Tag Archives: BDS

Shine into the Darkness, The Message we mean to send

“ I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”                              ― Alan Greenspan

Last week I went to the White House to meet with the Special Assistant to the President with the JCRC and Women’s Philanthropy Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Respectfully but rather forcefully we advocated for our concerns over the issues of DACA, Gun Violence, BDS, Anti-Semitism, and SNAP. I know we did not change the administration’s opinion, but we gave voice inside the halls of power to our values. Sometimes we do not do speak constructively and what we think we are saying is not the message heard. There is an important example of this making its way around social media.

An anonymous rabbi is attributed as responding to a White House request for a Menorah with a rebuff saying that the current administration is antithetical to everything the holiday and menorah represent, so their menorah is not available.

I believe this message does not take the moral high ground, and instead sounds preachy and filled with a self-righteous arrogance that makes dialogue impossible. The story resonates only for those who already believe it.   But for everyone else, the message is negative, generating pushback and defiance, not a moment of teaching and potential rapprochement.

Those of us who believe that the current administration undermines important Jewish values need to speak truth to power but to do so respectful of the institution and with the hope of carrying the message to not merely protest, but to hopefully persuade.

We are obligated to reach out to those with whom we disagree. Through building relationships and dialogue we might give insights and change viewpoints. We also are empowered to champion our causes publicly and we vote. These are sacred and important parts of what makes this an extraordinary country.

The only way our light will illuminate is if we cast it into the dark.





What’s good for the Goose is good for the IceGander (Icelander)

What’s good for the Goose is good for the IceGander (Icelander)


Fighting fire with Ice


Boycott Iceland!

 I recently read of those advocating a boycott of Icelandic products in response to Iceland’s decision to boycott Israeli products. I set off to find out what that might mean and after substantial time searching, I do not think it means a lot.

 Iceland imports a lot of stuff, but does not export all that much to the US. In fact, about the best we can do is deciding not to buy Icelandic Cod or Haddock. However, the total value of those imports was a measly $142million*. And that was the largest category of imported stuff. We also import about $12million worth of fats and oils*. So we will need to spend a great deal of time just to find the things we decide we will not buy.

 Better we invest our time in promoting a society in Israel that is dedicated to civil rights, a society that protects everyone through a system of laws developed in a democracy. Better we work to heal the rifts within our community. Better we remember we are brethren sharing a history and value system that withstands the test of time.

 And by the way, I prefer Nova Scotia Salmon with my bagels anyway.

Shabbat Shalom!

*Statistics are from 2013, from the Office of the United States Trade Representative

A Response to my Presbyterian Friend and Minister

Dear Lisa,

 The vote in Detroit cannot evoke little else but great sadness and regret across Jewish America.  We have worked to build bridges and foster relationships with Presbyterians that we thought were based on an abiding mutual respect of the truths embodied in each other’s commitment to our faiths and traditions.  Today however, it is hard to feel something other than betrayal.

 The Jewish people have a deep connection and commitment to the State of Israel.  They are inextricably bound together.  However, there is a great rise of anti-Semitism in the world.  It is becoming blatant in many places and in others it is cloaked in the garb of anti-Zionism or anti-Israel policy.  Anti-Semitism exists in this country too.  We are watching our young people under assault on college campuses across the country, targeted with deliberate and calculated attacks against their identity and intimidation tactics that repress any exchange of ideas other than ideas sanctioned by those that have usurped control of the conversation.

 Many of us are dissatisfied with the actions of the settlements.  Many of us believe it undermines efforts toward the creation of a respect that permits the emergence of a state for the Palestinian people. This however, is far different from actions that are taken as a result of existing hostilities that represent an existential threat to Israel and its citizens.

 The construction of the fence/wall was done in response to a history of violence perpetrated by those willing to inflict damage and destruction on a civilian population within Israel.  As ugly as this harsh concrete barrier may appear, it has in fact all but eliminated bombings and other murderous violence.  The responsibility for peace resides on both sides of this conflict.  The history of violence and the existential threat that continues to be espoused from the Palestinian side can only be willfully ignored.

 Also, within Israel the need to continue to expand civil rights protection undoubtedly exists.  Many of us actively work to promote the broader and fuller equal application of the law to all who live in Israel.  There has been much progress made in this realm, although much more work needs to be done.  We are proud of our active role in promoting and broadening civil rights in Israel.  We are deeply committed to the State.

The existence of the State of Israel has been part of our DNA, an aspiration as a people for two thousand years.  The State was bought on the back of hardship and persecution unlike anything the world had ever seen.  The State of Israel exists and she has a right to do so.  That does not delegitimize the rights of the Palestinian people.  But it unequivocally says that the existence of the State of Israel is undeniable and irrefutable.  The efforts to delegitimize Israel cannot be tolerated or supported.

Unfortunately, the actions taken by the Presbyterians do precisely that.  The BDS movement has declared this a great victory.  Whether that was the intent of the resolution, the effect is a victory for BDS and those ultimately seeking the elimination of Israel.  This happens on the heels of the release of Zionism Unsettled, a book of vitriol and falsehood.  It is a volume that vehemently denounces Israel, Zionism and ultimately the Jewish people.  It is a shameful and terribly hurtful treatise that remains on sale and available.

The acts that can be construed as hurtful, the publications that can be construed as hateful and the complete insensitivity to the history and values of my people makes this vote a horrible breach of faith and trust.  You cannot claim to love me, if you are willing to engage in actions so egregious, deeply hurtful and offensive to me. There are other and more constructive ways to promote change.

I believe that it is a moral obligation to only invest in companies that do not profit from persecution or oppression.  For Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar and Motorola an interesting and rather broad understanding of persecution and oppression seems to have been applied. I cannot help but wonder whether the same level of scrutiny has been applied to every investment held in the portfolio and a stand against oppression and persecution is consistently applied to the many horrors and traumas suffered by victims of hatred and war across the globe and even here in this country.

 There are many ways to constructively engage in the Middle East.  I understand the Presbyterian community has been so involved in the West Bank and in Israel.  These were areas where we were in agreement, where we could work together where we would not undermine or attack the intrinsic values of the other.  However, the Church has decided to take another course.  It is a divisive course that has done great damage to our relationship.

 I deeply hope for peace in the Middle East.  It is good for everyone in the region and it is good for humanity.  I hope that we can find ways to repair the damage that has been caused by this action.  I know your commitment to the principles of your faith and I hope you can appreciate the effect these actions have.

Thank you for the chance to share this with you.