Dear Rabbi Zinkow,
I read your comments in the recent New York Times article … “Netanyahu Tactics Anger Many U.S. Jews, Deepening a Divide”.
Whose side are you on?
This past week there has been an unprecedented campaign by the Obama administration to demonize both Bibi Netanyahu, and Israel. Even when Bibi apologized for remarks made during the last days of, and in the heat of a very difficult election, this administration has continued its insults, insinuations, and vitriol toward the Jewish state.
In my opinion, the main reason that this administration is doing this is to create a diversion from the real issue: the pending deal with Iran. I also believe that the Obama administration is doing this because it is being supported by left wing Jews who, if not overtly supporting this, are certainly turning a blind eye toward it. I also believe that our President’s actions certainly are a factor in the rising anti-Semitism witnessed around the world.
Our President’s passivity in the face of evil has emboldened our enemies. President Obama’s mistreatment of our longtime allies, and rapprochement to our dedicated enemies has created an environment where evil is on the rise. When the bad guys know that the link between the United States and Israel is tenuous, it certainly gives them the green light to act out.
Rabbi, I wrote this because you took such a public stance and intimated that our community supports your stance. I disagree. Last summer during the rally for Israel you suggested that if people want to get involved with Pro Israel organizations they could call Israel Bonds, Aipac and then you said …. J Street. You were roundly booed, some walked out, and many criticized you. Most in our community do not consider J Street to be Pro-Israel organization. It is nothing but a tool by the Obama administration to divide our community on partisan lines. Aipac is nonpartisan. J Street directly supports candidates, mostly, if not exclusively Democratic.
We all know the attitude that the New York Times has towards the Jewish State. We also know that The Times is a huge supporter and the go to paper for the President.
The headline speaks volumes, it attacks Netanyahu and it discusses the “divide’ in the Jewish community.
Here are the exact quotes from you in this article.
“Rabbi Mischa Zinkow at Temple Israel in Columbus, Ohio, said that one of his foremost concerns was ‘the lack of engagement of North American Jews with Israel’ — a trend that he sees expanding among younger Jews”.
Further, “‘the scare tactics that emerged in the 11th hour of the election appealed to very deep anxiety and fear,’ said Rabbi Zinkow, who leads a 145-year-old Reform congregation with a membership of about 550 households. ‘They deepen the distance and provide fodder for those who want to disengage. Those statements appealed to emotions that young American Jews just don’t have, and they sound racist.’
He was planning in his Friday night sermon to talk about the relationship between American Jews and Israel. ‘We’re family,’ he plans to say. ‘Families have disagreements and disappointments and betrayal’”.
Let me share my response to your comments, Rabbi.
I am a former congregant, and a long time Israeli activist I find your statements to be puzzling and frankly disturbing. Yes, families have disagreements but your comments are not helpful.
You give no context for the remarks made by Bibi Netanyahu. There was a campaign financed by the State Department and other left wing Jews against the reelection of Bibi Netanyahu. It was a vicious, divisive, negative campaign. If anything, the reports about the size of this effort by the Obama administration appear to be understated.
Aside from this being unethical and possibly illegal, isn’t it a bit disturbing to you that a sitting President directly and indirectly is financing, encouraging in essence, “regime change” of the democratically elected Israeli Government? Doesn’t that bother you even a little bit?
I don’t hear you or other reform Rabbis complaining about our President’s lack of candor regarding … most everything. I know that you can keep your insurance and your Doctor if you want to correct? You weren’t targeted by the IRS because you feel that you are on the “good” side unlike those pesky conservatives and tea partiers. I don’t want to write War and Peace here so I will stop, but I think you get the point.
I also don’t get your comment about Lack of engagement of North American Jews with Israel. The Aipac convention a few weeks ago had over 15,000 people including 3,000 college-aged kids (who paid their own way) in attendance – its largest ever. I hardly think that this is a lack of engagement. By contrast, the far left Obama supported J Street (many consider them to be anti-Israel) had 1,000 adults plus 1,000 students. Hardly a ringing endorsement, Rabbi. Most of the students in attendance were subsidized by J Street. J Street, of course, is subsidized by, among others, George Soros.
Now let’s talk about the trend among younger Jews. Our children are being indoctrinated on campuses all around the Country to hate Israel. If they support Israel, they are often attacked, sometimes physically by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine. They are also targeted by J Street, whom you support. J Street looks for young, impressionable Jews, and they indoctrinate them and purposely create divisions and distance between them and Israel. J Street has almost never put out a positive press release for Israel. They bombard our children with negative images and criticism directed at Israel.
Really now Rabbi, do you consider J Street to be a Pro-Israel organization when it lets speakers from the BDS boycott divestment and sanctions group to have a booth at their national convention ? Do you consider J Street to be Pro-Israel when they held a lecture at their convention on how to counteract birthright Israel? Birthright sends Jewish children to Israel to learn about their history.
Our children are not as attached to Israel precisely because those in the reform movement and the Jewish left have distanced themselves from Israel. People like Pete Beinart constantly criticize Israel, especially to college students, and then wonder why college students have “distanced “themselves from Israel. Our children have been indoctrinated on campus to believe that Jews are European colonialists who, because of the holocaust, descended on the Middle East and usurped land from indigenous peoples. Rabbi, perhaps you and those on the left should spend your time teaching our children that WE ARE THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, not colonialists. There have been Jews living in what is now Israel for millennia. It is truly a miracle that we were able to return to the land of our ancestors, and right the wrong committed against us 2,000 years ago by the Romans. Perhaps our children would understand better.
Yes, Rabbi, it is okay to criticize Israel; however, young people are not getting the context. They don’t live in a country (as of today) that is anti-Semitic. They didn’t live in the near post-holocaust era, or the immediate shadow of it. They constantly hear bad things, mostly from the left, clergy, and “friends” like Beinart. If the young are distancing themselves from Israel you ought to consider the possibility that you and those on the left have been contributors to this. Last summer, Pete Beinart actually strongly hinted that Prime Minister Netanyahu used the killing of three Jewish seminary students in Jerusalem as an excuse to start a war with Hamas in Gaza. He said that there was no proof that Hamas had anything to do with the murders. When the facts came out and it was shown that Hamas indeed was behind those murders, there was no apology from Beinart. Here is a recent quote from Mr. Beinart who was also quoted in the NYT article: “American Jews should publicly protest when Israeli officials, hostile to the two-state solution, come to the United States. And that the United States should propose a two-state solution – along the lines of the 2000 Clinton Parameters – and make it clear there will be consequences if Israel’s rejects it.” It is highly arrogant for someone here, living in the comfort of their United States home, to tell another country that if you don’t agree with us there will be consequences. It is that kind of behavior that causes impressionable younger people to distance themselves from Israel.
The most inflammatory remark by you is calling Netanyahu’s statements racist without context. Jeremy Byrd, who was Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, ran a campaign in Israel, the V15 or Victory 15. A big thrust of this campaign was the supposedly altruistic goal of a “get out the vote” for the Arab community. There was a tremendous effort to get Arabs to vote because Arabs vote for …. Arabs. They don’t vote Likud. That is the context for Bibi Netanyahu’s comments regards to bussing in Arabs to vote out the Likud. It was a true statement, and not a racist one. Netanyahu’s comments sound bad, especially when people like you leave out the context. The Prime Minister misspoke, it sounded bad, but you didn’t say that it was in the 11th hour literally the day of the election and had no material impact on it. To focus in on this and not on the vindictive campaign by our President towards the elected Prime Minister of Israel, and the pending deal with Iran that could enable them to have nuclear weapons, is ludicrous.
If anyone caused divisive, racist, politics in Israel it was President Obama and the State Department. Now Rabbi, we all know that President Obama would not do such a thing here in our country, now would he? Can we say Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown…? Al Sharpton?
Finally Rabbi, your last comments were, “Families have disagreements and disappointments and betrayal”.
Yes Rabbi, families have disagreements, families have disappointments – real ones, but somehow many of us who are active Israeli supporters feel betrayed by you.
Your former Congregant,