Even When They Are Apart, Jews Are Never Alone

April 22 2020

As of March 14, New York City’s Shearith Israel synagogue—America’s oldest Jewish congregation—suspended Sabbath services due to the pandemic. This is the first time that services have been canceled since 1776, when the congregants fled Manhattan ahead of the advancing British army. Its rabbi, Meir Soloveichik, contemplates the current situation and what it means for Jews’ religious and communal life:

The Hebrew term for synagogue is Beit Knesset, a house of gathering, and it is called so because, in the rabbinic tradition, the phrase Knesset Yisrael refers to the mysterious bonds that connect Jews to one another. A synagogue is not merely a physical gathering of individuals, but rather, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik explained, it reflects “an invisible Knesset Yisrael, which embraces not only contemporaries, but every Jew who has ever lived.” The synagogue is meant to embody this bond, this connection to all Jews past and present. But there are other ways to experience it.

Loneliness and aloneness [according to Joseph Soloveitchik], are different phenomena. Contemporary Western man, [when not in the midst of a pandemic], is physically surrounded by people. But that does not mean that he has covenantal communion with people. Contemporary man goes to parties, bars, coffee shops, stores; he tweets with likeminded political partisans or communicates on Facebook with his many thousands of “friends.” He is not alone. But he lacks true spiritual communion. And so, lonely he remains.

Human beings have an innate need to be among others, but now we are seeing a kind of antisocial social mixing, when we are constantly [connected to] people with whom we have no bond. The only true remedy to loneliness is in a covenant, not only the covenant of marriage, but the larger covenant of faith. There, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik writes, “not only hands are joined, but experiences as well; . . . one lonely soul finds another soul tormented by loneliness and solitude yet unqualifiedly committed.”

Read more at Commentary

More about: Coronavirus, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism, Shearith Israel, Synagogue


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy