Jacob Blumenthal

From anger to embrace

Response from Conservative Movement leaders: Our centrist, inclusive, and pluralistic message is needed now more than ever
Pro Israel Rally in Los Angeles, by the Israeli-American Council, 2014 Creative Commons

By Rabbis Jacob Blumenthal and Harold Kravitz

In the Talmud (Pesahim 66b), the great sage Shimon ben Lakish teaches, “When a sage becomes angry, their wisdom departs from them.” It’s a reminder that when we say things in anger, we often come to regret those statements. And also, in a time of grief and anger, one should be forgiving of statements when someone later comes to regret making them.

The Conservative-Masorti Movement unequivocally stands with Israel and fully supports its right to defend itself. And in this time of tremendous grief and pain for the Jewish people, with all our immediate responsibilities, we have had little time to process the individual and collective trauma of October 7. As we hold so much anger and pain, we should be very careful about what we say and how we say it. What we need most in this difficult moment is not to magnify our differences but to find ways, in all our diversity, to stand together in solidarity and to engage one another with derech eretz.

Our current task is overwhelming: To bring home hundreds of hostages. To fight resurgent and virulent global antisemitism in our neighborhoods, schools, and on our campuses. To rally the world in support of eliminating Hamas as a terrorist threat. To support families and friends of those called to fight, those injured, and those who have lost loved ones. And to do so while also preserving not just our lives but our Jewish souls.

Since October 7, the Conservative-Masorti movement in Israel and around the world has dedicated itself to these efforts. Our movement in Israel has organized daily prayer experiences in “Hostages Square” in Tel Aviv. Our rabbis are supporting communities throughout Israel.

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Hundreds of our rabbis and leaders from around the world have visited Israel to offer support and bear witness. We have mobilized many thousands of people in our network to attend the solidarity March in Washington, DC. We have partnered with JFNA, which has raised hundreds of millions of dollars. We have paired hostages and their families with our congregations and created opportunities for congregational leaders outside of Israel to connect with their Israeli counterparts. Our rabbis have also been working overtime to provide spiritual and practical support and care for our congregations and communities across the globe.

Am ehad – as a movement, we are standing shoulder to shoulder, hand in hand, with Israel and its people as one.

Recently, a colleague wrote a column in which he unfairly characterized and attacked the views of others in our movement. We heard in his article the pain that he is experiencing. But now is not the time to rehash old grudges nor fan flames of division.

In fact, now more than ever, we need to embrace the diversity of our people at every level, as we work together for our Jewish future.

And no Jewish religious movement is better equipped to embrace those differences and stand together than Conservative-Masorti Judaism.

In our evolutionary approach to Jewish tradition, we are a movement that understands that Judaism thrives in its diversity as it adapts to the needs of different places and eras. Like any living organism, we understand that adaptation is the key to survival, and no one can know in the moment which innovation will prove to be the key to future thriving.

Our movement has a long history of managing different viewpoints – whether they be about halakhah (Jewish law), Zionist ideology, political perspectives, or the nature of the Jewish State. We have a long history of supporting a strong, democratic, and pluralistic (in every sense) State of Israel.

And, as we grieve the murderous consequences of religious and political extremism, our world needs our movement’s centrist, inclusive, and pluralistic message more than ever.

It’s not easy to be a big tent, especially in a time where anger amplifies division and impinges on our ability to explore differences with love, respect, compassion, and derekh eretz. The more diverse the space, the bigger the challenge.

But the future of the Jewish people, and even the world at large, demands that we move past hatred, grudges, and anger, and choose life – thriving in the creative tensions that are the reality of God’s creation.

Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal serves as CEO of both the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ). Rabbi Harold Kravitz is President of the RA.

About the Author
Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal is the CEO of the Rabbinical Assembly and the CEO of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ). Previously he served for over 20 years as Founding Rabbi of Shaare Torah in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
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