Not a Jew with Trembling Knees

Dear President Biden,

I write to you today as a Jew and an American with a deep sense of betrayal and dismay following your recent announcement regarding the withholding of military aid to Israel. This decision, as you articulated, hinges on the actions Israel might take in its self-defense, specifically concerning Rafah. While I understand your concerns about civilian casualties, I must express my profound disappointment that you would consider such a step at a time when Israel faces unprecedented threats on multiple fronts.

Adding insult to injury, you found the time to threaten Israel and call them out but didn’t mention the American hostages brutally taken and still held by Hamas. This omission is particularly painful for all who stand against terrorism and violence.

It is crucial to remember your long-standing support for Israel, which has fortified this alliance over the decades. However, your recent statements have left many in the Jewish community feeling abandoned, as if the political calculations for domestic gain are being prioritized over the existential threats faced by a steadfast ally.

Golda Meir once said, “If we have to have a choice between being dead and pitied, and being alive with a bad image, we’d rather be alive and have the bad image.” We will continue to defend our right to exist, our right to defend our citizens, and our right to seek peace within our borders without the specter of terrorism.

The Jewish people, unfortunately throughout history, are used to standing alone.

Historically, threats to withdraw support from Israel have not swayed the resolve of its leaders or its people.

In the news coverage of your recent interview, many have said that you are now threatening aid to Israel for the first time.

We know this is not true.

As you recall, in 1982, when you were a Senator, you confronted Prime Minister Menachem Begin with a similar threat, to which he famously responded, “Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.” His words are still the best response to your threats today as they were in the past. These words continue to resonate as we, too, stand firm in our convictions, unwilling to be intimidated or swayed by threats. As Prime Minister Netanyahu recently echoed, Israel is prepared to “fight with our fingernails” if necessary.

The justification you provided, citing civilian casualties in Gaza, demands scrutiny. It is well-documented that the civilian casualty rate in Gaza, (even if we consider the numbers provided by the Gaza heath ministry run by a terrorist organization) while being tragic and horrific, is among the lowest in the history modern warfare. Certainly lower than any of America’s recent wars. A fact that mainstream media seems to conveniently leave out or bury their heads to.

And these numbers are such even in an urban war zone as Hamas embeds itself in schools, mosques and hospitals using civilians as shields. Acknowledging this would paint a more accurate picture of the complex battlefield dynamics and counter the damaging and biased narratives that serve only to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend itself.

In the spirit of truth and justice, I urge you to reconsider your stance and reflect on the broader implications of your policy decisions.

Thank you for your attention to these critical matters. I hope that moving forward, your policies will reflect the historical friendship and strategic partnership that has long benefited both our nations.


Rabbi Menachem Lehrfield

About the Author
Rabbi Menachem Lehrfield lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife, Sarah, and their five energetic children. He serves as the Director of the Jewish Outreach Initiative (JOI), a transformative program reshaping the Jewish landscape in Denver. JOI is dedicated to providing authentic Jewish experiences and learning opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds in a meaningful and engaging way. Additionally, Rabbi Lehrfield is the Co-director of SITE (the School of Integrative Torah Education), a Hebrew school alternative where Judaism is brought to life in a fun, camp-like atmosphere. He hosts the "Zero Percent” and "Dear Rabbi”podcasts and cohosts the "reConnect" podcast, further broadening his influence and connection with a global audience. Known for his warmth and genuine love for every Jew, Rabbi Lehrfield's approachable demeanor enables him to connect with people across all age groups and backgrounds. As a dynamic and engaging educator, he employs analogies and humor to make complex, profound ideas accessible and relatable to all, from novices to experts. Rabbi Lehrfield earned his M.Ed from Loyola University in Chicago and received two rabbinic ordinations; one from Yeshivas Beis Yisroel in Jerusalem, and another from Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, the Chief Justice of the Jerusalem High Court. Beyond his professional pursuits, Rabbi Lehrfield is passionate about photography, baking, rock climbing, and snowboarding. These diverse interests allow him to engage with a broad spectrum of individuals and communities, furthering his mission to make Judaism relevant and meaningful for all Jews. You can follow Rabbi Lehrfield's activities and insights at @JOIdenver on Instagram and Facebook.
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