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.
Tuesday, November 14, 2023
In This Moment: The March and the Vigil; Sharansky's Choice: Soviet Gulag or Harvard Yard?
In This Moment
TBE @ the March for Israel
Reflections on today from TBE's Beverly Stein (who took the photo above)
We were at the Washington DC March to Free Soviet Jews in 1986 and we were there today. It is powerful to participate in the political process and to be among Jews from all over.
We spoke to people from all over the country and Canada. We had no idea if they were religious or secular, Democrat or Republican. What mattered was we were all there in support of Israel, to remind the world of the hostages and to stand against antisemitism.
Reflections from Sue Shapiro
It was an amazing day! Weather was beautiful and it was wonderful to take part and see so many young people participating. They displayed so much ruach and were so excited to be there. The speakers shared personal stories and tragedies. I heard two chants all afternoon, send them home and hi ho hi ho Hamas must go! I know we’re in for the long haul, but we must all stand up and support Israel however we can!
Reflections from TBE young adult Sarah Goldberg:
Today I gathered with 290,000 Jews and allies in DC (in addition to 250,000 viewers on livestream) to march for Israel, march to free the 200+ hostages held captive by Hamas terrorists (representing 25 nationalities from 9 months to nearly 90 years old), and to stand against antisemitism. This event is also to remember the 1400 murdered by Hamas on Oct 7 and to ensure that Jewish voices are not silenced. I unapologetically support the existence** of Israel because the question of whether or not Jews should have self-determination in their ancestral homeland is nonnegotiable. Throughout the years, I’ve had to apologize to others for being “too Jewish,” felt bad for “caring too much,” or tried to hide my Jewish beliefs. Today, I’ve never been prouder of my Jewish identity, culture, and people. It shouldn’t be controversial to share the devastation that myself, the Jewish people, and the families have for all those recently murdered/taken hostage by Hamas. Since then, the FBI has also reported a 400% rise in antisemitic incidents. Instead of calling for Israel to ceasefire, call for HAMAS TO SURRENDER and to RELEASE HOSTAGES. NEVER AGAIN IS NOW.
**Keyword EXISTENCE… you can support the existence of a Jewish state without supporting all governmental actions, just like how many disagree with American politicians. You can’t support the self-determination of one people while denying it for another.
I was able to watch most of it on livestream and a few things stood out.
How remarkable it was for the peaceful and hopeful language used, Very little bellicosity, minimal anger, maximal resolve. And Matisyahu!
It was the most authentically bipartisan event in American Jewish history. Not just bipartisan - it was non partisan. Seeing the unity of Republican and Democratic leaders is common in Israel events but it was more pronounced this time. They stood together - and didn't insult one another's policies or presidents. No blame game.
One reason for the pronounced bipartisanship might be that while the rally was unfolding, many of the representatives were in the Capitol watching a tape of the atrocities of October 7 (which Sen. Schumer mistakenly called January 7 - perhaps an apt conflation of infamous dates) and evidently they were very moved. See below.
Which is Worse: The Gulag or Harvard Yard?
And one more thing about today. The war on campuses has morphed into the war against campuses. I couldn't believe my ears when Natan Sharansky opened the proceedings by comparing the antisemitism of the Soviet Union with American colleges. If anyone has the right to compare things to the Soviet Union, it's him. But if I heard him right, he claimed that American universities are driving antisemitism and cultural division by spreading "neo-Marxist philosophy in the heart of the free world." Whoa!
I have grave concerns about college campuses since October 7, but I'm not going to demonize a generation of students, many of whom are Jewish, because of it. If Jewish kids are feeling uneasy about Israel, we can't chalk it all up to Chinese Tik-Tok, Russian bots or "woke" professors. I can chalk a whole bunch of it up to Bibi Netanyahu for bitch-slapping Obama and the Dems in 2012 and 2014, and the Republican leadership for encouraging that. Settlement policy has something to do with it too. The antisemitism of the far left, which has now been severely exposed, certainly contributed to this. But my point is that we've got to just tone it down in demonizing students. Distancing ourselves from Jews who have been visibly supporting a ceasefire and Palestinian rights is both unfair and unhelpful. They want peace. So do I. Today's rally was filled with love. That's what we've got to keep communicating. I love what Sarah Goldberg wrote in her comments above. Those comments deserve to be shared widely.
This hits close to home for me with the news out of my alma mater, which I will share with you below.
Academe has its challenges, but I don't believe the problem has reached Stalinist proportions. Laura Adkins' Tweet below is worth taking very seriously.
And we should be sensitive with the sarcasm - But the video of the prank call (below) to Harvard admissions is, I must admit, pretty funny.
Rosh Hodesh Kislev in Kibbutz Be'eri
A month ago, Kibbutz Be'eri was devastated. Today, Israeli soldiers, in the midst of their sacred mission in Gaza, chanted the festive Hallel prayers in the synagogue of the kibbutz/. At least 130 people were killed in the attack on Oct. 7, including women (such as peace activist Vivian Silver, who was declared dead today), children, and infants, claiming the lives of 10% of the farming community's residents. Dozens of homes were also burned down. Some of these soldiers may not make it home either, heaven forbid. But today they sang. Move to a few minutes into the video, where the singing really gets going.
Tonight's Interfaith Vigil
Tonight's vigil was a moment of needed calm and shared concern, minus the partisan edge that has clouded so much of our conversation over recent weeks. Mayor Simmons joined us and gave an eloquent introduction. You can read all of the prayer selections and commentaries by clicking here. Below I am highlighting what I shared, along with the prayer of a Muslim colleague. It is so important to hear his words. Other speakers also spoke of the current atrocities committed upon the people of Armenia, Nigeria and Ukraine, as well as elsewhere. As much as our people are suffering, we can never lose sight of the suffering of others.
If the current front pages aren't there yet, try again later.
Mossad Commentary update from GazaIDF says its 162nd Division — which entered Gaza from the north — has completed the capture of the al-Shati camp, and will soon link up with the 36th Division which entered the Strip from the east, reaching the coast.The IDF says al-Shati was a main Hamas stronghold. “Inside the camp there is a lot of enemy infrastructure and many forces of Hamas were concentrated there, including the al-Shati Battalion, which took a central part in the October 7 [attacks],” it says. The 162nd Division had pushed south from northern Gaza when the ground operation began two and a half weeks ago, heading into Gaza City, and facing resistance in the al-Shati camp in the last few days.There were at least four clashes with Hamas operatives in al-Shati in the last few hours. According to the military, nearly every other home in the camp was booby-trapped. Around 150,000 to 200,000 Palestinians are estimated to have fled the camp as Israeli troops entered. The troops of the division battled around 200 Hamas operatives in al-Shati.