J.J Gross

Don’t America’s liberal rabbis have better things to do than snipe at Israel?

Why smearing Democrats as “Anti-Israel” wont sway voters

The above headline appears in the February 4th issue of Forward, although I will not be reading the pearls of wisdom written by its author Aaron Davis a former Obama flunky now re-tooled as one of the Soros puppets at J Street.  Mr. Davis’s credentials put him in lockstep with the folks at Forward, and explain why I will not get to read the actual column. I refuse to spend a red cent in support of that publication. And red is precisely what that cent would be if forked over to that fiscally floundering bastion of red-diaper nostalgia.

Yet in truth, the very premise of the headline is absurd.  Because today’s liberal American Jews would not abandon the increasingly Bernie Sanders-ian Democratic party simply because it is anti-Israel. If anything they would redouble their fealty to that party for that very reason.

Of late much crocodile tears and ink have been spilled over the widening rupture between liberal American Jews and Israel. Professional American Jewish aparatchiks claim to be distraught by the nearly total alienation between Israelis and American Jews of the non-Orthodox variety. And they blame, of course, Israel.  Israel does not do enough to ensure religious pluralism … Israel does not recognize liberal conversions … Israel will not let men and women dance together at the Western Wall … As if this were not bad enough, Israel is not doing enough to make peace with the Palestinians … Israel could be doing more to help Gaza … Israel should not be building homes on occupied Arab land … Israel should not have allowed the US to move its embassy to Jerusalem.

The litany of accusations against Israel is endless, and increasingly shrill. Perhaps the problem is that liberal American Jews – or at least the organizations that purport to represent them – are in such deep shiva over Israel that all their mirrors are covered, thereby preventing them from catching a glimpse of themselves.

These Jewish critics of Israel argue that the Jewish State is courting America’s Evangelical Christians while ignoring its liberal Jews. Yet some adjectives need to be injected here. Israel is courting America’s growing population of 35 million Evangelical Christians while ignoring its dwindling population of 2 million liberal Jews. And two other qualifiers need to be inserted. Because this growing population of Evangelical Christians is, for the most part, deeply and unconditionally supportive of Israel. While whatever residual love for Israel exists among the rapidly evaporating cohort of liberal Jews is conditional at best.

That Israel has problems with its rigid, haredi-dominated rabbinate is a fact. Yet this has little to do with any general disconnect with liberal branches of Judaism. Surely if there were several hundred thousand Reform Jews living in Israel the religious landscape would look very different. Yet the fact is the number of Reform and Conservative affiliated Jews in Israel is microscopic, while the number of such Jews making aliyah hovers at zero. Indeed even the number of liberal American Jews coming as tourists is negligible. Surely even Rick Jacobs, the ex-dancer turned chief American Reform rabbi, knows this, as do his colleagues in what remains of the Conservative movement and their unlikely amen chorus at the ultra left-wing Forward. Indeed, if Israel were to allocate half the Western Wall for liberal services no one would come.

Israel is like any successful enterprise. If you want a say, you have to have blood in the game.  It is not Israel’s job to pander to increasingly moribund overseas movements that demand a seat at the table without having any stake in its well-being or future. Simply saying that Israel needs American Jewry does not make it so. If anything American Jewry is increasingly a liability to Israel rather than an asset as it uses its remaining resources, and diminishing credibility to launch barbs against it.

The question is why?  Why has it come to the point where the only things that seems to emanate from the press release factories known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism are pot shots against Israel? One might think that organizations whose constituents are marrying out in numbers that rival the Bubonic Plague, whose congregational pews are rife with spider webs, whose temples are shrinking, consolidating and disappearing in record numbers would have better things to do than blame Israel for insufficient hospitality to LGBT prayer services at the Kotel.

That Israel has problems is certainly true. What successful, dynamic, growing, cutting-edge society doesn’t? That Israel’s rabbinate is nothing to be proud of is evident to anyone with half a brain. That Israel’s ultra-orthodox sector must stop being a convenient coalition partner is something all of us here are aware of. And eventually something will be done.

Yet none of this is, or should be, the concern of Rabbi Jacobs and his colleagues.  Until he and his children, if he has any, are serving on the front lines of Israeli security it takes genuine chutzpah on his part to criticize Israel for doing what it feels it must do – which is a hell of a lot less than any other civilized country would do – to thwart the murderous efforts of radicalized Islamic mobs.

So the question is, in whose name are these liberal rabbis who worship at the altar of the DNC actually speaking? When virtually the entire Reform and Conservative Jewish laity are scrambling for the exit doors of their synagogues, would it not behoove these rabbinic luminaries to concern themselves with finding ways to stanch the spiritual hemorrhage flooding the aisles of their sanctuaries?  Can they honestly say with a straight face that their relentless anti-Israel press releases reflect the feelings and views of their congregants, when surely most of their flock are more concerned with the quality of their shrimp cocktail appetizers than they are about anything, ANYTHING, connected to the Jewish State?

One can, and should feel sorry for liberal American rabbis. There is virtually no future for them and very little present. Unless, of course, they chose the pulpit not so much for the benefit of their phantom congregations as they did in order to acquire an instant credibility for grinding axes of their own for gay rights, transgender rights, abortion rights, keeping religion out of the public sphere, and any of the other myriad progressive ideas masquerading as ‘teekoon olahm’ that fuel the fury of the Bernie Sanders cohort.

As for Israel, it is the only element in their arsenal of activity that has even the remotest Jewish connection.  By blasting Israel they not only justify their titles as rabbis, they also champion the most extreme impulses of the progressive wing of the Democratic party while helping accelerate the speed at which their own constituents lose any vestigial connectivity to the Jewish People.  Hurting Israel is, bizarre as this may sound, the manifestation of their Jewish bona fides. Shedding crocodile tears about Israel’s benighted politics, and crashing the gates at the Kotel arm in arm with Israel’s #1 publicity hound and provocateur, Anat Hoffman, who seems  always have a tallit and Torah scroll handy to flash when the TV cameras are rolling, shows the world that liberal Jewish rabbis really care. The only question is what exactly is it they care about?

About the Author
J.J Gross is a veteran creative director and copywriter, who made aliyah in 2007 from New York. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and a lifelong student of Bible and Talmud. He is also the son of Holocaust survivors from Hungary and Slovakia.
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