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Showing posts from 2016

The Deadliest Poison: When Anti-Semitism Infects Liberalism

This past summer, the national Black Lives Matter movement released an official platform outlining several of its policy proposals in its efforts to end the war on black people in this country.  Among its proposals, it used the platform as an opportunity to attack Israel, calling it an “apartheid state.” The platform also stated “The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”  Last January, at the annual National Gay and Lesbian Creating Change Conference in Chicago, a pro-Israel reception was initially shut down by the conference organizers, bowing to pressure from anti-Israel groups.  When the reception eventually got the green light, their event was stormed by an angry mob trying to shut down the Jewish and Israeli event following their Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat services.  Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, the rabbi of the LGBT congregation Beit Simchat Torah in NY, and an …

Seeing but Not Seeing: Our Implicit Ignorance

This past summer, I got a call from Judy Heumann.  If you don't know Judy, you should.   Judy is an Adas member, and an internationally renowned disabilities rights activist who has changed the face of disabilities rights in this country and beyond through her work with the World Bank, the State Department, and other organizations.  Judy heard some of my teachings on Judaism’s call to lift up the cause of the disabled.  She heard me teach about the central Jewish value of empathy and compassion as essential ingredients of justice for all those who have been marginalized in our community.   When she called, I expected it to be a call with her thanking me for raising awareness of these issues.  But her call wasn’t what I expected.  She was appreciative of my efforts, of course.  But she had a request of me: she wanted me to sit in a room full of people with disabilities, and just listen to them and their stories. Sure, I said.  But I didn’t really grasp why this meeting was impo…

The Kotel Deal Isn't Good Enough

When the Israeli cabinet voted 15-5 last month to approve a new egalitarian section of the Western Wall, it was hailed as a landmark decision, a triumph for the cause of religious pluralism in Israel.   After years of struggle by Women of the Wall and other progressive Jewish groups against ultra-Orthodoxy at the Kotel, it was indeed a noteworthy milestone. My celebration of this important decision, however, was more muted than many of my Conservative and Reform colleagues. The religious symbolism of the Kotel is undeniable. For thousands of years, it was a symbol of destruction and exile, a “Wailing Wall.” After 1967, that symbolism shifted to one of the triumph of the Jewish people in returning to our ancient land. The prayers shifted from lamentation to celebration of bnai mitzvah and other life-cycle events and daily minyanim. With its bustling religious life, the Kotel eventually became a kind of national Orthodox synagogue: not only a symbol of our ancient past, but now a symbo…