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Rabbi's Week in Review - 3/11/2024

03/11/2024 01:07:44 PM

Mar11

I came across an article Sunday from The Washington Post, really an excerpt from the book To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to G-d, Israel, and the Jewish People, by Harvard law professor Noah Feldman. The very, very short point of the article is that we are a loving yet sometimes dysfunctional family. According to Feldman, this is the basis for the present acrimony within the Jewish community toward the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

I thought of that as I continue to navigate differing views and personalities through the heartbreak of the continuing horrific violence that began October 7, and the present humanitarian crisis in Gaza. People in our community are troubled, not only by the conflict itself but also by the aggressively harsh responses to whatever their views may be. 

This has been primarily experienced by Jewish students and younger adults who have been derided, or even shunned, by people they thought were their friends. This has been the experience for those more prone to support Israel’s present posture toward the conflict. Likewise, for those who strongly advocate for a cease-fire, they too have experienced harsh criticism and feel that they are being shunned by the mainstream Jewish community.

For those of us who are a bit older, Feldman suggests that our central focus on Israel (regardless of whether we are vehement in our support or harshly critical) may be waning with the next generation of Jews. Feldman sees a turn away from a less national-political  Jewishness and a move toward a more personal, familial and spiritual Judaism. Part of this move is embedded in a Jewish belief in a G-d loving social justice.

Which leads me to this: Pursuing social justice means engaging in difficult conversations in sometimes uncomfortable spaces. I have said in the past that in pursuing justice and in living our Jewish values, we need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

In that regard, I attended  an interfaith assembly this past week, advocating for a cease-fire and supporting Palestinians in Gaza. The reality of the experience was that while I could have experienced great discomfort — and would not have been surprised if such were the case — I was made to feel welcome and respected. Alongside prayers for the violence to end and for no more Palestinian lives to be lost were prayers for the Israelis taken hostage October 7.

I spoke with one Palestinian woman whom I had met back in December. Many of her family members have died in Gaza since October 7, including her grandfather. Our conversations have been reasoned, empathetic and really heartwarming. I am saddened by her loss and know that the actions of October 7 were not hers nor anyone’s who gathered in support of Palestinians at the interfaith assembly.

The reality is that leadership on both sides have been callous and cruel, and they have inflicted pain that has made everyone suffer.  They have failed us all. If we are ever to change the repeated course of recent history with all of its suffering and death, we need to not be focused solely on our own pain. We need to see the pain of the other and raise up the humanity and dignity of the other. We must be better than our leaders and find the courage to get beyond our fear. We must live our highest Jewish values to not oppress and indeed to love the stranger. G-d willing, one day we will all be strangers no more.

Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784