Reform Judaism Must Remain Steadfast in Its Commitment to Zionism

This summer, as Hamas rained thousands of missiles on Israel, a group of American rabbinical students at non-Orthodox institutions wrote an open letter condemning the Jewish state for a variety of supposed sins. The letter formed the basis for a long report in the New York Times Magazine on the suppose “unraveling of American Zionism.” But support for Israel among American Jewry remains high. Moreover, writes Ammiel Hirsch—the rabbi of a prominent Reform synagogue in New York City—the Reform movement is committed to Zionism, for unambiguous moral and theological reasons:

For the record, the Reform movement is a Zionist movement. Every single branch of our movement—the synagogue arm (Union for Reform Judaism), the rabbinic union (Central Conference of American Rabbis), and our seminary (HUC-JIR)—each organization separately, and all together, are Zionist and committed ideologically and theologically to Israel.

We are theologically committed to the centrality of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. We have said so repeatedly. We have obligations to fellow Jews. We are commanded to be ohavey Yisrael, to love fellow Jews—and to support them, especially in times of war, hardship, and struggle. We have a right, and an obligation, to teach future leaders our values and commitments. . . . The student letter calls for a rethinking of American Jewish education about Israel. Fair enough; but our movement has a right to encourage some American Jewish seminary students to rethink their approach to ahavat Yisrael, [love of the Jewish people].

Jewish leaders have an obligation to speak about Jewish peoplehood and our struggle to survive. . . . What higher responsibility does a Jewish leader have than to love and protect fellow Jews? Are we so emotionally distanced from our own people that we cannot even bring ourselves to condemn war crimes against Jews in the middle of a war?

Where you sit often determines where you stand on an issue. If you are sitting in a lecture hall on an American campus or seminary, you might come to view the Israel-Palestinian dispute differently than parents of three children who are spending the night in shelters five miles from Gaza. If you are sitting in an American seminary or university, you might come to view the conflict as a racial one, or one of oppression, patriarchy, or colonialism, as so many students nowadays view every social problem.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: American Judaism, Reform Judaism

 

The Significance of Mahmoud Abbas’s Holocaust Denial

Aug. 19 2022

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, during an official visit to Berlin, gave a joint press conference with the German chancellor Olaf Scholz, where he was asked by a journalist if he would apologize for the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. (The relationship between the group that carried out the massacre and Abbas’s Fatah party remains murky.) Abbas instead responded by ranting about the “50 Holocausts” perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians. Stephen Pollard comments:

Scholz’s response to that? He shook Abbas’s hand and ended the press conference.

Reading yet another column pointing out that Scholz is a dunderhead isn’t, I grant you, the most useful of ways to spend an August afternoon, so let’s leave the German chancellor there, save to say that he eventually issued a statement hours later, after an eruption of fury from his fellow countrymen, saying that “I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any trivialization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.” Which only goes to show that late is actually no better than never.

The real issue, in Pollard’s view, is the West’s willful blindness about Abbas, who wrote a doctoral thesis at a Soviet university blaming “Zionists” for the Holocaust and claiming that a mere million Jews were killed by the Nazis—notions he has reiterated publicly as recently as 2013.

On Wednesday, [Abbas] “clarified” his remarks in Berlin, saying that “the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history.” Credulous fools have again ignored what Abbas actually means by that.

It’s time we stopped projecting what we want Abbas to be and focused on what he actually is, using his own words. In a speech in 2018 he informed us that Israel is a “colonialist project that had nothing to do with Judaism”—to such an extent that European Jews chose to stay in their homes and be murdered rather than live in Palestine. Do I have to point out the moral degeneracy of such a proposition? It would seem so, given the persistent refusal of so many to take Abbas for what he actually is.

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Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Germany, Holocaust denial, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority