Every Rosh Chodesh, our synagogue daily minyan holds a service in solidarity with the Women of the Wall who fight for religious equality in Israel. On Monday, women who would ordinarily be harassed leading services at the Kotel did so freely from our bimah. Instead of sneaking a Torah scroll into the Women’s Section of the Kotel, our women proudly read from it. In place of jeers and whistles meant to interrupt prayer, our prayers were answered with a hearty “Amen.”
Fast forward to next month’s Rosh Chodesh: I won’t be at services at Etz Chaim, but I will be attending my first AIPAC policy conference in Washington DC. I look forward to learning about the extraordinary work that AIPAC does in educating our political leaders about the importance of the U.S. Israel Relationship. I also anticipate many fine discussions about how we can return to our communities and promote the continued importance of this relationship as vital to Israel’s security.
Yet I already know that I am going to leave Washington disappointed. Because what I know I will be unlikely to hear about is how the prolonged struggle for religious equality in Israel deeply harms that relationship, as well as Israel’s future security.
I can appreciate that AIPAC is not a “Jewish” gathering, and that for the sake of unity and consensus, there may be a need by the conference organizers to sidestep some hot button issues in the Jewish community.
However, if issues like religious equality in Israel continue to play out badly among American Jews, then AIPAC’s long-term Jewish constituency may over time no longer feel like it has a stake in Israel. The longer that the Prime Minister continues to fail to implement the Kotel agreement, the harder it also becomes for rabbis like me to convince my congregants to buy in to the important work that AIPAC is selling. And if AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel gathering in our country, isn’t the place to address this very real threat to Israel’s security, then where should it be?
This coming Rosh Chodesh, at AIPAC, I will celebrate what is successful about the U.S. Israel Relationship. But my heart will not entirely be at AIPAC. It will be in Marietta, Georgia, with the women of Etz Chaim. It will also be at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, where an unresolved struggle for religious equality continues to undermine much of the good will that AIPAC aspires to build.