Fifteen rabbis go the White House for a meeting. Were the destination not the Roosevelt Room to discuss the nature of American-Israeli relations this could be the opening line of a joke with a punchline I have yet to write. But indeed it was a meeting that was taken very seriously by all who attended. My colleague and friend, Jack Moline of Alexandria, Virginia, arranged the meeting and put together a diverse representative cross-section of rabbis from across the country, from all movements and different kinds of congregations.
I was greeted on a recent morning with an email from Amazon.com recommending three books, two of which are notorious anti-Semitic tracts: "The International Jew: The World's Most Foremost Problem" by Henry Ford and "The Protocols of the Meetings of the Learned Elders of Zion." Why? Because Amazon accurately reminds me that I had purchased the 25th anniversary paperback edition of "The Transfer Agreement: The Dramatic Story of the Pact Between the Third Reich and Jewish Palestine" by Edwin Black.
Although best known for founding the left-wing Rabbis for Human Rights, Rabbi David Forman defied ideological pigeonholing.
Over lunch several years ago, across a table at a Manhattan kosher restaurant from a middle-aged rabbi with a graying beard, large knit kipa and critical opinions about the spiritual life of most American Jews, I told my guest to ‘fess up.
“You can tell me the truth,” I said to Rabbi David Forman. “You’re really an Orthodox rabbi.”
President Obama’s recent public willingness to apply pressure on Israel is the latest step down a long road of increasing ideological discomfort for America’s Jewish community. Once upon a time, you could be a typical liberal Jew and be a Zionist without much internal conflict. Israel was the socialist underdog. While Jews still overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic ticket — 78 percent of them voted for Obama — Israel has increasingly become anathema in liberal circles.
In the book of Genesis, God allows Adam to create names for all the beasts and birds in existence. With that powerful act, the first man establishes the identity of every earthly creature. From then on the image and function of a whale or a dove would always be tied to its name.
In late 2002, when our Joshua Venture Group (JVG) cohort was announced, the term “Jewish social entrepreneur” did not yet roll easily off the tongue. There was no “innovation ecosystem” to speak of, few incubators interested in helping us grow our ventures, and little confidence that Jewish life could or should blossom outside of existing institutional frameworks. JVG was founded to help emerging leaders change the Jewish world with their ideas.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu received a standing ovation at the recent AIPAC conference when he declared, “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It’s our capital.” Pronouncements about Jerusalem as the united, eternal capital of Israel have long served as guaranteed applause lines in virtually every Jewish audience. Israel and world Jewry devote a great deal of attention to the city’s current and future political status.
May 12 (Iyar 28) will mark 43 years since the Israeli army’s triumphal entry into the Old City of Jerusalem. This is certainly a moment for the Jewish People to celebrate the restoration of Judaism’s holiest sites to our people.