Leonard (Leibel) Fein, who died Aug. 14 at the age of 80, was a passionate and articulate voice for social justice in American Jewish life for decades. In his prolific writing, his lectures and his organizational creativity, he preached an ancient and contemporary message: “To be a Jew,” he wrote, “is to know that you are bound somehow, to help repair this world.” (See Appreciation on page 12.)
‘I don’t worry about Israel’s survival,” President Obama told New York Times columnist Tom Friedman the other day.
Maybe that’s part of why we do worry about the future of the Jewish state’s existence in an increasingly bloody, hostile and chaotic region — especially at a time when the administration is trying mightily to avoid getting caught up in military conflicts overseas.
Reading from the Book of Lamentations on Tisha b’Av, Monday night, we were confronted with vivid and painful descriptions of the ravages of war and devastation. “Behold and see if there is any pain like my pain, which has been dealt out to me,” writes the Prophet Jeremiah. He is describing the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem centuries ago, but the words and emotions are as timely as today’s headlines. “My children are desolate for the enemy has prevailed.”
U.S. and Israeli officials have been working hard in recent days to ease the deeply bruised feelings on both sides after Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposed cease-fire conditions appeared more sympathetic to the cause of Hamas, a declared terrorist organization, than to Israel, America’s greatest ally.
Amid all of the fear, frustration and anger over Israel’s need to defend itself once again from Hamas, the terror group committed to the destruction of Israel and Jews, it is important to remember that Jewish tradition teaches not only the imperative of defending one’s own but also to not lose our compassion for innocents who suffer.
A friend in Israel bemoaned the fact this week that the world loses its moral bearings when it comes to Israel. Tragically, examples abound. One wonders whether it will make any difference to critics of the Jewish state that Hamas refused to abide by the proposed cease-fire that Israel had accepted on Tuesday. No doubt the media focus will continue to be on the damage inflicted by Israel, as it seeks to eradicate the rocket launchers and munitions factories in Gaza, rather than on the fact that Israeli citizens have been under ongoing attack for years — a situation no country would tolerate.