Category Archives: Iran

Ani L’Dodi, An enduring relationship

“Ani L’Dodi v’Dodi Li.” These poetic words from the Song of Solomon are spoken as words of commitment under the marriage canopy. “I am My Beloved’s and My Beloved is mine” is the symbolic joining and full commitment of one to another. We aspire to this in our deepest relationships. But as a people we have sadly failed to live up to this hope. Every Jew is integral to Israel and Israel is integral to every Jew. We are bound inextricably together emotionally and spiritually, a modern homeland and the diaspora, two parts of one whole. Together greater than the individual parts could achieve.

 We do however permit the separation and distance, a cleaving when we hear when some claim to be against Israel but fine with Jews; that it is possible to be anti-Zionist while not being Anti-Semitic. For Jews such parsing of words is false. It speaks to a reading of history that is biased and ultimately these two hatreds conflate.

 I was struck when Iranian President Rouhani offered New Year Greetings to Jews of the world while almost within the same breath recommitted his country to the extermination of Israel. “May our shared Abrahamic roots deepen respect and bring peace and mutual understanding.” This seems to be a disingenuous goodwill offering since his worldview requires the eradication of Israel, where approximately 6million of my fellow Jews reside and would be murdered for to achieve his political goal.

 Jews find themselves attempting to parse words and find something good in Rouhani’s outreach. This “olive branch” however is a straw man. It is an insidious attempt to separate Israel from its own people through the delegitimizing efforts by Israel’s enemies.   Even when we disagree with policies or politics within Israel, we cannot divorce ourselves from her, or permit others to divide us. Israel is a fundamental part of us. Who we are is in some measure defined by our relationship to Israel. Commitment to Israel’s growth and evolution as well as our commitment to the State’s survival is at the heart of what it means to be in relationship with another. An attack on our spouse with the caveat that you however are all right would be deeply offensive. And we would defend the one we love. How can we not rise to the defense of our brethren as well?

 I am in deep relationship. I have a vested interest in Israel’s success both as a nation and as an aspiration. When Israel falters, I have the responsibility to be constructively critical because of my relationship. Helping Israel to be better makes me better as well. We all are improved off as a result of such efforts. And when people stop calling for the destruction of a part of who I am, I will gratefully acknowledge offerings of good tidings for the coming year.

Secretary Kerry on the Iran Agreement

I was privileged to attend Secretary of State John Kerry’s presentation at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia this morning. Mr. Kerry presented a straightforward and compelling case for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (Iran Agreement), why it is best for all of us and an unequivocal commitment of support for Israel.

 My support of the Iran Agreement was reaffirmed.

 Now that the necessary votes to support the President exists in Congress. I hope the Jewish community can now engage in the next critical phases:

  • Support and demand for the full implementation of the Iran Agreement
  • Support and bolstered aid for the Israel
  • Repair the damage that has been done within our community as a result of the harsh debate in which we have engaged.

We have much important work to do together.

More than the Iran Agreement

We continue to debate the pros and cons of the Iran deal during the 60-day review period preceding the vote in Congress. I read the article about the rabbis signing a letter opposing the Nuclear Agreement and the interesting points made by my colleagues. I am among those rabbis who signed the other public letter in support of the Nuclear Agreement, based on what I believe was a thoughtful deliberative process. But beyond pro and cons, there are three very important Jewish issues that spring from this situation and they not include who has more signers and join my voice to the growing number who share these concerns.

 First, we have close to two thousand rabbis now, who care deeply enough about the issue to place their names publicly identifying how they feel.   Secondly we have the opportunity to raise the quality of the debate. Third, we need to discuss how we constructively move forward in the aftermath of this process.

 I am pleased that we live in a place where we feel comfortable enough with our station to engage in a political conversation that affects us as Americans and Jews and supporters of Israel. This ability to actively and vocally participate in the public square is one of the great blessings of living in the United States.

 Second, I have been deeply concerned that the discussions about the deal have devolved into a nasty shouting match filled with vitriol. Therefore the shouting detracts from us as Klal Yisrael. As President Lincoln declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” and so too it is with us. As a people we have always wrestled with issues. Our holiest texts engage us in these contests with other people and often with the Divine. It is a proud tradition that compels us to grow because we are required to listen to the counter argument or alternative interpretation. Our Talmud preserves the minority view for a distinct purpose, namely for us to learn from the disputation process, that even the ultimately rejected view carries weight and is deserving of respect. We are elevated when our conversations are “for the sake of heaven, Makhloket l’Shem Shamyim,” and we are debased when they are not.

 Third and finally, regardless of our individual positions, the United States will move forward in one way or the other. We need to start reaching out to each other now to rebuild the bonds of fellowship that have been deeply shaken. We also must be practical and pragmatic working on behalf of the things we care about, namely the United States and Israel, ensuring this alliance remains unshakable and both are fully capable of defending itself from all threats, including from Iran.

 Despite the passion that so many have on this issue, at the end of the day, we are one people. Now is a very good time for us to remind ourselves of this. We must not let the differences of opinions detract from our responsibility to respect each other. This is a pledge we all can sign.

I support the Iran Agreement.

I support the Iran Agreement.

 I believe this agreement is in the best interests of the United States, Israel and to promote peace. I have read the agreement. I have carefully listened to the analyses presented by those in favor of the deal, those against the deal and those without an agenda but trying to understand the deal.

 The deal comes with substantial complications. Compliance requires the ongoing monitoring and vigilance of the IAEA, the UN and signers to the agreement particularly the United States. And we must be ready to enforce compliance with action in the event that Iran does not live up to all the obligations of the agreement (i.e., cheat). Iran remains an adversary to both the United States and Israel. We still have much work to do to thwart Iranian plans against the US and Israel.   I welcome President Obama’s offer to further enhance Israel’s defenses. Ultimately, there is the possibility to bring Iran into the community of nations. That will take time and immense effort and is far from assured. However with all that, we have through this agreement taken away Iran’s access to a nuclear device.

 I share this for two reasons. First, this is a considered decision on my part based on a deep love of country, both the United States and Israel. I believe the agreement sets out to do what it is intended to do. It is the best agreement we can achieve. The alternatives to this agreement are appreciably worse.

 Second, the legitimate differences in our opinions, even deeply held beliefs we have, should not destroy our community. The rifts in our community are getting deeper and the vitriol is terribly destructive. I hope that we can disagree with each other’s considered opinions without losing respect or fomenting hatred of another person because of their opinions. So I reach out to my community with the hopes that we can respectfully disagree with each other but remain committed to each other. We are Klal Yisrael only as long as we believe in that vision and work to achieve it.

Shalom

Shalom-

 This Shabbat I urge us to commit ourselves to civility and decorum. The debate on Iran is extremely important to us, as Americans and as Jews, and discussion should be be robust. But we are standing at a crossroads. This conversation can quickly deteriorate. We cannot allow ourselves to be ripped apart by internecine hatreds. We remain Klal Yisrael only when we choose to be so. Let us argue ideas passionately, but let us not argue against each other. Even when we come from a place of strong conviction about the Iran deal, there remains room for multiple ideas without the need to vilify those who hold other views.

 There is too much at stake here, Shalom for the world and Shalom Bayit, peace within the House of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom

A Deal with Iran- Good, Bad; Yes

 This morning the President announced we reached a deal with Iran.   It is complex. It is less than what we wanted, and it is more than what it could be. Pardon my cryptic ambivalence, but it is both more and less at the same time. Negotiating, particularly with an adversary, requires both sides compromise to reach a deal.

 I necessarily place my trust in my President and his Secretary of State to negotiate what is in the best interests of the United States and hope that these interests align with those of the State of Israel. Congress must now take a deep dive into the details necessary to properly understand the terms of this deal and then act accordingly. And we too need to take the time to learn the details before concluding whether the deal is good or bad and then we prepare for the ramifications of this deal. But for the time being, the fact we have arrived at a negotiated settlement is in itself important. For it is extraordinarily difficult to talk to an enemy in a peaceful process and reach a conclusion.

 Dealing with a country that regularly promotes demonstrations where the chant “Death to America, Death to Israel” is a mainstay, we know that we are not dealing with a friendly nation. Reigning Iran in was the goal. This is far less than complete permanent dismantling of their nuclear programs, but far more than nothing. Might we create rapprochement and Iran become a friend? That is a very long way off. But we have bought time where such entente can be cultivated.

 A nuclear Iran as an avowed enemy is a terrifying prospect. The road ahead continues to be difficult and dangerous. I hope that this agreement scales back the hatred and today’s historic settlement is a step toward a world that is just a little bit safer than it was before.

The Elusive Good Deal with Iran

 We have a framework of understanding with Iran in the negotiations on their nuclear program. This is a long way away from a deal, let alone a good deal. But we have arrived at an important place. Now the debate begins. That debate needs to be both vigorous and rigorous.

 I hope Congress is a vocal part of the debate and crafting of the final deal. The devil is in the details, they say, and certainly that is true here. Each side has a distinctly different interpretation of expectations, obligations and responsibilities of the framework, even within the P5+1. We need to understand what we want from this deal and how to achieve it before we can imagine how we move forward.

 Let us hope the debate is vigorous. The Congress will seek to clarify and demand accountability in ways that it deems appropriate and necessary. The President likewise, will work towards sharing what he envisions as the Deal and why. Like any collaborative work, the process is arduous and the end product likely will be different from the initial draft. But rarely have the stakes been higher. Let us remain vocal, sharing concerns and fears, hopes and aspirations.

 For those with a relationship to Israel there is another layer to the debate; for there is an existential threat that exists. Iran remains the sworn enemy of Israel and is committed to Israel’s destruction. When Israel’s agenda differs from the negotiated deal, how we reconcile them and work to secure Israel preemptively is critically important. We do not have the luxury of supporting Israel in the aftermath of an attack. In a nuclear attack, there would not be much left to support. So we must carefully consider what we are negotiating towards.

 What is the Iran we hope to see and how might the Deal move us towards that vision? History is replete with bad deals that have created situations far worse than the problems these deals were meant to resolve. Can we craft a deal with full forethought? An Iran that remains committed to destruction and not coexistence, intolerance instead of tolerance, an Iran that seeks to impose its values, or an Iran that becomes like a wild animal boxed into a corner will surely result in a less stable region and world.

 May the final deal result in a world that is safer and more secure. Let’s get to work.