One day later: B’nai Jeshurun leaders regret voicing support for Palestine UN bid

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 27 Comments

Yesterday, Phil wrote about how the leaders of the renowned Upper West Side synagogue B’nai Jeshurun sent out an email applauding Palestine’s new nonmember state status. Today, the story is their craven backpedaling. Both the JTA and New York Times report that synagogue leadership “regret” the email they sent out.

From the JTA:

Rabbis at B’nai Jeshurun are expressing “regret” over an email sent out by the prominent New York synagogue praising the United Nations vote to elevate Palestinians to non-member state status.

The rabbis of the Manhattan synagogue sent a note Thursday to congregants saying that their email last week endorsing the U.N. action had been sent prematurely and mistakenly listed several other synagogue officials as signatories.

“While we affirm the essence of our message, we feel that it is important to share with you that through a series of unfortunate internal errors, an incomplete and unedited draft of the letter was sent out which resulted in a tone which did not reflect the complexities and uncertainties of this moment,” the rabbis, Rolando Matalon, Marcelo Bronstein and Felicia Sol, wrote in their followup email.

The rabbis also wrote that they “regret the feelings of alienation that resulted from our letter.”

The rabbis add they are “passionate lovers of Israel.”

The Times reports:

The latest e-mail, signed by Rabbis J. Rolando Matalon, Marcelo R. Bronstein and Felicia L. Sol, said their initial letter to the congregation had “omitted key passages honoring the diversity of viewpoints in our community as well as links to a series of articles in the Israeli press representing a range of opinions on the U.N. vote.” Those details were included with the rabbis’ clarification. The new e-mail also expressed regret at “the feeling of alienation that resulted from our letter.”

The new letter also said that the first letter should not have included as signatories the names of the synagogue’s cantor, Ari Priven; its board president, Jeannie Blaustein; its executive director, Steve Goldberg; or its director of Israel engagement, Orli Moss.

The new letter did not retract the words in the original statement declaring that the vote at the United Nations last week “is a great moment for us as citizens of the world” and “an opportunity to celebrate the process that allows a nation to come forward and ask for recognition.”

Speaking by telephone Thursday, Ms. Blaustein reiterated the rabbis’ message that their original e-mail was incomplete and “did not represent the complexity of the situation.”

Yesterday, Phil said the letter represented “a significant fracture in an American Zionist community that has been afraid to openly criticize Israel.” This followup demonstrates just how afraid they truly are. It also shows the fractures aren’t nearly significant enough.

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27 Responses

  1. seafoid
    December 6, 2012, 3:12 pm

    It’s a chink but that is the only way to get some daylight in. The bots are vicious and they demand 100% loyalty but they no longer have control over how people perceive Israel. This latest story is a bit like something out of east germany in early 89. The truth is emerging and the authorities do not know how to respond.

    • adele
      December 6, 2012, 4:06 pm

      your last sentence resonates and is very well put. For the past few years as I have witnessed the pendulum swing against Israel (especially since Operation Cast Lead), I too have noticed that the Israeli response has been very defensive, with the same tired arguments being spun but the audience is not as receptive, not as willing to accept the hasbara at face value. The Israeli pundits are definitely in a tight spot without a doubt, and I am sure they know it. They aren’t given carte blanche anymore, there is more questioning, more resistance. People aren’t as intimidated to speak out against Israel’s violent occupation. The audience, whether it be the professional media or the average viewer/reader are starting to question them. It is not as pervasive as we would wish, but the cracks are definitely widening.

      In the back of my mind though I can’t help but wonder with consternation that the Israeli spin-masters surely must be regrouping and strategizing new & more effective talking points (and fabricating wars) to detract from and counteract the Palestinian’s stronger international position? I am sure they will try but the question at this point is: is it too late, is the genie finally out of the bottle and no way to put it back in?

      With regards to B’nai Jeshurun, I can only imagine the kind of pressure that the signatories must be facing, and their new email reflects that, but at the same time they didn’t retract their original email, and that is great! By far the majority of comments in the NYT’s initial article were very favorable to B’nai Jeshurun and they should take this into account when sticking to their position.

      • anonymouscomments
        December 6, 2012, 6:20 pm

        …did not reflect the complexities…

        it’s always “complex” when we all know it is very simple. i’m sure afrikaners always stressed the “complexity” and even american colonists.

        though i am very happy about the cracks in the hasbara line, it does scare me, as it does you. israel has created a domestic political landscape wholly unable to offer a viable resolution. greater israel people won out. but the world is now resisting more stridently. in time, the US may join….. but that is something israel will prevent at any cost, and something they can thwart with both covert and overt actions.

        since the neocon agenda came into implementation (and it continues though dragged out), i have been on edge. what does a “caged” “animal” do? israel’s only path forward, for both domestic and foreign consumption, is conflict and war (absent a seismic shift in israeli politics… yet they are heading in the wrong direction, even without the shocking 2nd inifada, and relatively limited security issues).

        i’m now waiting for that next war, but fear it may come with transformative “events”. contrived, or helped along…

        i swear some people might like to validate mayan prophecy in one interpretation, and others might want the rapture. most just want to profit…. and push their bigoted agendas.

  2. David Samel
    December 6, 2012, 3:22 pm

    Maybe the Dersh’s outrage had something to do with it.
    It is tempting to dismiss him as the pompous, dishonest windbag he is, but I think he retains a good deal of undeserved influence.

    • Annie Robbins
      December 6, 2012, 4:07 pm

      that dersh link is a classic!

      Do the rabbis realize that under the General Assembly vote the access route to Hebrew University on Mount Scopus is now on illegally occupied Palestinian land

      ahhh! the horror!

      • pabelmont
        December 6, 2012, 4:46 pm


        Not quite sure that the occupation itself is “illegal”, though so very many of the mechanisms or policies and practices of this occupation are manifestly illegal.

        The occupation itself might be held illegal on the theory that all the (by Israel claimed) annexations (East Jerusalem, Golan) and the land-takings for the settlements (to say nothing of the settlements and highways themselves) have such an air of (intended) permanence (and what in life can be known to be truly permanent?) that the occupation seems to have become (if it was not far earlier intended to be) a permanent taking of land. Read UNSC 242 on the illegitimacy of acquiring land by warfare. I suppose that translates to “illegal”.

        Maybe we should ask The Dersh for his opinion, and ask a few people who know something about international law, just for balance (as it were).

      • JohnAdamTurnbull
        December 6, 2012, 8:52 pm

        Here’s an interesting opinion on the legality of this occupation.

      • bijou
        December 6, 2012, 4:47 pm

        ah, but it was ever so…

    • Elliot
      December 7, 2012, 9:49 am

      Doesn’t he get a regular meeting with Obama? That’s how the White House contains him.

  3. Shmuel
    December 6, 2012, 4:00 pm

    regret … prematurely … mistakenly … unfortunate … errors … incomplete … unedited … tone … complexities … uncertainties … passionate lovers of Israel

    Cowards. They didn’t even say anything particularly daring in their first message.

  4. pabelmont
    December 6, 2012, 4:14 pm

    Of course, they should have drafted such a “bomb” carefully and made sure each “signatory” wanted his/her name on the letter. Maybe got signed copies for the record.

    That said * * *

    They seem to think that the diversity of views expressed in the Israeli press deserves mention. Why? Does the diversity give them “cover” for their initial reaction? Does taking note of the Israeli press give them “cover” as showing their devotion to Israel? There was little diversity (as far as I know) in the American press. Why not mention that?

    If the Israeli press had been unanimous in taking the Israeli government line, would that have made them think twice about praising the UN vote?

    Did the German press challenge the Nazi government w.r.t. the Warsaw Ghetto?

    Does Israeli Military censorship run in NYC?

    My god, have we sunk so low! what would Heschel have said?

    • piotr
      December 7, 2012, 8:59 am

      Dear Pabelmont,

      imagine that you have notarized signature of your cantor and even a video of him signing the letter, and he is all in tears as his family is at this very moment kept hostage, or perhaps under some lesser threat like expelling a child from after school programs at his/her Jewish highschool, or a graphic explanation how all family members will be humiliated during their subsequent trips to Israel.

      By the way, Israeli press was not unanimous in supporting the government line, even some comments in Jerusalem Post were opposed. I did not check Arutz Sheva where presumably the consensus is that UN should be nuked.

      As a result, it is a bit hard to figure out what is the exact nature of the thought crime committed by the rabbis. I guess applauding ANYTHING Palestinian without explaining that they represent culture of death or some suitable phrase to that effect.

      Strangely, NYT quotes a congregation member satisfied with this non-retraction retraction. The details of mental processes of Liberal Zionists are hard for me to comprehend.

  5. Dutch
    December 6, 2012, 6:29 pm

    Do these wandering rabbi’s realise there’s a world out there that disgusts their lack of courage? It’s time to choose, people at BJ, time’s up.

    ‘So essentially, it’s the entire planet on one side, versus the US, its new right-wing poodle to the north, Israel, and three tiny, bribed islands on the other side’.

  6. MHughes976
    December 6, 2012, 7:36 pm

    Well, what new points would a statement standing by the original point but reflecting the alleged complexities have contained?

  7. Scott
    December 6, 2012, 8:57 pm

    I’m with Adele. They didn’t retract, it’s a non-apology- apology. They’re not speaking as individuals, and they’re always some institutional bases that need to be covered. They’ve covered them now. It’s a small step forward.

  8. seafoid
    December 7, 2012, 12:00 am

    “Speaking by telephone Thursday, Ms. Blaustein reiterated the rabbis’ message that their original e-mail was incomplete and “did not represent the complexity of the situation.”

    Mrs X told her friend that she was unhappy with some aspects of her husband’s behaviour. When he heard the news he beat her so badly that she was hospitalised. From her hospital bed Mrs X told her friend that her original comment did not reflect the complexity of the situation.

  9. Basilio
    December 7, 2012, 1:37 am

    Israel’s friends are in panic in America. I mean if more and more Jews speak out against Israel, fewer Christians will want to back Israel and fewer Democrats.

  10. NickJOCW
    December 7, 2012, 3:30 am

    …unfortunate internal errors, an incomplete and unedited draft of the letter was sent out…

    is preposterous nonsense.

    There is also a fracture of a kind between the grassroots and the leadership which may or may not be reflected in this situation but certainly is in the European, and particularly the UK and German, response to the latest settlement plans. The summoning of ambassadors and the strong words of criticism were, I believe, largely for domestic consumption while the concurrent protestations about the sanctity of Israeli security etc. show where the Merkels truly are. Leaders are not guided by morals, they are pragmatists, but in the end they have to listen and it seems they are however reluctantly beginning to do just that. The iron is fairly hot right now and that makes this a crucial time.

    • piotr
      December 7, 2012, 9:21 am

      The non-recantation recantation does not seem serious, except for the question of signatures which is not that logically explained. This is the model recantation:

      I, Galileo, son of the late Vincenzo Galilei, Florentine, aged seventy years, arraigned personally before this tribunal, and kneeling before you, Most Eminent and Reverend Lord Cardinals, Inquisitors-General against heretical depravity throughout the entire Christian commonwealth, having before my eyes and touching with my hands, the Holy Gospels, swear that I have always believed, do believe, and by God’s help will in the future believe, all that is held, preached, and taught by the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. But whereas — after an injunction had been judicially intimated to me by this Holy Office, to the effect that I must altogether abandon the false opinion that the sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the center of the world, and moves, and that I must not hold, defend, or teach in any way whatsoever, verbally or in writing, the said false doctrine, and after it had been notified to me that the said doctrine was contrary to Holy Scripture — I wrote and printed a book in which I discuss this new doctrine already condemned, and adduce arguments of great cogency in its favor, without presenting any solution of these, and for this reason I have been pronounced by the Holy Office to be vehemently suspected of heresy, that is to say, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the center and moves:

      Therefore, desiring to remove from the minds of your Eminences, and of all faithful Christians, this vehement suspicion, justly conceived against me, with sincere heart and unfeigned faith I abjure, curse, and detest the aforesaid errors and heresies, and generally every other error, heresy, and sect whatsoever contrary to the said Holy Church, and I swear that in the future I will never again say or assert, verbally or in writing, anything that might furnish occasion for a similar suspicion regarding me; but that should I know any heretic, or person suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office, or to the Inquisitor or Ordinary of the place where I may be. Further, I swear and promise to fulfill and observe in their integrity all penances that have been, or that shall be, imposed upon me by this Holy Office. And, in the event of my contravening, (which God forbid) any of these my promises and oaths, I submit myself to all the pains and penalties imposed and promulgated in the sacred canons and other constitutions, general and particular, against such delinquents. So help me God, and these His Holy Gospels, which I touch with my hands.

      I, the said Galileo Galilei, have abjured, sworn, promised, and bound myself as above; and in witness of the truth thereof I have with my own hand subscribed the present document of my abjuration, and recited it word for word at Rome, in the Convent of Minerva, this twenty-second day of June, 1633.

  11. piotr
    December 7, 2012, 6:59 am

    I wonder how to classify our valiant men (and women?) of cloth. They do not seem to belong to vertebrates (i.e. no bony segments surrounding main nerve column). But marine biology describes organisms that have a flexible stiffening of the back in the larval stage, when they float, but when they settle (get a job in a congregation? they settle in colonies) that stiff organ vanishes (together with the brain).

    • Mooser
      December 7, 2012, 3:59 pm

      “I wonder how to classify our valiant men (and women?) of cloth.”

      Their reproductive biology is also not well known, and is a matter of some contention among scientists. And in some courts, too.

  12. piotr
    December 7, 2012, 7:19 am

    Shouldn’t we compose a letter to the citizens of Marshall Islands, Marianas and Palau admiring their strength of conviction and solidarity with a fellow democracy with which they share values? They are unsung heroes here. Worse, BBC commented that “only diplomatic minnows supported USA and Israel on the issue” (neatly including Canada in the category, perhaps Harper deserves a thank you letter too).

    • Empiricon
      December 7, 2012, 3:27 pm

      “a fellow democracy [sic] with which they share values”
      How true! All four Pacific nations (with a combined population of under 200,000) are protectorates of the US and recieve billions in “aid.” Marshall Islands is a haven for US manufacturers because we imposed a “no minimum wage” law there. So the “shared values” is the subjugation of an indigenous population by “democratic” immigrants. One big difference: the US is the dog who wags the tail of those four nations, but Israel is the tail who wags the US dog.

  13. Rusty Pipes
    December 7, 2012, 12:00 pm

    The Cantor caved. The other staff members caved. In order to preserve some staff coherence, the rabbis said that they hadn’t vetted the letter properly before hitting send. Though more cautiously couched, the rabbis haven’t retracted their celebration.

  14. chinese box
    December 7, 2012, 12:34 pm

    Can’t put toothpaste back in the tube…

  15. Empiricon
    December 7, 2012, 2:05 pm

    Another example of how Zionism is a collective cult, in which “questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished. The collective “dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel…. The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment… and regards [its] belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law. ” The parallels are eerie. More here:

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