Sunday, May 17, 2009

Netanyahu Comes to Town

One word of clarification before I begin today. I quoted Norman Lamm in the last posting speaking about tolerance and disagreement. Someone brought his recent pronouncement about the Reform and Conservative movements to my attention. A few thoughts. First off, I am no fan of YU. I think it sold its soul to the Orthodox right a long time ago. And, in my experience, most of the guys that I knew in the college were devoid of spirituality and those that did seemed to be the most condescending of the lot.

However, I fear that Rabbi Lamm may be right about the Reform and Conservative movements. At least about the Conservative movement. It seems that they have no centering principle, no real leadership and that the Conservative Jews that are continuing to connect to a traditional Jewish practice are abandoning the synagogues in great numbers and either forming alternative minyanim or winding up in Orthodox shuls where they hold their noses. The movement made a critical error when it transferred the core of the movement from the home to the shul. Enough said about that. I know less about the trajectory of the Reform movement but I have to say that whatever they are doing now to reinvigorate themselves may be "too little, too late." I am not sure what that says about the future of Jewish life in the US. My gut feeling is that its a bad thing. Yitz Greenberg was right when he asked the questions "Will there be two Jewish peoples by 2010?" The answer is yes. Maybe three if you count the "national" Jews of Israel.

That's a good segue to my next point, Bibi's visit with Obama next week. I have serious misgivings about these administrations. Both have to do with "kishkes". I think that Bibi has kishkes -- mostly about himself and staying in power. He is pursuing an unsustainable course in a region where sustainability is measured in centuries, not years. I am concerned that we are moving toward the end of the Zionist century and that we have lost the argument about the viability of Jewish sovereignty. Most of our community -- those out of the echo chamber -- can't answer the question of why we need a "Jewish" state.

Obama, on the other hand, now has the freedom to hold Israel to its word. If Israel is serious about a two-state solution, Obama seems to think, it has to get serious about seizing ostensibly Palestinian land and make some movement. All the talk about moving rockets closer to the airport, empowering Hamas and its acolytes and Palestinian pronouncements about destroying Israel have fallen on deaf ears -- even in Congress where its members pledge support but see a two-state solution as the only hope for peace -- not only in Israel but in the Middle East in general. As naive and ridiculous as it may be, this is now the consensus.

So, what to do? I have no idea. But I do know that staying in our own echo chamber -- sticking to our own narrative at all costs -- is not working. Israel can play for time but, each time that it does it loses more people. Time is not our friend despite facts on the ground.

I know that a simple throwaway paragraph is completely inadequate. If Israel shows "weakness" to the Arab world, it will continue to be pounded. If it shows "strength" to the West it will be depicted as the villain -- an obstacle for peace. And for those who think a purist solution is the way -- (especially those in the diaspora) they risk fighting until the very last Israeli.

Well, it appears that I have gone into the echo chamber this morning. Maybe its because I am going to the AIPAC dinner tonight. I love AIPAC -- I love their clarity and single minded pursuit of their goals. I worry about AIPAC because our song is wearing thin -- even among those members of Congress who pledge their undying loyalty. (Don't even ask me about campaign contributions from wealthy AIPAC donors).

Being right may not be enough anymore -- both for Israelis and Palestinians.

Oh well... maybe if the sun was out this morning I would have more clarity.

Until next time, Go Celtics!


  1. The phrase echo chamber gives me the creeps. Chambers do not bode well for Jews, we must get out while we can.

  2. Alan, I'm just reading this post after putting my beloved child on a plane to go to Israel last week as part of Ramah Seminar. The El Al terminal at JFK would have been a balm to make your wounded soul whole. I do not fear for the Conservative movement; in fact, I know many of its younger, well-educated and eager faces, and I think their internal GPS will find the movement's trajectory just fine. Regards, B


About Me

Brookline, MA, United States
Thought provoking discussion or musings of a kid from the other side of the tracks...