Matt Futterman

A Question for Friends Who, Like Me, Believe That Black Lives Matter

What do you pray for?

My soul is suffering. I walk around angry snapping at every colleague, friend or stranger who writes that they are praying for peace.

I haven’t been able to pray for peace in over a week.

I read about the very smartest in America – the heads of Harvard, Yale and students at campuses across the country accusing Israel of lacking a moral compass.

And I want to scream.

I also find myself snapping at people declaring in Hebrew, “Am Yisrael Hai! The people of Israel Lives!” It seems hollow and even insensitive while there are so many missing and so many unburied dead.  Last week we were slaughtered in numbers that we have not known since the Holocaust. At least 1300 were butchered by Hamas on a day designated by our religious calendar for rejoicing.

I am broken. I need to heal. I am trying to pray. But I cannot pray for peace. So I ask those who have rallied to the call that Black Lives Matter – what do you pray for? How do you wake up in the morning and not scream from rage?

I need your help. 

I recently served as a congregational rabbi in New York and believed that I had a responsibility to educate my community that Black lives matter. On Rosh Hashana (the Jewish new year) of 2016, I invited two of the Black ministers with whom I had begun to partner to hear my sermon about why Jewish teachings demanded of us to internalize the message that Black lives matter.

The president of that congregation raked me over the coals for that and guaranteed that my contract would not be renewed. He kept his word. I had no regrets.

So what do you pray for?

I am mostly praying for the families of those who were slaughtered by murderous killers (not militant fighters, not human beings who worry about feeding their hungry neighbors). You have seen the photos we have yet to see in Israel of decapitated babies. So you should understand why my soul is in pain. Why I am broken.

I need your guidance. 

I shared this with a friend who said he prays that Americans who dismiss Black Lives Matter as so much leftist anti-American propaganda will come to understand the true narrative behind their efforts. That Black Americans are always on guard, never knowing when other Americans, police in particular, will target a loved one for a vicious beating or execution.

I thought about that and realized that I too want people who have seen the graphic photos of our murdered loved ones to understand that they have been misled by false narratives.

Watching news reports of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the US and elsewhere, I see signs of support for the “resistance” and hear people lament the uncalled-for attack against innocent Palestinians – including Hamas (who pretend that their mission is to feed the hungry and care for the elderly and infirm). They see the bloodthirsty Hamas monsters who carried out last week’s well-planned invasion and slaughter not as well-trained soldiers but as simple “militants“ who were simply defending themselves against our vicious infants. (Surely the time has come for the press and the media to stop giving them a pass by pretending that they are poorly armed fighters overwhelmed by the big bad Israeli military machine.)

For decades we have tried to expose the truth about Hamas and the “resistance”. Clearly, we failed but now Hamas has succeeded where we failed.

Now the world knows the truth. That must be why AOC and other supporters of the false narrative have begun to condemn the lies being spread in defense of the inhuman murders carried out by Hamas. Perhaps she realizes that every Palestinian child who is killed by Israel’s retaliatory actions would still be alive if the residents of Gaza had not looked the other way while Hamas was planning large-scale executions of Israeli civilians.

As for innocent Palestinians – Israel removed her forces from Gaza nearly two decades ago hoping that we would become partners in building a better world. But the population which us continually been used and abused as human shields by the beneficent Hamas (my son liberated such Palestinians while serving in the Israeli army) has yet to overthrow this most evil regime so there is little Israel can do. And Israel does not deserve the blame heaped on her for the conditions under which Gazans live.

Those concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza should demand the unconditional and immediate surrender of the Hamas army.

Our priority in Israel must be the welfare of our citizens. It should be the welfare of all human beings but as my aching soul has realized we cannot worry about people who would enable the torture and butchering of my children and grandchildren.

So this week and for the foreseeable future I won’t be praying for peace as I have always done. I will keep praying for the families of the 1300 slaughtered Jews who did not deserve their fate. And I will pray for our soldiers that they return safely to their families after protecting us from the greatest evil the world has known since the end of the Third Reich.

And some day I know I will again pray for peace.

In the meantime, I hope you will help the misinformed to learn and internalize our narrative and share it with others now that you know the truth about the “resistance”. 

And I hope you will pray for me and all the other broken souls and damaged Israelis once you understand the actual narrative by which we are forced to live.

About the Author
Matt Futterman has retired as a full time sabba to Ashkelon (the target for thousands of Hamas launched missiles) where he was rabbi of the Masorti (Conservative) congregation Kehillat Netzach Israel for nearly two decades. During that time he also served two terms as chair of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel, was Dean of Students at Achva College and taught at the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies.