Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Thursday, October 26, 2023
In This Moment: Paralysis is not an option and fear is not a solution
In This Moment
The Shabbat-O-Gram is sponsored
by Jill Swartz Nadel and Mitch Nadel in honor of their daughter,
Eliana, becoming a Bat Mitzvah.
Paralysis is not an option
and fear is not a solution
Five years ago this week, when a shooter opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, it was called a "break glass moment" by, among others, Senator Blumenthal. It was a wake up call for all of us, and just a couple of weeks before the anniversary of Kristallnacht, November 9-10, which literally was a "break glass" moment for German Jewry in 1938. And now, what happened on October 7 demands yet another emergency response. In the annals of hate and antisemitism, these two events, Pittsburgh in 2018 and October 7 of this year, are each the equivalent of what meteorologists call a 1,000 year storm. Frankly, we've had too many of them lately, of both types of storms. It feels like things are spiraling out of control.
While our focus is still on things being done by and to Jews, what transpired in Maine is also very troubling. And it is important always to add that the suffering of innocent people, especially children, in Gaza, along with the continuing tragedy in Ukraine, which only increases the sense of tragic loss and hopelessness.
We don't need Halloween to tell us that these are scary times. The ADL reports that there's been a dramatic increase in U.S. antisemitic incidents following Oct. 7 Hamas Massacre. At last night's Israel Meet-Up on Zoom, we spent a lot of time discussing the situation on college campuses and the emboldened nature of Hamas supporters, why it is different from all of Israel's prior conflicts. These are scary times, but paralysis is not an option and fear is not a solution. Nelson Mandela, who knew all about danger, said, "The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
We'll need to overcome that fear for quite some time, as any progress in degrading Hamas and returning hostages will be slow and incremental. Israeli ground forces actually went into Gaza today - and then came back out. It was a probing maneuver, presumably paving the way for a larger operation. But maybe not right away. We'll all need quite a bit of patience. According to Marc Schulman's nightly report, Major-General (Res.) Itzhak Brik may have convinced Netanyahu that the army isn't ready to mount the ground incursion. Brik believes Israel should wait a month to fully enter Gaza, at which point Hamas will be exhausted and deprived. A major question here is whose side time is on. In every past war, the pressure has been on Israel to wrap things up quickly, Now the pressure is to delay, and it might be in Israel's best interest to do just that. Hamas likely was expecting a quick response. The longer things are delayed, the more pressure Hamas will face, especially from Qatar, to release hostages, and the more likely Hamas leaders will be to make mistakes. Qatar knows that they bear a deep responsibility for all that has happened and if you look at photos like the captive three year old girl in the headline below, for them it's a public relations nightmare. Iran may not care, but Qatar seems to, and they hold the purse strings.
Meanwhile, hate needs to feed on a constant diet of images and provocations. It won't just vanish, but a "pause" may give us a second to catch our breath from the rampant antisemitism that has shaken our lives.
How long can Israel hold off its Gaza ground offensive? Nearly three weeks have elapsed since the war erupted. If no agreement to return the kidnapped hostages has been brokered thus far, is a deal even attainable? The dilemma lies in weighing the significance of the hostages' return against the government’s stated primary goal of eliminating Hamas. These two goals are seemingly contradictory. As each day passes, the calls from the world for Israel to consent to a ceasefire grow louder. Time is slipping away, challenging the initial perception here that after enduring such a brutal massacre, the world would afford Israel the time it needed to respond as it saw fit. Every life is invaluable, but without addressing the existential threat posed by Hamas, our fundamentalist, terrorist neighbors, the security of Israel's future remains in jeopardy.
Meanwhile. people are coming up with creative ways to help Israelis who are in such distress, such as the Shabbat dinner featured in the video above, with empty place settings for all the hostages. And we have the opportunity to help too, by expressing our concerns to our elected representatives.
This email was brought to my attention today:
Following the recent dangerous, threatening antisemitic rallies at Cooper Union, NYU, Cornell , GW, Columbia it is critical to urge our senators to vote YES on the bipartisan resolution brought yesterday before the Senate to condemn antisemitism on campus and protect Jewish students. Please complete and share the ADL form. They will send emails to your Senators on your behalf urging them to vote YES.
We need to show our students that we are behind them. In addition to the things we are already doing, I want to invite our college students and recent grads to contact a few friends and get in touch with me to set up a Zoom session to both strategize and comfort one another. No one should be going through this alone. Just let me know that you are interested and we'll find a place and time.
We also can be contacting our representatives to urge the prompt release of hostages. Info on that is found below.
Please join us in person or on live stream on Friday night for our AJC-partnered service marking what happened in Pittsburgh five years ago - and what happened in southern Israel three weeks ago.