To Be or Not To Be

An article in the Chicago Tribune on September 19th had the headline: “Rabbi establishes non-Zionist congregation in U.S.”

Not an event of earth-shattering proportions, but one that deserves a second glance, especially during the Yom Kippur / Days of Awe season. Not agreeing with the political policies of the current Israeli administration is a legitimate position for anyone, including Jewish Congregations abroad, to hold – whether you agree with them or not. Not wishing to connect the religious identity of a congregation with the idea of the establishment of the State of Israel is a border-line position that invites comparison with the Anti-Zionist position of extreme Jewish sects like Neurei Karta – who deny the existence of the State and support the Iranian Ayatollahs.

Not wanting to support the very existence, nay need for the State of Israel is an untenable position, and the line dividing this Chicago congregation’s position and one of denying support for the very existence of the State of Israel is a very fine line – so thin and fragile as to be almost non-existent.

Rabbi Brant Rosen “… and his congregants insist Zionism and Judaism don’t go hand in hand.” Here is the start of the slippery slope – assuming that Zionism and Israeli politics do go hand in hand. This is so existentially wrong as to make one wonder about Rosen’s education and upbringing. The State of Israel is the ultimate success of the Zionist idea – not the Zionists’ ideal. Zionism is not the support of the Israeli government, it is the belief in the very existence of Israel as the national home of the Jewish People.

There is no conflict between supporting the Zionist idea of a Jewish Homeland and disagreeing with the current (or any other) Israeli government. Taking a non-Zionist position as an organization brings you too close for comfort to the Anti-Zionist position of the holocaust deniers and would-be destroyers of the State. It is easy to take such a position from the comfort of your Chicago pulpit, but much less so if you are living in the Western Negev, within spitting distance of rockets from Gaza. Being supportive of Palestinian rights – both human and political – does not negate the need for supporting the existence of the State of Israel. Denying this is both wrong, and extremely dangerous.

Non-support for the continued existence of Israel raises many questions. Where was Rabbi Rosen when the Holocaust was being taught (I imagine he wasn’t born yet when it was happening)? What does he think would have happened over the past 60+ years to Jewish communities in the former Soviet Union, or in Arab/Muslim countries from Morocco in the west to Pakistan in the east? How many communities (or for that matter, how many Jews) would have survived? Does he really believe that the few Polish Jews that somehow managed to survive the holocaust would have prospered and thrived in the rubble of post-WWII Warsaw or Cracow? Would the famed and illustrious Jewish community of Baghdad be still a ‘light unto the nations” or would the survivors be living in abject poverty and at the mercy of the likes of Saddam Hussein?

Watch Out Rabbi Rosen – that slippery slope is very, very slippery, and at the bottom is a viper’s nest.

About the Author
Richard Steinitz is the published author of THREE novels - The Voyage of the Stingray, Murder Over the Border, and Kaplan's Quest, as well as a free-lance provider of of ​English language ​services: ​​Hebrew-to-English translation, ​proofreading, copy-editing, content-writing, basic graphics and image manipulation, ​and more. He worked for an international educational publisher for almost 20 years as their local representative, until his retirement at the end of 2015. Born in New York City, Richard came to Israel on a visit in July 1967, and returned a year later to see what life here is like. He's still here. Richard is married to Naomi, father of Yael and Oren, and grandfather of two.
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