What an interesting, albeit difficult, week of news, reactions, tweets, and more. It is not my goal to turn my weekly email into a political platform, but I feel the need to share some thoughts after what has transpired.
Last week, you will recall that two congresswomen were barred from visiting Israel by the Israeli government. The Jewish Federation put out a statement explaining we believe that all Members of Congress, regardless of their views, should be allowed to visit. Our position was the same as almost every major national Jewish organization (AIPAC, ADL, American Jewish Committee, etc.) and was solely based on these women being US Congresspeople. Others like Zionist Organization of America, Jewish Republican Coalition, and American Jewish Congress came out in support of Israel’s decision with their view focused on the Congresswomen’s BDS agenda.
I am not so naïve as to think there are not differing views in our Jewish community. The statement was met with over 100 email responses and calls with the vast majority of people in support of our position, yet several believed we were wrong. As one person noted, most may believe the two Congresswomen are anti-Israel, thus the only disagreement should be whether politically it was the right decision.
But more than that, for those disagreeing with our position, I received several emails calling me a “self-hating Jew,” an “anti-Semite,” or a “supporter of BDS.” This was something I had not experienced before in Portland and I was certainly taken aback. Sadly, the tone in our country is very similar as people get “labelled” when having a different point of view.
Unfortunately, I realized I was not alone in receiving such comments as several of my colleagues from around the country were sent similar difficult emails or angry posts on social media.
My colleague, Dov Ben-Shimon, CEO of the Metrowest (New Jersey) Jewish Federation, wrote the following to his community, which I want to share with all of you:
What did we learn this weekend?
That we are Republicans and Democrats.
We're Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewing, Sephardic, Ashkenazi, Chabad, Haredi, Secular.
We're Straight, LGBTQ+, and much more.
And we may not agree on things. And that's ok. It's ok to argue.
It's ok to disagree.
But it's not ok to attack, to call people in the community traitors, or Israel-haters, or fools.
It doesn't matter where you live in Greater MetroWest, or what denomination you claim to be, or your political affiliation in the US or in Israel.
If you can't do the following things today, we won't have a tolerant community tomorrow:
(1) Share your perspectives while listening respectfully to those of others.
(2) Respect the differences from others and seek to understand them.
(3) Acknowledge the perspectives of others.
(4) Inquire about and seek to understand the assumptions of others.
(5) Suspend debate and the need to prove the other person wrong. Especially on social media platforms.
(6) Only then, understand and share your assumptions.
We can do this.
We're a big community and if you're an Orthodox Republican in Elizabeth or a Reconstructionist Democrat in Montclair, you're part of the same community.
It may not always feel that way. But if it doesn't feel that way for you, maybe you should ask why.
And what can you do about it.
Tomorrow another Rashida Tlaib or Ilhan Omar will challenge us, force us to learn more about ourselves, and require us to speak respectfully once again.
Let's be ready.
Because this is also about us.
Well, sadly, it did happen again.
Earlier this week, President Trump suggested that Jewish citizens who vote for Democrats are either ignorant or disloyal. “Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they are defending these two people over the State of Israel? I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”
President Trump later clarified he was referring to Israel and the Jewish people. As JNS columnist Melanie Phillips wrote, “Trump is sticking up for Israel against the enemies of the Jews within the Democratic Party, while that party, along with its Jewish supporters, is sticking up for the enemies of the Jews within its ranks.”
The Republican Jewish Coalition tweeted in support of the president’s words. “President Trump is right; it shows a great deal of disloyalty to oneself to defend a party that protects/emboldens people that hate you for your religion. The @GOP, when rarely confronted w/anti-Semitism of elected members, always acts swiftly and decisively to punish and remove,” they said.
On the other hand, the American Jewish Committee tweeted: “Enough, Mr. President. American Jews — like all Americans — have a range of political views. Your assessment of their knowledge or loyalty, based on their party preference, is divisive, disrespectful, and unwelcome.”
The Simon Wiesenthal Center wrote, “We recognize that bipartisan support is absolutely essential to the future well-being and security of the Jewish state. To say otherwise, and depend only on one party, particularly in these turbulent times of increased hate and anti-Semitism, only weakens and divides the largest Jewish community in the Diaspora.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said yesterday the U.S. - Israel relationship must not be turned into a partisan issue. He tweeted, "The link between us is between peoples, based on historical ties, deep, strong friendships and shared values, not dependent on the links with either party."
Since 1948, the overwhelming majority of American Jews, irrespective of party affiliation, unequivocally support the State of Israel.
President Trump’s comments were unhelpful. Questioning anyone’s loyalty (whether to the United States, Israel, the Jewish people, a political party, an individual) is unacceptable. We should not tolerate it.
For those who may agree/disagree, before responding please read this article or re-read Dov’s insightful comments above.
Shabbat shalom ,