Tag Archives: Am Yisrael

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.

Given the facts, Israelis would also support the Iran deal – Opinion – – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

The agreement with Tehran is going to be approved, and Jewish groups have much to lose by lobbying against it.

Source: Given the facts, Israelis would also support the Iran deal – Opinion – – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

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

The long and winding road*… The End of Numbers

The long and winding road*…

 For us of the “older” generation, the end of the book of Numbers (Parashat Matot-Masei) should resonate deeply. Here we have the recitation of the forty-two encampments during our time in the wilderness, a lifetime of experiences recounted as this chapter in our lives comes to a close. We look back at the long strange trip it has been.* Is the land that was promised indeed the Promised Land and has the crucible that was the Midbar, or desert, prepared us and made us deserving. We wonder how this will play out as we move into the next chapter, which is the book of Deuteronomy. Have our experiences prepared us for the next phase of our lives? Have the experiences been worthwhile? Have we really learned anything along the way and how might we share it with our children? We can only hope that this journey leads someplace.

 But we know that this someplace is more than something physical. There is a spiritual and mystical component as well. For as we stand at the threshold of something new, we recognize that this “someplace” is the legacy that we are to leave to the next generation. Where we are becomes the foundation for our children. In the beginning of the book of Deuteronomy we will find the V’ahavta. The V’ahavta prayer remains at the heart of Judaism. It tells us that our encounter with God and the principles we have learned along the way are central to our existence as children of the Divine. And we are instructed to teach these principles to our children. Each of us hopes that we leave something of value- that our journey was worthwhile and our legacy will survive after we are gone.

 Shabbat Shalom

* Thanks and apologies to both the Beatles and the Grateful Dead.

Mission Israel

I had the privilege of joining 17 other rabbinic colleagues on a mission to Israel. The Federations of Greater Philadelphia and Metro West as well as the WZO (World Zionist Organization) sponsored this mission. It was a four-day whirlwind; up, north, down, south, east and west, I felt like the rabbinic equivalent of a Lulav. It was a very interesting trip, as much for what was said as for what was not said.

 The WZO agenda tried to create a narrative for us. But the story they tried to tell was different from the one I took away from the trip. There was no shortage of Hasbara. The and WZO tried to portray a society that is accepting and growing, wanting peace with those who want likewise (the Druze we met along the Lebanon border in the town of Hurfeish), and ready to take on the civil issues (the Ethiopians we met in Rishon LeZion). More troubling issues remained off-limits however, and the conversation regarding the Palestinians issues came down to better advocacy (a presentation by Stand with Us) and Ambassador Alan Baker’s legal explanation about why Israel is in the right and the Palestinians are acting without legal justification.

 We also were witness to the nascent rise of spirituality in the secular society through the establishment of an Israeli Seminary and an organic lay-led movement creating a “Minhag Israeli” distinct and apart from American transplants. Along with this was a conversation about redefining Zionism in the modern context to appeal to the current generation and acknowledge current realities.

 For me, these dots and created a picture of a society that is in many ways engaged in an internal existential struggle for its soul. As Israel has achieved the vision to become a Nation like other Nations, Israelis are finding this place insufficient. Realizing the dream has created a reality that leaves the heart and soul of the aspirational mythic idea of Israel unfulfilled. There is a struggle to find more. The Palestinian issue seems to be eating away at the hearts and minds of many Israelis as are many other issues creating a deep profound yearning. I saw and felt this when I visited last year during the war as well.

 That struggle is present here in the US; we struggle to understand Israel and our connection. We are challenged to do a better job of facilitating the conversations and fostering relationships that are deep and enduring. I believe that the WZO approach appeals to a segment of the American Jewish Community already sitting in the pews of that denomination. But that leaves many of us standing outside and unsatisfied with the offering and that number is growing.

 I was encouraged by the visits to the projects we support through Federation including our sister city, Netivot. At a youth center one of our more gregarious rabbis got down on the mats and wrestled a couple of the kids. Although Seth had the boy by several pounds, the short-lived match was great. We also saw the planned mural for the water tower of Netivot being created by our very own Philadelphia treasure, the Mural Arts Program. I have been a fan of Mural Arts for a while, watching its artists transform an often blighted urban landscape into a place of culture and hope one wall at a time. We can take pride in the many good things we do but I wonder how those things might be expanded further.

 One important highlight, was the camaraderie and collegiality this trip fostered. Our rabbis represented a spectrum of beliefs and cut across denominations. Although our religious views and practices are substantially different, we found common ground to learn together, to create friendships together and to talk together. Of particular note was the insistence of our Orthodox colleagues to stop our trip for a Mincha service so that one of us, a reform woman rabbi, could say Kaddish for her father. So there we were on a playground davening Mincha together, a truly profound moment and an important lesson for us all.