If there is to remain any meaning to the terms Chief Rabbinate and Religious Zionism, then the recent decision casting aspersions on conversions by the Israel Defense Forces, should be “last straw” in our relationship with the rabbinate.
As a religious Zionist who believes that Israel is the beginning of our redemption, it is not easy for me to come to terms with this realization, but it seems to me that that the time has come to say honestly, and painfully, that the Chief Rabbinate as it stands today has run its course.
The great American bar/bat mitzvah has become a source of parody in Jewish life. The 13-year olds are at the most awkward stage of their lives with hormones raging. Anywhere from 10 to 50 friends might be invited who then sit in the sanctuary with no interest in the service and little clue as what is transpiring. The relatives and friends of the parents are polite but often sit stoically, unnerved by the unfamiliarity of the surroundings.
The recent revelation that U.S. government officials gave aid and comfort to some Nazi war criminals and collaborators for several decades is as shocking as Claude Rains' discovery in Casablanca that gambling was going on in Rick’s Café. It has long been known, for example, that SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Klaus Barbie, who headed the Gestapo in Lyon, France, from 1942 until 1944 and who ordered the deportation of Jewish orphans to Auschwitz, subsequently became an agent of the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps.
Israeli Knesset member David Rotem, author of a controversial bill that would grant the Chief Rabbinate sole authority over conversions, defended his position recently. In response to complaints from leaders of non-Orthodox movements that the bill discriminates against them, he said, “In my opinion, there’s only one Judaism. There are no three Judaisms.” What he meant was that Orthodoxy is the only legitimate form of Judaism. The other streams don’t count.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devoted the bulk of his speech last week in New Orleans to the threat Israel faces as Iran moves toward full nuclear capability. As he spoke, at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, I could not help thinking about another speech given by a head of state facing a nuclear threat – that of President Kennedy at his 1961 inauguration.
Criticism of Israel, like criticism of any sovereign nation in the world, can be reasonable and legitimate. In recent years, however, discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have all too often been polluted by those who seek to simplify the conflict into a battle between good and evil and turn public opinion against Israel.
Professor Jack Wertheimer’s recent report on Jewish leaders in their 20s and 30s (see “Exploring the Generation Gap Among Jewish Leaders”) is a critical step forward to understanding the fundamental shifts in perspective of a new generation. Yet, as one of those interviewed for the study, I believe two of his conclusions are misplaced, and unnecessarily pit the “older establishment” against the “younger non-establishment.” The reality is much more complex.
Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders make so many shocking statements that many people focus only on their words. But the real action and cause for concern lie in their deeds: Iran is embarking on an increasingly aggressive campaign of diplomacy that would be replete with irony were it not so dangerous.