The increasingly heated debate over the propriety of permitting an Islamic center to be built a few blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks in Lower Manhattan, ostensibly not a Jewish issue, should sound familiar to the Jewish community. It seems to parallel the debate about a Catholic convent that was opened near Auschwitz nearly three decades ago.
News this week that the American Jewish Congress has suspended activities due to financial problems is depressing, though not unexpected. The once-proud organization, founded in 1918, and long the voice of liberal Jewish activism, lost much of its distinctiveness in recent years. As its membership declined and staff was reduced, it played a diminished role in domestic affairs, though remained known for its expertise on church-state issues.
We’ve had harsh words on these pages for the Presbyterian Church (USA) and its incessant criticism of Israel, and there are many elements of the Middle East resolution that delegates to the Church’s General Assembly in Minneapolis passed last Friday that we find objectionable.
That said, church leaders listened to the reasoned objections of a number of Jewish groups and, ultimately, approved a far less counterproductive resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than the one drafted by a biased, angry Middle East study committee.
The leadership of organized Jewry, from the Jewish Federations of North America to the Jewish Agency for Israel, is expressing frustration, anger and a sense of betrayal — understandably — with the Netanyahu government for allowing a controversial conversion bill to go forward in the Knesset, even though it would alienate the vast majority of diaspora Jewry.
Summer is fully here, with the heat settling into the city’s concrete, not planning to leave until Labor Day. But just two hours away, children have started sleep-away camp, catching salamanders after the rain. The first visiting day is already this coming Sunday, the bungalow colonies have returned to their languid timelessness, and Jewish shops have reopened in Woodbourne and Woodbridge, Monticello and Loch Sheldrake, villages whose very names resonate like shtetls with private memories and public history.
Critics of Israel’s Gaza blockade are too quick to ignore the harsh realities leaders in Jerusalem face in dealing with a Hamas government that has turned Gaza into a launching pad for new terrorist attacks — and which continues to hold kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
Firearms are not the inherent evil that some gun control advocates claim, but as New Yorkers we have a common-sense understanding that the easy availability of everything from pistols to assault rifles is part of the fear and insecurity that we live with on a daily basis.
If all goes according to plan, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will call on President Barack Obama at the White House next week for a visit postponed after Israel’s interdiction of the Gaza flotilla in June. All signs point to a continuation of the kiss-and-make-up efforts by two leaders who understand that public friction between the close allies serves the interest of neither.