Walking along the route of the Israel Day Parade on Sunday, from 72nd Street down to 59th Street along Fifth Avenue, we were reminded once again, and in dramatic fashion, how the expression of Zionism in American has become increasingly the purview of the Modern Orthodox community.
Jewish groups have always recognized the importance of breaking our nation’s crippling dependence on foreign oil, much of it from unstable and sometimes antagonistic countries in the Middle East. And many regard the protection of our increasingly fragile planet as a reflection of core Jewish values.
For all of the impassioned, if not overheated, debates about Israel, it is worthwhile for us, for whom Zionism means so much, to sometimes step back and connect again to the idea that the return to Zion — in the words of the Psalmist — is not just about the latest headlines but about laughter and song, dreams and joy.
Some Jewish leaders are already dismissing former New Republic editor Peter Beinart’s harsh treatise on American Jewish leadership because of its venue: the New York Review of Books, a high-toned outpost for the Israel-is-always-wrong crowd.
That would be unwise. Even while we disagree with some of Beinart’s analysis, his essay points to critical challenges facing Jewish leaders as our community, like the nation as a whole, becomes more bitterly polarized and as Israel faces growing pressures, both internal and external.
Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel came away from his private White House lunch with President Barack Obama last week with “a good feeling” about the administration’s commitment to Israel, he told The Jewish Week the next day in an exclusive interview. (See the full story on our Web site.)
“There was no small talk; it was all substance,” he said of the meeting, with just the two men in the room. “I spoke about what Jerusalem means to me. I said the Muslims have Mecca and we have Jerusalem.”
Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s qualifications for the Supreme Court — she was appointed by President Barack Obama this week to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens — will be judged by the Senate as part of the confirmation process. No doubt Jewish groups with very different positions on church-state questions and issues such as abortion and homosexual rights will weigh in when deliberations begin.