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September 25, 2006

The Problem With Judaism

I'd mostly associate myself with Matt's discomfort over the explicit zionism (and hawkishness) projected from rabbinical pulpits these days. The last time I entered Bat Yahm, the synagogue I grew up in, was for a reunion of my confirmation class. Seemed innocent enough. But the point wasn't the pretzels, or the juice, or the connections, but an extended lecture on the Jenin Incursion, the lies of the American media, and the obvious fact that the Jews would be "perfectly in their rights to deport the entire Palestinian population" and proved their moral superiority daily by not doing so. After shouting back for awhile, I eventually stood up, turned heel, and strode out. It was the last time I set foot in that temple.

The "partisanization" of Judaism, however, doesn't strike me as a particularly unique phenomenon. I assume the complaints of Matt and myself are fairly close echoes of those voiced by liberal Christians whose congregations have become wings of the Republican Party. The difference, as my girlfriend pointed out, is that the average few miles in DC, or Kansas, or California, will contain a multitude of churches, while the religious "market" supports fewer Jewish options. So there isn't an obvious place for many Jews -- myself included -- to turn.

September 25, 2006 in Religion | Permalink


Isn't part of it that there isn't a well-thought out position vis-a-vis Israel for American Jews that's short of full-throated support? I'm fully on board with the belief that the last five or six years have been an extended attempt by the Israeli government to extinguish the belief that being Jewish means being smart, but, also, Israel is in a really tough and weird spot. How one navigates support for the country on anything but a case-by-case basis is not clear to me. But that means investing a fair bit of energy into following a country in which one doesn't live.

Not sure that made sense; more sure that I'm not going to try to fix it.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Sep 25, 2006 1:21:21 PM

"So there isn't an obvious place for many Jews -- myself included -- to turn."

How 'bout turning away from religion, which is largely resonsible for the Middle East mess?

But for people committed to religion, a good undertaking for someone would be to form a synagogue that truly advocates peace, which is incompatible with zionism and occupation.

I think the first "would" should be who in this sentence:

"...Jews would would be "perfectly in their rights to deport the entire Palestinian population."

Posted by: david mizner | Sep 25, 2006 1:24:28 PM

I'm not Jewish but my wife is. So I can't speak to the history of temple services. What I can say is that we recently attended service for my wife's cousin's Bat Mitzvah and the rabbi spoke at length in the service about how gracious Israel was to the Palestinians. He made it seem Israel was the most benevolent country and tried everything to avoid hurting people but they were left with no choice. Israel was essentially blameless and perfect.

I found the whole speech odd and disconcerting, especially since it was full of falsehoods and half-truths.

Posted by: gonzoknife | Sep 25, 2006 1:25:43 PM

"Isn't part of it that there isn't a well-thought out position vis-a-vis Israel for American Jews that's short of full-throated support?"


There's a perfectly well-thought out position, based on common sense, a position that's the same for Jews as for non-Jews, and the leading non-Arab advocates for saner Israeli policies are Isreli Jews, who see up close what's happening to their country.

And one shouldn't equate a pro-Palestinian position with a lack of support for Israel. To be pro-Palestinian IS to be pro-Israel, because the current policies are both endangering Israel and corroding its moral core.

Posted by: david mizner | Sep 25, 2006 1:31:49 PM

You made perfect sense Tim. Due to the actions of both sides, it is morally impossible to fully and unquestionably support either side.

Posted by: Adrock | Sep 25, 2006 1:32:09 PM

Yeah, I was at a Catholic Church where the priest took about 5 minutes of the mass to talk about a soldier he'd met who told him of all the wonderful things he was doing in Iraq for the people there and how we shouldn't listen to the media because they were giving an inaccurate picture of how things were going over there. We really were painting schools and bringing water to the people, the rest of it was just the media demonizing the administration and the mission in Iraq. During mass. I don't remember "political speech time" being part of the liturgy.

Posted by: spike | Sep 25, 2006 1:34:45 PM

Dude, I don't know about the OC or DC, but you need to come out to the san fernando valley, there's as many temples as McDonalds.

Pick your Jewish flava!

Posted by: Tony | Sep 25, 2006 1:39:09 PM

I am thankfull that I belong to a church that leaves it's politics at the doors. We have a spectrum of thought from further to the left than myself to the hard right - just shy of absolute wingnuttery. Yet we all get along quite well - there is a lot of love in my church, the first thing people notie when they visit for the first time. It was only after I had been there for a couple of months that I realized that there were some very conservative members. Politics is just not a part of our fellowship - or at least it doesn't stand inthe way of our fellowship.

I have visited some churches that do get very political - both on the right and the left. I find it unbelievably offensive when churches sully their message with politics, it is antithetical to alienate people who are seeking a relationship with Christ by throwing politics into the equation.

Posted by: DuWayne | Sep 25, 2006 2:21:47 PM

We had a similarly hawkish sermon on Monday about how Hezbollah attacked civilians but Israel did not. It was later acknowledged that "precision weapons" are not that precise (i.e. killing civilians) but more in a "best intentions" kind of thing. Conflicted.

Posted by: fasteddie | Sep 25, 2006 2:29:02 PM

You want to hang out with a lot of smart, liberal Jews and Goyim?

Check out a Quaker meeting someday. Pretty amazing the numbers, specially in this area.

Posted by: Samuel Knight | Sep 25, 2006 3:54:59 PM

Go synagogue shopping until you find a shul you like.

Posted by: fiat lux | Sep 25, 2006 4:54:09 PM

Shul shoppping, that is.

Posted by: david mizner | Sep 25, 2006 6:40:49 PM

Is there a difference between Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism, or is this attitude pretty much everywhere?

My understanding is that the Hasidim were against the formation of Israel because the Moshiach had not yet come, and to reform the nation without his coming would be a blasphemy. If true, I find the current attitudes quite interestig, since they've changed so much in under 60 years.

Posted by: Stephen | Sep 25, 2006 11:55:23 PM

This was really interesting and encouraging to read. The Students for Israel at my undergrad university (USC) were so quick to spin Students for Justice in Palestine events as ANTI-SEMETIC. It's so frustrating that the policy of Israel to so many Jews (or at least vocal Jews) is unconditionally considered a part of them, their religion, their identity.

It’s similar to neo-cons crying ANTI-AMERICAN or UNPATRIOTIC when Americans criticize the war in Iraq. This country's policy is not my own, it is not me.

Being critical of Israeli policy is NOT anti-Semitic, nor is advocating for justice in Palestine. Rather, I feel it is the most humane stance one could take.

I just hope that more Jews who have problems with the current policy of Israel do speak up and that they are listened to and respected rather than crucified by the Jewish religious community.

Posted by: Mallory | Sep 26, 2006 1:32:24 AM

Mallory, when defending yourself against charges of anti-Semitism, you should avoid the phrase "crucified by the Jewish religious community."

Posted by: B.J. Corrido | Sep 26, 2006 12:56:29 PM

Corrido I believe that's called having the "last word".

Posted by: opit | Sep 27, 2006 3:52:06 AM

As someone who generally sides with Israel in 90% of disputes, even I find rabbinical sermons to be ridiculously one-sided. If all you listen to is your local rabbi, you wouldn't know anything about the situation in the Middle East except for the fact that Arabs hate and want to kill Jews.

Posted by: Adam Herman | Sep 27, 2006 3:34:14 PM

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