As terrorists were launching thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, mobs were destroying Israeli cities, and Jews were being harassed and attacked on the streets of the U.S. and Europe, a group of nearly 100 American rabbinic and cantorial students signed an “appeal to the heart of the Jewish community.” The document, which was circulated online and then published in the Forward, echoed the anti-Israel rhetoric that was then pouring forth from the halls of the academy, major newspapers and television stations, and various celebrities and activists. Alvin Rosenfeld comments:
The rabbinical students’ statement . . . at no point even mentions Hamas. Instead, it recycles the buzzwords now commonly used against Israel—accusing it of “racist violence,” “injustice,” “apartheid,” “abuses of power,” “the violent suppression of human rights”—in order to shame the American Jewish community out of what they claim is its “silence” in the face of a “spiritual crisis.” The “crisis” is underway, they twice [state], and “blood is flowing in the streets of the Holy Land.”
Since they never once mention the name of the bloodletters, though, the crisis is really an internal one, centered on their own pathos: no fewer than twelve times in the space of two pages do they refer to their “tears” and crying and weeping. They claim to be “shocked” by the “violence” (the word appears eight times), which they attribute to Israel’s actions, never Hamas’s. Three times they refer to their “heartbreak.” All of this rhetorical overkill is about feeling bad, but never once feeling anything remotely like solidarity with their fellow Jews in Israel, who were faced with a real crisis and had mere seconds to flee into safe rooms or the stairwells of their buildings as the air-raid sirens sounded.
The rabbinical and cantorial student signers of this letter proudly state that “we are future leaders of the Jewish community.” . . . No doubt many will eventually assume pulpits in Reform and Renewal synagogues. Before then, one can only hope that their professors will . . . teach them to look beyond their own self-indulgent tears and learn something more substantial about Judaism and Jewish peoplehood. The two are inseparable, although there is little appreciation of the latter in this pathos-laden “Appeal to the Heart of the Jewish Community.” The fact is that there will be no Jewish community worthy the name if those who emerge to lead it lack a genuine love for and solidarity with other Jews. At that point, and Heaven forfend that it will ever come to be, the community’s future will itself be a source of tears.