When turmoil erupts in the Middle East, it is understandable to ask about the impact of events on Israel, on its treaties with Egypt and Jordan, and on its overall security. Given Israel’s ever-precarious security situation, the changing geopolitics of the region tends to have a magnified impact on Israel’s political and security perspectives. Such is the case today with the fluid situation in Egypt.
The Haredi Spring is coming to an end — and not a moment too soon. In the recent election in Israel, the majority rose up and called a halt to the process of haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, Jews playing a dominant role in the government coalition while resisting national service. Requirements for army service and incentives to work instead of living on welfare are now being discussed in the Knesset. The haredim have reacted by insisting that their way of life and privileges were sacrosanct and could not be reined in by the democratic process. In truth, they have never seemed comfortable with real democracy.
We came to Africa to witness the last remnant of the ancient Jewish community of Ethiopia leave for Israel. What began as exquisite joy, seeing the community celebrating Shabbat in song, transformed into complicated and painful anguish. We came to Ethiopia to witness the end of the amazing Ethiopian Jewish aliyah only to confront what some know but few have discussed publicly — that only some of the remaining community will be going to Israel.
Every age needs its heroes, so it seems. And in post-war Italy, a low level official named Giovanni Palatucci seemed to fit the bill. But recent reports challenge Palatucci’s legacy as the “Italian Schindler” and in so doing trigger a question, Why are we so attached to uplifting Holocaust narratives?
At this time of year our thoughts turn towards Jerusalem as we mark the “Three Weeks,” leading up to the Fast Day of Tisha B’Av when we mourn the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem.
Rome — When Pope Francis was first introduced to the world from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, it was immediately obvious that he was a man of great humility who had not expected he would be staying in Vatican City after the papal conclave. The warm, unassuming and unscripted pope described in the media is the same person we met for his first audience with Jewish leaders. Pope Francis, who has an extensive background in Catholic-Jewish relations, put his visitors at ease with his familiarity.
On April 14, 2008, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko, a 62-year-old Brooklyn yeshiva teacher charged with sexually molesting two students, pleaded guilty to lesser charges of child endangerment. Under the plea agreement, Kolko made no admission of sexual wrongdoing and did not have to register as a sex offender or serve any time in prison. Rabbi Kolko was sentenced to three years’ probation.
Many American Jews have insisted that a healthy, mutual friendship with Israel entails criticizing Israel. Many Israelis, especially those who work with Jews from the center and the left, have accepted those marching orders, creating paradigms about “hugging and wrestling.” And they share reassuring philosophical insights like Harvard’s Michael Sandel’s teaching that embarrassment reflects belonging — Syrian brutality does not embarrass us: Israel’s milder mistakes do.