A Veteran Rabbi’s Vocal Defense of Religion, America, and Israel

In his decades-long career as a pulpit rabbi, Lance Sussman has combined a skepticism about theological matters with unyielding commitments that may seem radical in the context of 21st-century Reform Judaism. Allan Arkush reviews a recently published collection of Sussman’s sermons:

He insists that human beings are spiritual creatures, and he berates “religion’s loudest critics today” for creating “a clay-pigeon model of religious life, which emphasizes its worst aspects and conveniently forgets other more compassionate and modest expressions of the spirit.” Religion, in the right, limited dose, can, he maintains, “actually be helpful in building community, inculcating kindness, helping people in pain, and helping us in our search for a modicum of happiness in this life.”

His sermons provide, over the years, a number of touching examples of what he means, enough to substantiate his claim that “a little bit of religion is a good thing whether or not you fully embrace the idea of God.” And it is hard not to be moved by his evocations of certain activities and familiar rituals.

Sussman loves America, . . . but he loves Israel too, and has since his adolescence. . . . With striking consistency, he defends the state ardently, if not always uncritically.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: American Judaism, Reform Judaism


Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security