J Street and Peace Now are “Spies”

Torah Tidbits has done it again, unfortunately. Last week’s edition of the popular English booklet about the weekly Torah portion featured an article calling J Street and Peace Now “‘Spies’ of today.”

Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, the dean of students at the Diaspora Yeshiva, compared the two advocacy organizations to the Biblical spies who reported negatively about prospects in the Land of Israel.

“…they brought their report to Moshe, Aharon and the entire Israelite community (13:26).” They did this with the intention of demoralizing and weakening the Jewish people, like some of the “Spies” of today (Peace Now and J Street), wrote Rabbi Sprecher on  page 28 of Torah Tidbits.

I wouldn’t have minded if Rabbi Sprecher had written that he vehemently disagrees with the policies of J Street and Peace Now, or even if he stated that he thinks their views endanger Israel. But why does he have to question their motivation and claim they are intentionally demoralizing and weakening the Jewish people? That’s a pretty bold charge. Rabbi Sprecher provided no evidence to back up his claim of intentionality.

I don’t know much about the Disapora Yeshiva. I hope it teaches its students “Ahavat Yisrael” (love for one’s fellow Jews), rather than teaching that those who disagree with the positions of the Yeshiva do so because they have bad intentions and hate Israel. The Rabbi’s comments don’t seem to come from a place of “Ayin HaTova” (judging people with a “good eye”).

In another comment in last week’s issue (page 53), Rabbi Yaakov Homnick, from Ramat Eshkol, laments the fact that many Jews no longer feel “superior” to non-Jews.

…there was a time when every Jew and Jewess knew his or her worth. Regardless of their outward circumstances, every Jewish man or woman felt superior to their neighbors…Regardless of where they were, those were non-Jews (Goyim) and we were lucky enough to be Jewish.

I like Torah Tidbits, I honestly do. I flip through it nearly every Shabbat, and I usually learn a lot and often get inspired. But Rabbi Homnick’s comment highlights a big problem I have with the publication: occasionally some of the Rabbis and other writers seem to regard the other as “less than.” I have always liked the idea that human beings are called “ben adam” in Hebrew, to emphasize the fact that we all come from the same source, as well as the thought that Moshe was chosen by HaShem because he was humble (as opposed to feeling superior).

Because I enjoy Torah Tidbits and learn from it, I’ll continue to speak up when Arabs are stereotyped, when political opponents are accused of intentionally weakening Israel and when Jews are held up as superior humans simply for existing.

Coincidentally, last week’s edition of Torah Tidbits was its 22nd anniversary edition, and the publication requested donations from its loyal readers. It’s time for Torah Tidbits, which receives grants from The Jewish Agency for Israel and Israel’s Ministry of Education, to mature and stop publishing extremist statements that cause division. Maybe a more careful editing and article selection process is a good first step for the next 22 years…

About the Author
Eric Danis lives in Modi'in, Israel with his wife and three cute kids. Whenever possible, he tries to dispel misconceptions and stereotypes about Israel and Judaism.