Powerful and meaningful experience
In “Rabbis bring comfort to Israel” (June 24) Washington Jewish Week highlighted some of the core components of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s late-May Rabbinic Mission to Israel. I was honored to lead this esteemed group, among the first missions to Israel post-COVID-19 and on the heels of the recent violence — an opportunity none of us took lightly. We spent a whirlwind 57 hours on the ground, but the moments we shared will stay with us for far longer.
Though our Federation team is no stranger to bringing community members to Israel, this mission came together quicker than any we’ve done before. We knew it was crucial that we bring local clergy on this journey at this critical juncture.
Our spiritual leaders guide so many community members through challenging moments, as voices of reason, clarity and thoughtfulness. In this moment, with violence suddenly overshadowing the early stages of Israel’s pandemic recovery, we knew Federation must leverage our role as a community convener to help those leaders continue their vital work.
My early conversation with Rabbi Adam Raskin of Congregation Har Shalom helped solidify the idea, and our Federation team reached out to more than 40 local rabbis across the Washington region to see who might be able to say yes within a 36-hour window.
Understandably, many were unable to travel on such short notice due to work or family reasons. We were pleased, however, that Rabbi Aaron Alexander, Rabbi Nissan Antine, Maharat Ruth Friedman, Rabbi Greg Harris, Rabbi Michael Safra, Rabbi Hyim Shafner, Rabbi Shira Stutman and Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt were able to participate.
As Alexander shared during our post-mission webinar, “The time together as rabbis was a rare and moving moment. We were able to reflect, and the most meaningful moments were those when we were able to speak to one another about what we were experiencing.”
Indeed, I believe each of us returned home with a shared sense of understanding and commitment to strengthening communal ties, with one another and with Israel. I have no doubt the dedicated leaders who embarked on this journey will also seize future opportunities to reflect upon and share their unique experiences and insights.
Our team at The Jewish Federation is grateful to have facilitated this powerful and meaningful experience, and to have strengthened the sense of community between us in ways which will strengthen our Greater Washington Jewish community for the long term.
CEO, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
Wrongheaded attempts to separate the ‘antis’
I applaud Gil Troy’s article “When it comes to anti-Israel attacks, it is time to name the enemy” (Opinion, June 24). He is exactly right about the wrongheaded attempts of mainstream Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Theological Seminary, ADL and the Jewish federations to separate antisemitism from anti-Zionism and to attempt to equate antisemitic rhetoric and violence with other hate crimes in our society.
He is also right about the attempts of the leadership to turn a blind eye to antisemitism on the left, particularly that of the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party. The traditional support of American Jews for the Democrats has blinded the community to the new sources of antisemitism: Arab-American activists and segments of the Black community.
The leadership of mainstream Jewish organizations mentioned by name in the article focuses on antisemitism on the right, but has been derelict in its duty to call out antisemitism from left-wing quarters. These leaders prioritize their standing as liberals over their duty to protect the Jewish community. While traditionally moderate Democrats, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, have failed to call out the anti-Semites in their party, the Jewish organizations have failed to call out these Democrats. They have also failed to condemn the silence of historically marginalized groups whom the Jewish community has vigorously supported, often using community funds to aid these groups. The silence of these groups about the attacks on the Jewish community has been ignored by the Jewish leadership.
It is time for ADL, the federations and others to outline a vision and a strategy for how they will protect our community not only from antisemitism on the extreme right, but also the antisemitism of the fashionable left in the Democratic Party, the media and the halls of Congress. It is time that our organizational priorities and resources be used to ensure that our children and grandchildren have a future in America as proud Jews.
ELLEN F. HEYMAN
A Jew can take an antisemitic position
Allan Brownfeld approaches the question “Are Jews who oppose Zionism antisemitic?” (Letters, July 1) in ahistorical fashion with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer. First, it must be said that Zionism is no longer a 2,000-year-old dream. It is a modern-day success story — the 1948 reestablishment of a democratic Jewish state in the land of Israel. International recognition of the right to self-determination for the Jewish people goes as far back as the 1917 Balfour Declaration.
Second, Brownfeld is wrong in presuming that Zionists make “the state of Israel, rather than God, central to Judaism.” On the contrary, Zionism is an inseparable part of Judaism. They are both part of the historical mission of the Jewish people as explained by the Hebrew prophets: “God says to me, ‘It isn’t enough for you to be merely my servant. You must do more than lead back survivors from the tribes of Israel. I will also make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth’” [Isaiah 49:6]. “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of God from Jerusalem” [Isaiah 2:3].
Third, I find it hard to believe that many or most Reform Jews subscribe to the notion that Zionism is anathema to Judaism, as Brownfeld suggests.
That being said, any denunciation clearly intended to denigrate the inherent right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the land of Israel satisfies the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism. That working definition has been adopted by dozens of UN member states and a wide range of other political entities. The false narrative of anti-Zionism inevitably breeds widespread antisemitic hatred and violence whether that narrative is perpetuated by Jew or gentile.
MARC L. CAROFF