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Dear Jews, don’t write that 2nd paragraph

Now is a time for Jews to condemn the slaughter of innocent Israeli civilians, no ifs, ands or buts

Dear Jews:

Please don’t write that second paragraph. Not today. Yes, you know exactly the one I am talking about. The one that, after condemning the heinous violence against innocent Israeli civilians, starts with “at the same time, it’s important to see the violence that is happening in its broader context…” The one in which the words “Bibi” “failed” “policy” “West Bank” “Settlers” or “Occupation” will inevitably appear.

It’s not that I think that paragraph should never be written — I do. And when we do have that conversation, my guess is that we will agree about way more than we disagree. I have no doubt that we can, and will, have all sorts of rich and powerful exchanges about how we, as a people and Israel as a nation, got to this dark and hellish place. And, God willing, we will then call out those who need to be called out (including ourselves), we will advocate for the changes we deeply believe are necessary to save our people, changes that we believe will bring peace and dignity for all people. We will speak truth to power, bluntly and with fierce and undiminished love. We will never let anyone seduce us into cynicism; we’ll not be silenced with labels of “naive”. We will not wallow in the easy, genteel racism of the privileged and safe.

But I don’t want to have that conversation right now, in this moment, in these days. I can’t have that conversation while I am watching human beings attacked with a meat cleaver/stabbed/run over/shot in the streets. I don’t want to have that conversation when 13 year olds are stabbing other 13 year olds.

Why can’t I have that conversation now? Well, for one thing, I can’t hear you. I am deafened — and heartbroken — by the silence of the rest of the world. I am paralyzed and infuriated by the callous indifference /silence / moral inversion of those leaders of the ‘caring world’, leaders of those institutions –Jewish and non-Jewish–that understand themselves as defenders of the vulnerable, as agents for social justice who think that thing to talk about while someone is being stabbed is what they may have done to alienate or provoke the one stabbing them.

I promise you that my commitment to talk meaningfully and honestly about what happened and what went so horribly wrong is real, that I am not disingenuously postponing a conversation I never really wanted to have. And I know the conversation needs to resume quickly.

But for the sake of God and human decency, can we talk about it when the murder stops?

Love (and I mean that),


About the Author
Rabbi E. Noach Shapiro, LCSW served as spiritual leader for congregations in Atlanta, GA and Montclair, NJ for more than a decade. Noach is currently a rabbi-psychotherapist in private practice in Montclair, NJ.
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