A Response to the Parent of a JVP child

A Reform Rabbi wrote in response to my criticism of JVP the following:

“Two of my adult children are active members of JVP. Many other rabbis’ kids are involved as members, as leaders, as recruiters.

Instead of a knee-jerk rejection and condemnation of JVP, we should be doing some cheshbon hanefesh and some respectful listening to these young people (most in 20-30-40’s) who cherish Jewish values and who were brought up in Jewish homes, schools, camps, and trips to Israel. They were not brainwashed by the PLO, but have struggled with their sense of outrage at human rights violations by Jews. We brought them up on chesed and mishpat and tzedek and pidyon sh’vuim, etc.”

My response:

The key issues for me in supporting a Jewish organization is whether it criticizes Israel from love or not, whether it supports the right of the Jewish people to a state of our own, and whether it affirms the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel alongside a future State of Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a self-described  anti-Zionist and anti-Israel organization.

It is certainly easier to avoid judging a group such as JVP if one’s children are part of it. A relevant question for the parents of JVP children is whether they have chosen not to judge JVP, even though it is openly anti-Israel and anti-Zionist, because their kids are involved?

Other relevant questions include: are all positions vis a vis Israel a matter of opinion and therefore equally worthy? Is morality relative? Are there no moral lines to be drawn when talking about and/or criticizing Israel? Ought we to prioritize organizations based on their positions vis a vis Zionism and Israel and then evaluate them according to those standards? Does it matter if there is a pro-Israel tent? Is every position vis a vis Israel as good as every other position?

For me, as a progressive Reform Zionist and a J Street Rabbi, as I noted in my Times of Israel Blog (January 20, 2019), JVP is anti-Israel and anti-Zionist by its own admission, and because it does not affirm that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state, JVP puts itself beyond the limits of the pro-Israel tent. In my view that makes JVP a moral problem for pro-Zionist and pro-Israel Jews even if our kids are part of it.

Ifnotnow, another left-wing American Jewish organization, is within the pro-Israel tent because it recognizes the right of the Jewish people to a state of our own, however critical of that state Ifnotnow is. Though Ifnotnow is too left-wing for me, perhaps parents of JVP children ought to be guided to Ifnotnow and/or J Street.​

About the Author
A native of Los Angeles, Rabbi John L. Rosove assumed the position of Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood in 1988 and will become Emeritus Rabbi in July, 2019. Before coming to Temple Israel he served large congregations in San Francisco (1979-86) and Washington, D.C. (1986-88). He is the immediate past National Chair of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) and served on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), the Vaad HaPoel of the World Zionist Organization, and the Executive Committee of ARZENU (the International Reform Zionist movement). He is a national co-Chair of the Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet of J Street. John is the author of "Why Judaism Matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to his Children and the Millennial Generation with an Afterword by Daniel and David Rosove" (Nashville: Jewish Lights, 2017) and his forth-coming book "Why Israel and its Future Matter - Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to his Children and the Millennial Generation" (Ben Yehuda Press, New Jersey. Spring 2020). John is married to Barbara and is the father of two sons and the grandfather of one.
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