3

Inevitably, despite the disclaimers we offer, some
who lack a strong attachment to Israel will hear
only the negatives and be alienated from her.
And when we address a wider public, the danger
and need for care are exponentially greater.
Where Israel is concerned, rabbis have a
primary duty: to nurture ahavat Yisrael-love
for, identification with, and attachment, loyalty,
and commitment to the Jewish state, its
imperfections notwithstanding. The highest
and best use of our pulpits and voices is not to
focus on Israel's flaws, but on its virtues, to rebut
distortions, oversimplifications, and falsehoods,
to provide context and perspective, to inoculate
those who will study on campuses rife with antiIsrael hostility and to support them once they
get there. It is to acquaint people with Israel the
vibrant democracy that guarantees freedom of
speech, press, religion, and assembly, where
relentless self-scrutiny is the national pastime,
and women, Arabs, religious minorities, and gay
and lesbian persons enjoy rights, protections,
and opportunities unknown elsewhere in the
region and most other places; the Israel that
has sent humanitarian aid and emergency
relief missions to more than 140 countries and
provided medical care to more than 700 Syrians
wounded in a genocide to which the world
seems mainly indifferent; the Israel that rescued
tens of thousands of Ethiopian Jews, the only
time in history that white people took black
people out of Africa to free them rather than
enslave them; the Israel whose arts and culture
are as rich as its geography is various and its
beauty is breathtaking; the Israel whose myriad
innovations in science, medicine, and technology
are contributing so much to humanity; the Israel
that is infinitely more than the sum of its conflicts.
It is also the Israel of my favorite poet, Yehuda
Amichai, who wrote "HaMakom SheBo Anu
Tzodkim: The Place Where We Are Right."
From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.
Cherished colleagues and friends, it is beyond
the power of words to express the depth of my
gratitude for the privilege of sharing my truths,
doubts, and loves with you, of partnering with
you in the sacred endeavor of our rabbinic
calling, and of listening, together with you, for the
whisper of the wings of Shechinah. In this, as in
all else, now and always, I pray that the words
of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts
will find favor with the Holy One of Blessing, our
Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.



CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014

CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 1
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 2
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 3
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 4
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 5
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 6
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 7
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 8
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 9
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 10
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 11
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 12
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 13
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 14
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 15
CCAR Newsletter May-June 2014 - 16
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