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Rosh Hashanah After Gaza

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

“Rabbis must go beyond cheerleading on Israel” – so the title of Rabbi Jill Jacobs article in Haaretz goes.

Rabbi Jacobs’s words are worth considering as the High Holiday season begins:

To be a rabbi is to be a moral leader. Moral leadership requires us to move beyond cheerleading to drawing on our tradition acknowledge fear, address ethical questions, offer loving critique, and inspire the hope that will move our communities toward supporting peace.

As Executive Director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Rabbi Jacobs is a religious leader with ethics at the core of her Jewishness. She should be congratulated for her efforts. But no matter how much passion she brings to her task, there’s something essential missing from her analysis.

Rabbi Jacobs still thinks moving Jews on the question of Israel-Palestine is important – and possible. She still has faith in congregational life – and its outreach on the political level. Her respect for rabbis struggling with their responsibilities as congregational leaders is evident. But like her search for common ground for both sides of the Israel-Palestine divide, such respect is misplaced. It continues the process of soul searching that is out-of-date and way too late.

Perhaps during the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s, these hopes could still be nourished. But now more than 25 years later with the situation as it is? With the people of Gaza still picking through the rubble and Jerusalem and the West Bank under increased occupation and settlement?

On this Rosh Hashanah – after Gaza – we need more. Much more.

Here’s Rabbi Jacobs on the struggle of rabbis:

It’s true that speaking about Israel is difficult. In the lead up to Rosh Hashanah, I have heard from many anxious rabbis, worried about angering one segment of the community or the other, or wondering whether to address Israel at all.

This situation is especially pronounced for rabbis who move beyond the one-sided pro-Israel cheerleading and offer the experiences and stories of Palestinians along with those of Israelis.

Thankfully, courageous rabbis do engage their communities on this most difficult of issues. Some have shared with me draft sermons that draw on Jewish text and history to promote a relationship with Israel that includes deep commitment, loving critique, and the ability to hold multiple narratives at the same time.

The job of a rabbi is to be a moral leader. And there is nowhere in the Jewish community more in need of moral leadership than the Israel debate.

The problem is that rabbis aren’t trained for moral leadership. And in my experience with rabbis over the years, their employment almost always trumps their willingness to risk. As importantly, their ignorance about Israel – and Palestine – is palpable. For the most part, they seek to maintain that ignorance. The cost of knowing is too great.

Rabbi Jacobs on moving deeper than politics:

Our conversations about Israel tend to stick to the political. We wage wars of factoids, lobbing bits of data back and forth: The latest polling on who does and doesn’t support peace; evidence of one side’s bad (or good) behavior during the war; “proof” of whom to blame for the latest flare-up or for a long ago war.

These boxing matches lead nowhere. Each side digs deeper and deeper into its own position, and seeks out more and more data points to support pre-existing beliefs.

Rabbis hold the power to break through this standstill by helping their communities to cultivate deep empathy for all sides. Rabbis can bring the wisdom of Jewish text and tradition to deep questions about the Israel we want to create. We can look to rabbinic laws concerning the establishment of a just society for insight into creating a country that reflects Jewish values.

All sides? After Gaza, the end of any possibility of a two-state solution and an ever-widening militarization that seems endless?

There is a time warp here, as if Israel hasn’t defined itself, as if mainstream Jews haven’t staked out their position, as if Jewish leadership, including our rabbis, isn’t culpable.

Are the rabbis and Jews Rabbi Jacobs seeks to address innocent and therefore able to take time to reflect and move step by step? How long will this process take, even under the best of circumstances? And what does this mean for the Palestinian people?

Finally, Rabbi Jacobs on the role of the clergy:

According to an old adage, the job of the clergy is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. This especially rings true when it comes to Israel. Rabbis need to simultaneously address the very real fears of those of us with loved ones in Israel, and to push Israel to be a place that lives up to the best of Jewish text, values, and tradition.

“Our loved ones in Israel.” Like showing our love for Israel itself, this is exactly where political analysis ends and where depth is precluded. Which brings us to the sad realization that it is the very congregational structure of Jewish life and the rabbis that lead these congregations – no matter how both “struggle” with ethical issues – is exactly the wrong venue to place our energy during the High Holidays.

For the most part, Jews of Conscience are nowhere to be found in the synagogues during our Days of Awe – and for good reason. Rather than struggling for the right words to speak to other Jews, they are actively opposing Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.

After Gaza, perhaps the rabbis should abandon their congregations as most Jews of Conscience have. In exile, Jews may regroup and find another way to observe the Jewish calendar.

For without justice, what kind of God are we worshiping? And how can we repent our individual and collective sins of injustice when our Jewish institutions are enabling the injustice Rabbi Jacobs asks us to wrestle with?

Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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109 Responses

  1. jon s on September 25, 2014, 12:16 pm

    Peter Beinart is calling on the rabbis not to talk about Israel:

    http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.617158

    • eljay on September 25, 2014, 1:22 pm

      >> jon s: Peter Beinart is calling on the rabbis not to talk about Israel …

      Makes sense: There’s no point talking about Jewish supremacism in a supremacist “Jewish State” all the time…is there?

    • marc b. on September 25, 2014, 3:09 pm

      The American Jewish community represents an unprecedented experiment in what happens when you combine mass ignorance of Jewish law and tradition with radical acceptance by the gentile world. The result is tragic.

      that beinart. he’s something all right.

      • seafoid on September 25, 2014, 3:28 pm

        “It’s tragic because so many of the young American Jews who choose not to raise Jewish families don’t even know what they’re discarding.’

        Perhaps it is even worse than that. Perhaps they do

      • marc b. on September 25, 2014, 5:09 pm

        That’s the dishonesty of beinart, seafoid. If 99% of jews intermarried after profound reflection, I doubt beinart would find that result less tragic. He’s a salesman, of a sort, if he can only wedge his shoe in the jam before the door’s slammed shut, he’s sure to convince you.

      • Mooser on September 25, 2014, 7:42 pm

        “when you combine mass ignorance of Jewish law and tradition with radical acceptance by the gentile world. The result is tragic.”

        Good old Peter B! I knew we could find a way to blame the Gentiles. If only they had rejected us, those sneaky schmucks!

    • seafoid on September 25, 2014, 3:26 pm

      Peter Beinart is calling on the rabbis not to talk about Israel: –

      When routine bites hard,
      And ambitions are low,
      And resentment rides high,
      But emotions won’t grow,
      And we’re changing our ways, taking different roads.

      Then Israel will tear us apart again.
      Israel will tear us apart again

      • catporn on September 26, 2014, 2:57 pm

        You cry out in your sleep

        All my feelings exposed,

        And there’s a taste in my mouth

        As desperation takes hold,

        Yet, that something so good

        Just can’t function no more, when

        land, land will tear us apart again..

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 11:40 am

        I’ll see your “Joy Division” and raise you one “Captain and Tenneile” Love, my friend, will keep us together, particularly, for reasons I am only dimly cognizant of, if you are a pair of Muskrats.

  2. joemowrey on September 25, 2014, 12:43 pm

    Wow. Perfect. This is the best call for realism in the Jewish community I have seen in a while. The notion that the kind of tepid middle-of-the -road moralism expressed by Rabbi Jacobs will accomplish anything is absurd. Yet so many writers continue to endorse it.

    “Rabbis need to simultaneously address the very real fears of those of us with loved ones in Israel,…”

    The “very real fears” would evaporate if Rabbis would demand justice and call Israel to account for the horrors they have unleashed against the Palestinian people. Would she suggest that a rapist’s fear of his victim’s defensive response is some sort of “very real” and justified concern?

    Address the crimes being committed, Rabbi Jacobs, and the rest of your apologist rhetoric will be unnecessary.

    • Mooser on September 25, 2014, 7:44 pm

      “Address the crimes being committed, Rabbi Jacobs, and the rest of your apologist rhetoric will be unnecessary. “

      She’ll need to save her apologies for the Temple board meeting!

  3. Liz18 on September 25, 2014, 2:12 pm

    This is such a great piece to read on Rosh Hashanah, as I feel further and further alienated by the very people who claim to be “inclusive” in Jewish synagogues. This piece is especially poignant, given Rabbi Brant Rosen’s decision to step down as a congregational rabbi.

  4. michelle on September 25, 2014, 3:03 pm

    .
    seems like many ‘rabbis’ are here to placate thieves liars bullies and abusers
    (in truth are we not each of us by existance/by example rabbis)
    .
    the abuser who knows ‘his’ abuse will continue
    is not asking to be forgiven but demanding complete acceptance
    the abuser is actually demanding (‘his’) past abuses be forgotten
    true forgiveness is not a reset button
    .
    true remorse never forgets or forgives
    for to do so is to increase the risk of repetition
    .
    we must stand for/strive for something good or we are nothing
    good or bad are the only choices in this our life/our existence in this/our flesh
    .
    how could G-d feel welcome in this den
    .
    G-d Bless
    .

  5. seafoid on September 25, 2014, 3:16 pm

    “Rabbis can bring the wisdom of Jewish text and tradition to deep questions about the Israel we want to create. We can look to rabbinic laws concerning the establishment of a just society for insight into creating a country that reflects Jewish values. ”

    I’m sorry. I think Israel needs emergency psychiatric treatment. The wisdom of Jewish text? Like the 300 foreskins ?

    Israelis often tell well meanng American co-religionists they don’t understand. And they really don’t.

    What can you do about these guys ? Can Peter Beinart get through to them ?

    Additional chants from last night: “Gaza is a cemetery”, “This is the Land of Israel, the country of Jews” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7Jj_Oe7uQc

    WATCH: Israeli racists sing last night “School is out in Gaza/ They have no children left there”
    http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/gaza-graveyard-sing-joyful-israeli-youths

    Go ask Elizabeth Tsurkov what she thinks about Jewish texts putting an end to nearly 50 years of insanity.

    The rich people who hold the purse strings know nothing is going to happen. They have US Judaism by the balls.

    you can read all about it but it is far worse than this :

  6. seafoid on September 25, 2014, 3:45 pm

    Rosh Hashanah after Gaza

    It must feel very uncomfortable for those Golani boys , washing off all that gore, picking off the bone fragments, and then having to think sacred thoughts.

  7. wondering jew on September 25, 2014, 3:58 pm

    I agree with Marc Ellis that Israel Palestine is the most important issue today for Jews and that the path of Jill Jacobs is not something that will lead to a “resolution” of this issue. The path of history is not clear to me, but certainly rabbis speeches in shul or temple on this rosh hashana 5775 are not going to be a major factor in that path of history.

    i really enjoyed an article in 972 about discussing politics at a rosh hashana dinner: http://972mag.com/how-to-talk-occupation-at-a-rosh-hashanah-dinner-and-make-it-out-alive/96981/
    A dinner guest at a family gathering is a more natural place for a political discussion rather than a shul or a temple.

    btw. i endorse peter beinart’s column. ignorance of jewish texts is a tragedy, for particularly if one is interested in jewish survival outside of israel, the means of that survival can only come through literacy of those texts and ignorance of those texts is a recipe for dissolving the jewish continuity. those who are antizionist but claim to be pro jewish should promote jewish literacy as a means of that survival. those who merely scoff at beinart are really scoffing at jewish survival.

    my behavior scoffs at jewish survival:
    i was raised going to shul on rosh hashana but no longer do so. i don’t think it is related to the israel palestine issue but to a deeper alienation. i miss the sound of the ram’s horn today and feel the pain of the deaths in gaza from this summer and see no clear path on the horizon and this is painful.

    though i have no kids i have nieces and nephews and all of them have spent most of their lives in israel. the balancing act that jill jacobs refers to: in terms of empathy with israeli emotions of fear is something that i take seriously. but the prophets like marc ellis do not take seriously. the business of prophets is to scoff at the distractions and focus on the essence.

    (on a lighter note, the number 5775 is relevant for next year 5776 will be 76 squared. 76 in america hearkens to 1776 and freedom and in hebrew is the numerical value for eved or slave.)

    • Citizen on September 25, 2014, 5:46 pm

      “i miss the sound of the ram’s horn today and feel the pain of the deaths in Gaza from this summer.”

      Hey at least you don’t hear the sobbing of anybody today, do you?

    • seafoid on September 25, 2014, 10:16 pm

      That is a very thoughtful post, yonah. It must be very hard to think about your people and the big risks the people at the top are running. The other day Shmuel said ” Israel is a militaristic ethnocracy, rooted in a romantic-nationalist ideology and born out of extreme trauma (both experienced and inflicted).” And nobody chose to be born into that.It’s not easy for ordinary people there to see beyond the parapet. The IDF memes are probably very comforting for a lot of people.

      Following the Lehman collapse (Greenspan ‘shocked’ that free markets are flawed, November 23, 2008) Alan Greenspan told the New York Times “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organisations, specifically banks and others, was such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders.”

      It’s probably the same over at the IDF.

      At the end of the day it’s about people, isn’t it? But everyone, not just the Sabras.

      • James North on September 26, 2014, 12:12 pm

        I agree with seafoid that yonah’s post is thoughtful and courageous. I partly disagree with Marc Ellis about Rabbi Jacobs. I believe Rabbi Jacobs is showing great courage in speaking out and she certainly risks retaliation of various kinds for doing so, as Mooser alluded to. She strikes me as open-minded and willing to listen.

      • Mooser on September 26, 2014, 1:59 pm

        ” She strikes me as open-minded and willing to listen….”

        Oh I imagine she’ll be doing a lot of listening. Probably get mail, too.

    • Citizen on September 26, 2014, 6:10 am

      The shofar was sounded, what fourteen times (? ) when Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down? According to the story, Jericho was located in Canaan, currently known as Palestine. Such a light note!

      • Shmuel on September 26, 2014, 7:05 am

        Or to proclaim freedom throughout the land (Lev. 25:10), or to arouse the hearts of men to repentance:

        Unesaneh tokef kedushas hayom —
        Let us speak of the power of the day’s holiness.
        For it is fearsome and terrifying. …
        And a great shofar will be blown and then a faint voice of silence will be heard. …
        Like a shepherd gathering his flock, passing the sheep under his staff. …
        Man comes from earth and will come to earth.
        A broken shard. Dry grass. A withering flower.
        A passing shadow. A dissipating cloud.
        A flowing breeze. Floating dust. A flying dream. …
        And the holy seraphim whisper in secret: it is judgement day.

        (From the High Holiday liturgy)

      • Mooser on September 26, 2014, 11:32 am

        Shmuel, what fraction, what percentage of Jewish people get a religious education, and what does it consist of?

        And if we extend the question to all Jews, not just those identifying as Jews, what is the percentage?

        Why are you always hustling Torah?

      • Shmuel on September 26, 2014, 1:20 pm

        Shmuel, what fraction, what percentage of Jewish people get a religious education, and what does it consist of?

        I don’t know, but Beinart seems to.

        And if we extend the question to all Jews, not just those identifying as Jews, what is the percentage?

        I would guess that few people who don’t identify as Jews would give their kids (or themselves) a Jewish religious education.

        Why are you always hustling Torah?

        Just expressing myself in my cultural idiom. Does it bug you?

      • Shmuel on September 26, 2014, 1:34 pm

        I almost forgot to wish you a gut, gezunt un zis yor, Mooser.

      • Mooser on September 26, 2014, 2:03 pm

        “Just expressing myself in my cultural idiom.”

        Your “culturasl” idiom? Sounded like a religious text to me, but if you want to call it “cultural idiom” go ahead. But what kind of “cultural idiom” is it?

      • Shmuel on September 26, 2014, 5:07 pm

        Your “culturasl” idiom? Sounded like a religious text to me

        Religious texts are part of my cultural background, and it was on topic – in reply to Yonah’s thoughts on the shofar and Citizen’s selectively negative interpretation of the religious symbol.

        You still haven’t told me if it bugs you, and if so, why?

        But what kind of “cultural idiom” is it?

        In this case, liturgical poetry — a particularly moving and important part of the high holiday prayers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unetanneh_Tokef

        You do Borscht Belt; I do liturgy. I probably just set you up for a joke. Go for it.

      • Mooser on September 26, 2014, 8:39 pm

        No, I was just trying to figure out, as I have been lately, what is Jewish. See, I used to think I knew, but since I started reading Mondoweiss, I’m not sure anymore. I’m just trying to find the thing which makes us, well, me, Jewish. (No need to drag you into it.) And I was wondering how big a part religion and religious study plays in it. Certainly for many people Jewish is their religion (Judaism). But I am wondering if at this point the association is primarily religious. Or indeed, what it is.

        And I’m always wondering about all those people (there must be, literally millions, who have ‘left’ Judaism, voted with their feet. Are their votes counted?

        And I didn’t appreciate that “borscht belt” crack. There’s a big difference between those “borscht belt” comedians and me. They are funny on purpose..
        I’m not, the ‘humor’ is accidental. Dad, I’m serious.

      • Shmuel on September 27, 2014, 4:13 am

        No, I was just trying to figure out, as I have been lately, what is Jewish.

        Since my Jewish upbringing was religious and centred on ritual and study, my Jewish consciousness and context revolve around and have developed from that, although I no longer go to shul or observe Halakhah. Saadya Gaon said that we have only the Torah in common, and Mordecai Kaplan called Judaism “the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people”. Admittedly, the logic of the latter definition seems a bit circular.

        Jewish religious practice is easy to identify as Jewish. Study and thought get a little complicated, as studying clearly Jewish texts does not necessarily make you Jewish, and what is a clearly Jewish text? Is the philosophy of Levinas, for example, Jewish? Similar things can be said about art, music, language, food, comedy, etc.

        Tragically, many of our co-religionists (a term I still find appropriate) have opted for ethnic nationalism as the core element of their identity as Jews. Obviously, that doesn’t work for you or me. For others, the struggle against Jewish nationalism stands at the heart of their Jewishness — often combined with a broader commitment to social justice. But what makes those struggles specifically Jewish? Usually, some sort of link to Jews who did or said similar things in the past (whether Heschel and civil rights, the Bund and labour rights, or a selective reading of the ancient Jewish prophets). In the end, however, the Jewish “connection”, whether direct or indirect, always seems to come back to religious traditions — whether as a source of inspiration or the means by which ideas and ideals are expressed.

        “Ethical Judaism” is not a new idea, but without the idiom and the ritual (retained by the early Reformers), it is a somewhat nebulous feeling or link that is personal and difficult to convey to others (assuming the idea of “continuity” has any significance). The same would be true of family ties or memories/nostalgia.

        I don’t feel that I have some sort of mission, to spread (“hustle”) the Good News. It’s just who I am and the way I speak and express myself. Bible and Rabbinic literature and Jewish liturgy float around in my head, are an inevitable part of my thought processes (including my convictions about Palestine) and are meaningful to me. I sometimes use them to convey my ideas, both because that is what comes naturally to me, and because I think others might be able to relate to them (at least as much as any of us can get into anybody else’s head).

      • Shmuel on September 27, 2014, 4:23 am

        And I’m always wondering about all those people (there must be, literally millions, who have ‘left’ Judaism, voted with their feet. Are their votes counted?

        On the one hand, those who’ve left have left, but if they want their “vote” to be counted (or someone else thinks there is any sense in doing so), they haven’t really left, have they? Unlike being pregnant, however, I do think it is possible to be “a little bit Jewish”.

      • Mooser on September 27, 2014, 2:05 pm

        “Such a light note!”

        Give these guys a whole cloth, a trusty IB Singer sewing machine, and they can whip up a suit of New Emperor’s Clothes in a couple of paragraphs.

      • Mooser on September 28, 2014, 12:25 pm

        “Since my Jewish upbringing was religious and centred on ritual and study, my Jewish consciousness and context revolve around and have developed from that, although I no longer go to shul or observe Halakhah. “

        But you are always ready to whip that shit out on us and wave it around? It’s not good enough for you, but it impresses the hell out of people. Put it away Shmuel, you’re scaring the children.

      • Shmuel on September 28, 2014, 12:45 pm

        So it does bug you, Mooser. Either I don’t understand why or you don’t. In any case, I’ll try to keep it in mind. In the meantime, feel free to skip anything with my name over it. You never know when I might be trying to hustle some scary Torah shit (I’m afraid I don’t have a quote for that, off the cuff).

      • Mooser on September 28, 2014, 1:16 pm

        “You never know when I might be trying to hustle some scary Torah shit”

        Well gosh, Schmuel, I’m sure you can see why it scares me so. I mean, it’s all the same stuff the Zionists use. Naturally, when I hear it, I think, “uh-oh, here we go again”.

      • Mooser on September 28, 2014, 1:21 pm

        “I don’t feel that I have some sort of mission, to spread (“hustle”) the Good News.”

        “The Good News”? Say what? I’m sorry Schmuel, I can see we’ve been talking at cross-purposes again.
        Apparently my misunderstanding is greater than even I could have imagined. And I have a very high opinion of my own misunderstanding, too. Oh well, I apologize.

      • Shmuel on September 28, 2014, 4:36 pm

        Well gosh, Schmuel, I’m sure you can see why it scares me so. I mean, it’s all the same stuff the Zionists use. Naturally, when I hear it, I think, “uh-oh, here we go again”.

        You mean Judaism=Zionism? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were a Zionist yourself.

      • Shmuel on September 28, 2014, 4:37 pm

        Apparently my misunderstanding is greater than even I could have imagined.

        I couldn’t have put it better myself.

      • Shmuel on September 28, 2014, 4:56 pm

        Mooser,

        Are you really suggesting that we should just pack it in and let Zionism have the lot?

      • eljay on September 29, 2014, 8:18 am

        >> Shmuel @ September 27, 2014, 4:13 am

        Wonderful post, Shmuel. Thanks! :-)

      • Mooser on September 29, 2014, 11:05 am

        “Are you really suggesting that we should just pack it in and let Zionism have the lot?”

        I’m sorry Schmuel, all you do is confuse me. What “we” are both of us in? Neither of us is religious, you just told me you aren’t attending schul or practicing Hai-karate (God, I hate buzz-words!)

        So please, tell me Schmuel, what “we” are “we” part of? Oh, I know the namje of it, it’s called “Jewish” but of what does it consist? Not religion, apparently, but something. Mind telling me what it is? (And please don’t give me that tiresome crap about we are a we cause other people don’t like us.)

        No, Schmuel, I don’t think I’m the one who is close to Zionism.

      • Shmuel on September 29, 2014, 11:24 am

        I’m sorry Schmuel, all you do is confuse me. What “we” are both of us in? Neither of us is religious, you just told me you aren’t attending schul or practicing Hai-karate (God, I hate buzz-words!),

        None whatsoever, Mooser. My mistake. Won’t happen again.

      • Mooser on September 29, 2014, 11:46 am

        “None whatsoever, Mooser. My mistake. Won’t happen again.”

        That’s right, Schmuel, you can’t cheat an honest man, and you know it.

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 12:34 pm

        See what you did, Schmuel? After our exchange here, and in appreciation for your patience, I asked myself, “Okay, how much do I know about that stuff (Biblical and Torah history of Jews, Prophets, their roles, what happened, where did the books come from, all that) and maybe I should look it up. A person could maybe at least check on a few things. So I did.
        Another but of bliss, lost forever.

      • Mooser on October 3, 2014, 12:40 pm

        Ah, thank you Schmuel. I think I’ve gotten to the root of my problem with all that Bible-Torah stuff, if I’m in the ballpark with my gelatin-solid conclusions.
        It is looking to me like the ‘story of the Jews’ through all of that history is a a story of spiritual or religious change, not a declaration of religious stasis. A change in the understanding of God and man’s relationship with him is recorded there.

  8. Keith on September 25, 2014, 4:49 pm

    MARC ELLIS- Rabbi Jacobs says: “The job of a rabbi is to be a moral leader.”

    This sounds like Noam Chomsky talking about the responsibility of intellectuals. It would be nice if this idealistic mythology was reflected in real world behavior, however, it is inconsistent with the function of organized religion in our society which is to provide a psychological palliative for the individual group members and a collective organizational framework for group goal seeking. Organized religion is, in fact, a major component in achieving compliance with the social order and historically has been supportive of warfare and empires. Rabbis are not prophets and vice versa. It is difficult to imagine either you or Fr. Roy Bourgeois leading a congregation.

    Also, while I sympathize with Jews of conscience emphasizing Israel/Palestine insofar as it so publicly reflects upon Jews, let us not forget that we are also citizens of empire and have an obligation there. And is it likely that organized Jewry which has been either silent or openly supportive of imperial militarism should suddenly speak out on Gaza? For a variety of reasons, Israel cannot be viewed in isolation from empire.

    • jon s on September 27, 2014, 3:58 pm

      For me personally the Unetaneh Tokef prayer on Rosh Hashanah, part of which Shmuel cited above, is the most awe-inspiring prayer of the Jewish year. It literally gives me a shiver. (Much more than, say, Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur: why should I be especially moved by saying that all my vows are cancelled?). When I hear Untaneh Tokef I think of the legend of R.Amnon of Mainz and the circumstances of its composition, I think of what a fine job Yair Rosenblum did in his musical adaptation, I think of the Leonard Cohen song that alludes to it…and much more.

      (The Leonard Cohen song I’m referring to is “Who By Fire”)
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvEgJ9iT3t0

      And here’s where I connect to the point Prof. Beinart is making regarding the decline in “Jewish literacy” , that so many young Jews “don’t know what they’re missing”. I really dislike ignorance. A Jew who chooses not to keep a kosher home bothers me a lot less than one who doesn’t know what kashrut is. I don’t care if you don’t lay tefillin (I don’t , either…) but you should know what they are.

      • jon s on September 28, 2014, 1:56 am

        I have no idea how that clip appeared at the end of my post. (Please bring back the edit function!)

        Here’s Leonard Cohen:

      • jon s on September 28, 2014, 4:24 am

        In addition to the Unetaneh Tokef prayer, the Rosh Hashanah service includes:
        – the blowing of the shofar.
        – the Torah readings: the banishment of Yishmael ,on the first day ; the sacrifice of Isaac ,on the second day (Father Abraham was some Dad!) and the beautiful haftorot attached to both .

        All of which adds to the emotional impact.

      • Mooser on September 28, 2014, 12:28 pm

        “A Jew who chooses not to keep a kosher home bothers me a lot less than one who doesn’t know what kashrut is. “

        Who gives a husky f–ck what bothers you? What are you, the King of the Jews?

      • just on September 28, 2014, 12:30 pm

        He’s mini-bibi.

      • Mooser on September 28, 2014, 12:31 pm

        .” It literally gives me a shiver. “

        Why, it’s almost as much fun as “mowing the lawn” Who the hell are you trying to fool, “Jon s”?

        One day, blood-lust, the next day beautiful prayers. Yeah sure, Jon s, you know where you can stick it, I assume?

      • Mooser on September 28, 2014, 12:52 pm

        “For me personally the Unetaneh Tokef prayer on Rosh Hashanah, part of which Shmuel cited above, is the most awe-inspiring prayer of the Jewish year. It literally gives me a shiver.”

        Any insensitive (and possibly “AS”) readers who doubt “jon s” has an exquisite spiritual sensitivity (he gets a thrill divine, down his spine!) need only check his comment archives for the dates corresponding to “Cast Lead” and “Protective Edge”. Then you will see what really turns him on!

        Simply click his name above any comment, and you will be directed to the comment archive.

      • Mooser on September 28, 2014, 1:05 pm

        “A Jew who chooses not to keep a kosher home bothers me a lot less than one who doesn’t know what kashrut is.”

        You know, “jon s”, I’m not sure I know every detail of kashrut myself (I do know a little about cash crops, tho) and other Jews who don’t don’t bother my much, except they won’t get a lot of my jokes.

        You know what does bother me, “jon s”? It’s when there’s lots of Jew who don’t know what murder or theft is. They make me nervous. And when they make a virtue out of it, they scare the hell out of me.

        Man, Jewish holidays are like a license to bullshit for some people. Unbelievable.

      • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 11:59 am

        “Jon s” wasn’t “Who by Fire” part of a suite Leonard Cohen wrote setting Atzmon’s “The Wandering Who” to music?

  9. Citizen on September 25, 2014, 5:40 pm

    Seems to me rabbi Jill Jacobs should ponder what Hillel said: Hillel: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah.”

    And let the talmudist chips fall where they may. Or do you need them for your cherished continuity? And what’s the opposite of Kant’s moral imperative?

    • Mooser on September 25, 2014, 8:21 pm

      “And what’s the opposite of Kant’s moral imperative?”

      Huh? Why, Kant’s immoral imperative, of course. Everybody knows that! I don’t know what’s in it, I’m not much for that x-rated stuff.

      • jon s on September 28, 2014, 1:49 am

        “And what’s the opposite of Kant’s moral imperative?”

        Imperative’s moral kant?

      • Mooser on September 28, 2014, 1:12 pm

        “Imperative’s moral kant?”

        “Jon s”, concerning ‘imperative moral cant’ you are a mahyven. Go get shivers at the sound of a flatulent goat.

    • jon s on October 5, 2014, 2:55 pm

      As far as I know , Leonard Cohen wrote “Who By Fire” in the wake of his experience in the Yom Kippur War. (Also “Lover,Lover,Lover”).

      • jon s on October 5, 2014, 4:34 pm

        To return to the topic of “Jewish literacy”, “Who By Fire” is a good example. Leonard Cohen is referencing the “Unetaneh Tokef” prayer and created a beautiful. haunting, song. In my view, recognizing the reference increases your appreciation of the song. Without that “literacy” you can still appreciate it , but you’re missing something , missing a certain depth.

  10. Mooser on September 25, 2014, 8:18 pm

    “In exile, Jews may regroup and find another way to observe the Jewish calendar.”

    I think they will. The response will be, once something is established (it might take more than one try, but that’s almost inevitable) the response will be overwhelming.

    Nothing requires such a place to pray or preach for Israel’s dissolution, nor for any harm to come to anybody in Israel. Of course not. But the liberation of not supporting Zionism and from being religiously and ethically ghettoised (I don’t know a better term) by Zionism, will provide a much more positive religious fellowship, a better basis for a voluntary religious community.

    • seafoid on September 25, 2014, 10:24 pm

      There’ll need to be some distance between the people and the land.
      “Why can I not speak? You’ re not so unique” would be a good starting point for the discussion of this sensitive aspect of the future relationship with Ha eretz, the mythical and dangerous land of Israel.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=153b6qaueSc

      Very strong echoes of the legend of Lorelei

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lorelei

      • seafoid on September 25, 2014, 10:25 pm

        http://ingeb.org/Lieder/ichweiss.html

        1. I cannot determine the meaning
        Of sorrow that fills my breast:
        A fable of old, through it streaming,
        Allows my mind no rest.
        The air is cool in the gloaming
        And gently flows the Rhine.
        The crest of the mountain is gleaming
        In fading rays of sunshine.
        2.
        The loveliest maiden is sitting
        Up there, so wondrously fair;
        Her golden jewelry is glist’ning;
        She combs her golden hair.
        She combs with a gilded comb, preening,
        And sings a song, passing time.
        It has a most wondrous, appealing
        And pow’rful melodic rhyme.

        3. The boatman aboard his small skiff, –
        Enraptured with a wild ache,
        Has no eye for the jagged cliff, –
        His thoughts on the heights fear forsake.
        I think that the waves will devour
        Both boat and man, by and by,
        And that, with her dulcet-voiced power
        Was done by the Loreley.

      • Mooser on September 28, 2014, 12:55 pm

        “There’ll need to be some distance between the people and the land”

        It’s almost on the other side of the world, Seafoid. Israel is what, 6000 or so miles away?
        That’s far enough for me.

    • jon s on September 28, 2014, 3:55 pm

      Mooser,
      I wonder why, if you don’t give a you-know -what about what bothers me, you go to the trouble of writing five derogatory comments directed at me.

      Your use of the phrase “mowing the lawn “, in reference -I assume – to this summer’s bloodshed, is offensive towards the Palestinians. Palestinian civilians are not vegetation.

      I’m not going to answer your venom in similar style. I do hope you find a way to overcome the hatred in your soul (but I’m not your shrink).

      You could try addressing the topic. What’s your opinion on the decline in “Jewish literacy”?

      By all means, you’re welcome to check my past comments and look for where I expressed “blood lust”. Good luck on that.

      • annie on September 28, 2014, 4:11 pm

        I have no idea how that clip appeared at the end of my post. (Please bring back the edit function!)

        from upthread. i moved it jon because it appears to me that youtube videos do not appear (show up) in the middle of posts (w/our new formatting) only at the end and i assumed you wanted it to appear. but i put it back for you. only attempting to be helpful.

      • Mooser on September 29, 2014, 4:01 pm

        “You could try addressing the topic. What’s your opinion on the decline in “Jewish literacy”?”

        As if you didn’t know? I would pick you to personify it.

      • Mooser on September 29, 2014, 4:04 pm

        “What’s your opinion on the decline in “Jewish literacy”?””

        Would you class not knowing the origin of the phrase “mowing the lawn” as it relates to Gaza as an example of “declining Jewish literacy”, Jon s?

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 4:00 pm

        “I wonder why, if you don’t give a you-know -what about what bothers me, you go to the trouble of writing five derogatory comments directed at me.”

        “Jon s” really, it’s no trouble, no trouble at all! I just sit here, read the articles and your comments, and it just sort of writes itself.

  11. seafoid on September 25, 2014, 10:54 pm

    A thought for Rosh Hashanah

    http://www.haaretz.com/misc/iphone-article/.premium-1.614426

    “On August 20, Mr. Netanyahu was recorded on film expressing his deep shock at the beheading of an American journalist by the knife of an Islamic State murderer. Truly, a wicked deed.
    On August 19, just one day before that horrific execution, the prime minister approved the killing of an 8-month-old baby together with his mother, in the hope that the father would be with them and also be killed. “

    • Mooser on September 26, 2014, 11:33 am

      A person at a food-processing-plant in America just beheaded a co-worker.

      • Mooser on September 28, 2014, 1:00 pm

        I’ve never personally been beheaded, but a jealous husband once threatened to “cleave me in twain”.

    • jon s on September 29, 2014, 12:59 am

      Annie, OK, thanks.

    • jon s on September 29, 2014, 4:44 pm

      Mooser,
      I didn’t know that among my many faults , among the sins I should atone for on Yom Kippur, is “personification of the decline in Jewish literacy.”

      As to the phrase “mowing the lawn” regarding Gaza, I don’t know what the original source is. In any case, I think it’s horrible, and you’re the one who used it.

      Back to the issue raised by Prof. Beinart: do you agree that there is a decline in Jewish literacy? If so -does it bother you or not?

      • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 11:42 am

        “As to the phrase “mowing the lawn” regarding Gaza, I don’t know what the original source is. In any case, I think it’s horrible, and you’re the one who used it.”

        Here you go, pal. Increase you Jewish literacy. Did you even bother to Google the phrase?

        “mowing the lawn” Gaza.

        Would you like a Torah or Talmud reference, too?

  12. seafoid on September 26, 2014, 3:31 am

    Rabbi Jacobs has eyes just like Max Blumenthal’s .

    • jon s on September 30, 2014, 2:53 pm

      Mooser, so I see that phrase has been used numerous times, mostly by anti-Israel writers like you. I don’t use it.

      And I give up. (on trying to elicit a serious answer from you.)

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 11:46 am

        “Mooser, so I see that phrase has been used numerous times, mostly by anti-Israel writers like you.”

        Yup, we made it up, just to bug you. It couldn’t possibly be that some Israeli military or political person used the phrase, and it caught on as an example of their brutal way of thinking. That couldn’t possibly be the truth, could it, “Jon s”?

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 11:48 am

        “And I give up. (on trying to elicit a serious answer from you.)”

        That’s right pal, when I slap you, you will sit there and take it. Make a virtue out of it if you want.

      • Shmuel on October 1, 2014, 12:03 pm

        Mooser, so I see that phrase has been used numerous times, mostly by anti-Israel writers like you. I don’t use it.

        Jon,

        The phrase “mowing the lawn” has been used by a number of Israeli officials and strategists to describe Israel’s operations in Gaza in recent years, most notably Eitan Shamir (former head of the National Security Doctrine Department at the Ministry of Strategic Affairs) and Ephraim Inbar, in their paper “Mowing the Grass: Israel’s Strategy for Protracted Intractable Conflict”, published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

        It is a revolting phrase and an even more revolting strategy, but it wasn’t made up by “anti-Israeli” writers. It is what Israel does and what its strategists call it.

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 12:42 pm

        “The phrase “mowing the lawn” has been used…./…. Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.”

        Thanks very much, Schmuel, I was beginning to think maybe I had made it up.

      • Mooser on October 3, 2014, 12:44 pm

        “And I give up. (on trying to elicit a serious answer from you.”

        Okay, “Jon s”, all of the above concerning the phrase “mowing the lawn” took place on Oct. 1st. It’s now Oct. 3. Lose your taste for this particular discussion, “Jon s”? Off to find new examples of “anti-Israeli” writing?

        At any rate, do you have a better understanding of why you don’t get “serious” answers?

      • annie on October 3, 2014, 1:03 pm

        mooser, i seriously doubt he will come back to this particular discussion. he quit when he was ahead drowning.

      • Mooser on October 3, 2014, 7:55 pm

        Annie, I waited two days, and checked back. He must be out doing yard work.

      • Mooser on October 6, 2014, 2:25 pm

        Must be a major landscaping project. Haven’t seen “Jon s” anywhere for days. I bet his yard is beautiful.

  13. shalom on September 26, 2014, 8:41 am

    I read the Rabbi’s article and Professor Ellis’s critique of it which I believe rings hollow. T’ruah is the American offspring of Rabbis for Human Rights and whether you’ve heard Rabbi Ascherman or any of his fellow RHR community they speak about facts on the ground, they work to change facts on the ground, they go to court and have been to jail to change facts on the ground in the West Bank and Israel and Gaza too. It may be to late for you to believe in two states and a peace agreement that offers freedom and security to Israelis and Palestinians alike. But millions of American Jews and people of all faiths can be led to hear two stories, learn two truths and respect two ancient peoples enough to open and recalibrate their hearts and minds and become active peacemakers on their own terms, or Rabbi Jacobs terms as they see fit.

    • Mooser on September 26, 2014, 2:11 pm

      ” learn two truths and respect two ancient peoples”

      What the hell does “ancient peoples” mean? And how on earth is about, what 60 years old “ancient”?

      Look, “shalom”, I’ve got a bunch of really cool inherited Judaica around the house (which I sell on e-bay) but I never thought it entitled me to steal a land, and oppress the inhabitants. I’ll have to raise my prices.
      Israel is about 60, Zionism is maybe what, 100 or so? That’s what you call “ancient”? Ridiculous.

      • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 11:48 am

        Wow, I better stop all this disparaging of Zionist revisionist Jewish history! I take it all back!
        See, I heard a rumor Israel is re-establishing the sicarii, and I haven’t got eyes in the back of my head.

    • jon s on October 5, 2014, 7:31 am

      Annie, Mooser,
      I’m sorry that I can’t continuosly inhabit Mondoweiss. Believe it or not, I happen to have a family, a job, other interests (including Yom Kippur)… You know, stuff that gets in the way of my MW time…

      Shmuel, thanks for the info on the “mowing the grass ” phrase which I, too regard as revolting. (I used the term “offensive”) . If you google the phrase you see that it’s primarily used by anti-Israel writers.

      • Shmuel on October 5, 2014, 7:58 am

        If you google the phrase you see that it’s primarily used by anti-Israel writers.

        It is so shocking, it’s no wonder that those who oppose Israel’s actions would pick it up (not invent it, but pick it up), and see it as an accurate description of Israel’s ongoing strategy (as defined by Israeli strategists). It goes without saying that those who support Israel’s actions generally prefer euphemisms like “Protective Edge” or “Summer Rains”.

        Try it in Hebrew: https://www.google.it/search?sourceid=chrome-psyapi2&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8&q=%D7%9C%D7%9B%D7%A1%D7%97%20%D7%90%D7%AA%20%D7%94%D7%93%D7%A9%D7%90%20%D7%A2%D7%96%D7%94

      • Mooser on October 6, 2014, 2:29 pm

        ” (I used the term “offensive”)”

        An “offensive” in which war? What the heck is so wrong with “disproportionate reprisal attacks on occupied territory”? It’s not as if the phrase doesn’t have a vaunted provenance!

        “Offensive”! Gosh, when I shout it, it sounds just like a Shofar!

      • Mooser on October 6, 2014, 2:33 pm

        “Believe it or not, I happen to have a family, a job,”

        Can it, “Jon s”. Even the most cursory statistical analysis of your comment archive time-stamps shows pretty much what your job is.

      • Mooser on October 6, 2014, 2:36 pm

        “If you google the phrase you see that it’s primarily used by anti-Israel writers.”

        Sure, like using “Ethnic Cleasing For a Better World” instead of saying “The Nazi Genocide of the Jews of Europe”. Stuff like that, “Jon s”. Primarily used by Pro-Israel writers.

  14. just on September 26, 2014, 10:56 am

    I have just finished reading for the 2nd time a truly amazing account by a young man, Steven Davidson

    “HEBRON, Palestine—I recall the sermons in my religious services growing up. During the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there were always calls for peace and prayers for Israel. A country symbolizing the triumphant conclusion to centuries of persecution, Israel was the home to my people—the Jews. And they had waited so long to return. It wasn’t until this summer in which I had the honor of doing so. Although I began my trip under the normal auspices of going on Birthright, my trip took me far from the comforts of Israel, into a land where few Jews go—Palestine.

    The situation I discovered while living in Hebron in the West Bank for more than two months was shocking. Living there during times of peace (relatively speaking), a kidnapping and ensuing operation and ultimately war, I witnessed all the stages of the occupation. I witnessed inhumane horrors at the hands of what I had been told for so long was a benevolent government. They were horrors I had not anticipated to be so blatant in their nature and so extensive in their practice. Yet, the comforting light at the end of my journey was to have the opportunity to meet the people there who—in spite of their traumatic lives—only showed me love and hospitality

    As Israeli journalist Gideon Levy once said, this is the only occupation in history in which the occupier thinks it is the victim.

    As a Jew, I am in no way going against my people. The Israeli government is not my people. It is a government that acts on its own and does good and bad things. For a government to claim any official religion does not shield it of critical thinking by those of that religion. The fact that these horrible acts have been done in my name distorts even further the truth of the matter. As a witness to the truth, what the Israeli government has committed in the West Bank is not out of security, and not out of self-defense. It is done out of an attempt to ethnically cleanse the region. It is done out of an attempt to pacify a people who have been denied their rights and land they have lived on for centuries. It is a system in which people are segregated and given separate identification based on ethnic background, subjected to differing laws, given unequal access to resources and infrastructure and have their rights taken away. I don’t say this from what anyone told me—I don’t say this from what media outlets reporting from Tel Aviv told me, or what my Birthright leader told me, or what everyone told me growing up. I say this with my own eyes as the source.”

    Read the entire article here: http://www.dukechronicle.com/articles/2014/09/24/american-jew-palestine

    It’s worth your time, imho.

    • Mooser on September 26, 2014, 11:39 am

      Amazing, isn’t, how as soon as we start talking about Israel, we turn into dreamy 12 yr. olds.
      Not a bit of cynicism. And, of course, Israel is sui generis.

      • seafoid on September 26, 2014, 5:20 pm

        Those Jewish texts will save Israel, Mooser. I just have to put them to the donors.

      • Mooser on September 26, 2014, 8:26 pm

        “Those Jewish texts will save Israel, Mooser. I just have to put them to the donors”

        Seafoid, you’ve got to make them listen (to the best of your ability, of course, can’t ask for miracles)!! So much depends on it. and I hope they listen to you, and the texts, too. Donors can be a tough audience.

    • Mooser on September 28, 2014, 12:57 pm

      “For a government to claim any official religion does not shield it of critical thinking by those of that religion.”

      Sure, Gideon, that’s why they claim to be “The Jewish State”! So they could open the subject up for debate.
      Or perhaps Mr. Levy can tell me of a theocracy which was interested in religious critiques?

    • jon s on October 7, 2014, 4:08 pm

      Mooser, Wow, are you serious? Did you really do a statistical analysis of my comment archive time-stamps? I’m not sure whether to take your attention as a compliment or feel like I’m being stalked. Anyway, I’d love to know what the analysis shows…

      • jon s on October 7, 2014, 4:19 pm

        Oh, and aside from my regular job, I have an additional project:
        I’m building a time machine.
        I’ve been compelled to start building it because of the removal of the “edit” function on this blog.
        Once it’s completed I’ll be able to skip back a few minutes to correct and edit comments, as we used to do .

      • Mooser on October 10, 2014, 1:14 pm

        “Anyway, I’d love to know what the analysis shows…”

        As if you don’t know. You’re the one who made the comments at those times.

      • Mooser on October 10, 2014, 1:17 pm

        “as we used to do.”

        “We”? Why, is the GOI paying you $136.00 a day to settle here?

  15. seafoid on September 26, 2014, 5:19 pm

    Rosh Hashanah . Next year will be full of the same bollocks from the bots

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.617847#

    “Senior officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said the Palestinian leader’s speech “was full of lies and incitement. This is not the way a man who wants peace speaks.”
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, too, claimed that the speech proves Abbas “doesn’t want to and cannot be a partner for a reasonable political settlement.”
    “Abu Mazen complements Hamas by perpetrating political terror and making false accusations against Israel,” Lieberman added, referring to Abbas. “As long as Abu Mazen chairs the Palestinian Authority he will perpetuate the conflict. Abu Mazen proves time and again that he isn’t a man of peace, but is Arafat’s successor in various ways.”
    Abbas used his address to announce that he is seeking a UN resolution that would set a deadline for Israel to pull out of Palestinian lands captured in the 1967 war.
    Likud Central Committee Chairman MK Danny Danon said that Abbas’ annoucement, like his 2013 speech, pursues “an instant solution that has no basis in reality.”
    He said that unilateral steps by the Palestinians would be met with unilateral steps by Israel.
    “Any unilateral declaration by Abu Mazen must be met with the instatement of sovereignty on Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria,” he threatened”

    • just on September 26, 2014, 5:30 pm

      There is nobody sane in the GoI. They are all extremists.

      And they have nukes and a US Government issued platinum card.

    • jon s on October 11, 2014, 12:32 pm

      Mooser,
      I comment here when I feel like it, when I have the time, when I think I have something to say. So, no, I don’t know what a statistical analysis of the time stamps would show, except for the fact that I generally don’t post comments in my sleep.

      When I wrote “we” I was referring to Mondoweiss commenters who miss the “edit” function.

      I’m being paid ?! to post comments on Mondoweiss?!! $136 a day?! Where did you come up with that?
      (On the other hand I suppose it would be nice…)
      Rest assured, Mooser, I’m exactly what my profile says, a humble teacher.

      • Mooser on October 31, 2014, 10:19 pm

        “$136 a day?! Where did you come up with that?”

        That Israel will pay settlers to move into illegal settlements? Must be some “anti-Israeli writer”.

      • Mooser on October 31, 2014, 10:21 pm

        And, ‘Jon s’, you know, much, much better than I do, why the “edit” function had to be removed.

  16. seafoid on September 26, 2014, 5:25 pm

    Israel is so depressing

    Here’s a decent song to lift the mood a bit

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COe5l-Kpp6U

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