Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tisha B’Av 5769

Eighteen years before the destruction of the Temple Jeremiah submitted via proxy his 4 chapter prophesy telling of the coming destruction of the Kingdom (from his prison cell), to King Yehoyakim who then burned it because of its apparent seditious nature. Jeremiah rewrote it, the second time with an additional chapter (chapter 3) and came to be known as “Eicah” which we read every Tisha B’Av. I mention this because this Tisha B’Av is the first in which President Obama is the President of the United States. Last year at this time there were many who weren’t convinced that Obama was a friend of Israel. Indeed, there were many who intuited that based upon his thin record he wouldn’t be good for Israel.

It is still unclear how the peace process will unfold in the years ahead. What is however, abundantly clear is that the liberal component within the Jewish community has the ear of the president. What has me worried this year is not only the direction of the peace process but also the rapidly changing complexion of the Jewish communal infrastructure in America. It appears that the leadership of this amorphous community has defaulted to its liberal faction.

It appears that for the current administration AIPAC has nearly been replaced by J Street (in regard to its influence with President Obama) which is something quite worrisome when considering the quality and commitment of those running the organization. For the most part they are exponents of the New Israel Fund and come from the extreme left on the Jewish political spectrum. One of their spokesperson recently wrote that “they are more committed to making Judaism personally meaningful than to simply pursuing Jewish continuity”. That’s ok as a “hipster” who has little or no contextual understanding of Jewish history and its values. It becomes unacceptable and even dangerous when they make the leap from religious values to nation building; when they abandon Jewish cultural values and Zionism by embracing Obama’s values who “leads an interconnected world” and “is a symbol of a new era of racial relations”.

The New Israel Fund desires an Israel where the Palestinian narrative is equal to that of the Jewish one. As a matter of fact the New Israel Fund supports Palestinian causes that are intent on the destruction of Israel as an inherently Jewish state. The New Israel Fund recently came under fire for funding I'lam, an Arab NGO that calls for the end of Israel as a Jewish state and whose founder, Hanin Zoabi, stated that she supports Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons to be used as a counterbalance to Israel. Yet, the exponents of the New Israel Fund, now morphed into a political PAC called J Street have the ear of President Obama. Scarry.

As if this wasn’t enough of a problem recently a group of thirteen “rabbis” launched an initiative called “Ta’anit Tzedek – Jewish Fast for Gaza”. They have plans on holding a mass “water only” fast on the third Thursday of every month lasting from sunrise to sunset. According to their spokesperson “they seek to end the Jewish community’s silence over what they call Israel’s collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza”. As far as I know, Jewish fasts were called only when there was a serious calamity or devastating threat to the Jewish community. What is the connection between fasting and the Palestinians in Gaza? Where were these yefeh nefesh (gentle souls) when Sderot was being rocketed for eight years? Why weren’t they holding a fast during those bloody years when innocent civilian Israelis were intentionally targeted by their Palestinian brothers?

Lastly, Pope Benedict XVI issued a papal encyclical entitled “Charity in Truth” in which he declares that all people have a fundamental human right to food, clean water and a job. He continues that “the current inequality is a cultural and moral crisis for man” demanding distributive justice through a redistribution of wealth. Good for the pope. Normally I wouldn’t have given this any attention. However, JJ Goldberg, editorial director of the Forward writes an op-ed piece in which he not only praises the encyclical but comments that “reading the encyclical is a reminder that we are quickly losing a big part of our tradition” (Forward, What We Can learn From Pope Benedict, July 24, 2009). Really? What tradition is he referring to? Is he referring to Rabbi Jill Jacobs’s book “There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law and Tradition”, to which reference was made earlier in the article? Apart from her hardly being an authority, Rabbinic Judaism wisely anticipated this possibility and decisively dismissed the idea of redistribution of wealth by issuing the famous “prozbol”.

What is fascinating to me is the liberal tendency to whip out and quote from the prophets whenever it suits their needs and interests. To quote from Noam Neusner “ justifying modern positions with a few sound bites from ancient text is one of the oldest tricks in the book…borrowing a few phrases from the prophets is a surefire way to connect the faithful to an issue they would not otherwise understand and give to it the poetry lacking in floor speeches on C-span”. For those like me I regard the prophets as a bit sketchy. However to those liberals who base so much of their philosophy and ideology on the prophets I would seriously encourage them to study the Book of Lamentations and give it the same weight that they do to “The Audacity of Hope”!