J Street is Only Considered “Pro-Israel” in Progressive Circles

J Street held its annual conference in late October 2019 where it had several Democratic presidential candidates address the left-wing crowd. The loudest applause was, not surprisingly, heard for the most progressive candidates: Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Sen. Bernie Sanders addressing J Street Conference October 28, 2019
It is interesting that J Street bills itself as “pro-Israel” when the crowd at its annual event gave a standing ovation to the most anti-Israel presidential candidate since the founding of the Jewish State. Sanders has accused Israel of war crimes, being racist and wants to divert funds meant for Israel’s security to the Arab people in Gaza who have launched three wars against Israel since 2008. Sanders may be the only Jew among the leaders of the Democratic presidential pack, but he is without question the most critical of the Jewish State.

And it is not a coincidence that Sanders if the most left-wing of the presidential contenders. It is only through the narrow prism of a progressive worldview that J Street and Sanders can be viewed as “pro-Israel.”

For most people, being pro-“fill-in-the-blank” means actively supporting that entity. It may be with words of support and encouragement to that entity. Perhaps its with active lobbying for trade and aid on that entity’s behalf. Speaking about it positively and with enthusiasm to others.

However, for J Street, being “pro-Israel” simply means believing that Israel has a right to exist and should have secure borders. I believe that Costa Rica should exist and have secure borders, but I don’t think that makes me “pro-Costa Rica.” Maybe if I associated with people who hated Costa Rica, I would be considered pro-Costa Rica for an otherwise benign point of view, but not among most of the world.

Which is precisely the J Street dynamic.

Inside the echo chambers of the progressive halls, suggesting that Israel has a right to exist is considered extraordinary and extreme. Vocalizing that it is and should remain the Jewish homeland is considered vulgar. That it has a right to defend itself against terrorism is deemed shocking.

That’s the sad reality among J Street’s peers. Groups like the New Israel Fund actively support organizations which try to dismantle any Jewishness of the Jewish State and fund global tours for people to demonize the Israel Defense Forces. IfNotNow fights to undermine Jewish presence in Jerusalem. Code Pink supports a boycott of Israeli products. Jewish Voice for Peace has supported terrorists who have killed Israelis. And the Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis on the boards of these institutions question whether Israel should exist at all.

The progressive stances on Israel can be seen in the “Women’s March” whose leaders are against “humanizing” Israelis and in BackLivesMatter which has a platform which calls Israel an “apartheid state” and advocates for B.D.S. (boycott, divest and sanctions of Israel). These are appalling statements and opinions.

With such a peer group of progressives, it should not shock people that in that narrow “coastal liberal latte-sipping politically-correct out-of-touch folks” as Barack Obama once said, J Street actually believes that saying the Israel should exist as a secure Jewish State is considered “pro-Israel.” Outside of the far-left extreme, that’s an opinion which is considered neutral – “pareve” as they would say in the Jewish community.

Actually being “pro-Israel” for groups like AIPAC means ensuring bi-partisan support for Israel, keeping trade and military cooperation intact, advocating for U.S. support for Israeli positions at the United Nations. J Street is against all of those ideas.

One could perhaps argue that it is useful for J Street to engage with their co-progressives and get them to upgrade their views on Israel. It is clear that the “Squad” of socialists in congress are not going to listen to AIPAC or the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).

But it is horribly incorrect and out-of-bounds for the general public and media to quote J Street as the mainstream pro-Israel forum when it is nothing of the sort. It is merely the fringe “meh-Israel” segment of a radical leftist anti-Zionist ideology which is regrettably beginning to permeate the Democratic party.


Related First.One.Through articles:

J Street is a Partisan Left-Wing Group, NOT an Alternative to AIPAC

Bernie Sanders is the Worst U.S. Presidential Candidate for Israel Ever

The Left-Wing’s Two State Solution: 1.5 States for Arabs, 0.5 for Jews

The Evil Architects at J Street Take a Bow

J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

J Street’s Select Appreciation of Transparency

Will the 2020 Democratic Platform Trash Israel?

Anti-Israel Lobbyists Dwarf Pro-Israel Lobbyists

BDS is a Movement by Radical Islamists and Far-Left Progressives to Block Your Freedoms

A Basic Lesson of How to be Supportive

Fake Definitions: Pluralism and Progressive / Liberalism

Unity – not Unanimity – in the Pro-Israel Tent

Enduring Peace versus Peace Now

Students for Justice in Palestine’s Dick Pics

The Three Camps of Ethnic Cleansing in the BDS Movement

The Anger from the Zionist Center

Rick Jacobs’ Particular Reform Judaism

The Democratic Party is Tacking to the Far Left-Wing Anti-Semitic Fringe

Black Lives Matter Joins the anti-Israel “Progressives” Fighting Zionism

The Fault in Our Tent: The Limit of Acceptable Speech

Anti-“Settlements” is Anti-Semitism

Please Don’t Vote for a Democratic Socialist

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: Israel Analysis and FirstOneThrough

Should the ZOA Sponsor a “Birthright” Trip

Birthright Israel has been a phenomenal success in achieving its goal of ensuring “the vibrant future of the Jewish people by strengthening Jewish identity, Jewish communities, and connection with Israel.” The group, founded in 1999 with the financial support of Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, has brought over 650,000 Jews from 67 countries to better understand their common tie to the Jewish holy land.

However, the left-wing group J Street felt that the free trips gave the 18 to 26 year olds too many highlights and not enough lowlights.

At first, J Street demanded that the trips include discussions regarding Israel’s relationship with Palestinian Arabs. After being rebuffed that it was not the mission of Birthright, J Street launched its own trip called “The Let Our People Know Trip.” The itinerary includes a focus on “Israel’s minority communities,” “pluralism,” an afternoon in “East Jerusalem,” a full day called “The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Occupation 101,” and another day called “Israel and Palestinian Perspectives Over the Green Line.” The trip is designed to split the Jewish holy land into areas that are Israeli and those that are occupied.

J Street map of Israel excluding Israeli territories in Judea and Samaria

I imagine that the right-wing Zionist Organization of America might pull together its own Birthright trip to further educate people about the nature of the conflict, which might have a different orientation than J Street. Here’s a possible itinerary:

Day 1: Terrorism in the 1970’s

  • Land in Ben Gurion Airport.
  • Get a briefing on the various security measures that Israel must deploy because of the threats of hijackings and bombings. Include a speaker who freed over 200 Jews who were hijacked by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1976, and review the various hijackings perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists over the years.
  • Drive up road towards Netanya and stop at the location of the Coastal Road Massacre of 1978, in which 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children, were killed under direction of the dominant Palestinian party, Fatah. Learn about Dalal Mughrabi, a woman who planned and fought in the terrorist attack who is celebrated by Palestinians to this day with schools and public squares named after her.
  • Night in Netanya

Day 2: The British Mandate and the Separation Barrier as Peace-Builder

  • Visit the Park Hotel in Netanya where a Palestinian suicide bomber killed over 30 people having a Passover seder in 2002. Hear from soldiers who fought to eliminate the terrorists in Jenin after the massacre, who went door-to-door on foot to minimize civilian casualties. Read reports from CNN who falsely charged the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) with killing hundreds of civilians.
  • Visit a section of the separation barrier which was built as a result of the Second Intifada to curtail the infiltration of Palestinian Arab terrorists. Review the statistics of the bombings and killings in Israel from Arabs coming from the east of the barrier before and after the barrier was erected and discuss Israel’s security needs.
  • Visit the Arab city of Umm al-Fahm, which some Israeli politicians want to swap to a future state of Palestine due to their glorification of terrorists.
  • Tour Atlit, a displaced persons camp used by the British to lock up Jewish immigrants to the holy land in the 1930’s and 1940’s who were trying to escape or had just escaped the Holocaust in Europe. Sit near the barbed wire fence and hear from a historian how the British ignored international law established in 1920 (San Remo Conference) and 1922 (British Mandate) to facilitate the immigration of Jews to reestablish their homeland, and instead instituted the White Paper of 1939 at the urging of Palestinian Arabs which limited Jewish immigration over five years to just 75,000 people, resulting in the deaths of over 100,000 Jews in the Holocaust.
  • Drive to the combined Jewish-Arab towns of Ma’alot-Tarshiha where Israel has tried to promote coexistence. Visit the Netiv Meir Elementary School where members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine took over a school in 1974, taking over 100 hostages, almost all children. A total of 25 hostages were killed, including 22 children.
  • Sleep in Ma’alot-Tarshiha

Day 3: The Golan Heights and Syria

  • Drive to the Golan Heights and visit Mount Hermon. Look out on Damascus, Syria and hear from army experts how the Syrians had used the Golan to shell Israeli farmers in the Galilee before being evicted from the heights in 1967.
  • Visit various ancient synagogues which dot the Golan Heights, attesting to the historic Jewish presence in the region, and stop by Ramat Trump, a new town named after U.S. President Donald Trump.
  • Afternoon in Safed where doctors detail caring for Syrians fleeing the civil war which has killed over 500,000 people.
  • Visit the town of Capernaum, where Jesus is said to have lived, and tour a lovely intact fourth century synagogue.
  • Night in Tiberias

Ancient synagogue in the Golan
(photo: FirstOneThrough)
Day 4: Jews and Christians in the Galilee

  • Tour the various tombs of famous Jewish rabbis including Maimonides (1135-1204) and Yohanan Ben Zakkai (c. 10CE – 90CE) and learn about their persecutions and journeys to the Galilee.
  • Visit Tzippori, a Jewish city established in the first century BCE which became the center for the Sanhedrin (Jewish courts) after the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple. It was from this location that the Christian Crusaders rode out to defeat in 1187 to the Muslim sultan Saladin.
  • Visit Nazareth, the place where Jesus lived which was mostly a Christian town for many years, and now has a Muslim Arab majority.
  • Night in Tel Aviv

Day 5: Terrorism from the Oslo Accords to the Second Intifada

  • Visit the bus station where the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad detonated a bomb in 2006 which killed eleven people, and launched twin bombings in 2003 killing 23 civilians and injuring over 100.
  • Visit the popular Allenby Street where a suicide bomber from Hamas blew up a bus in 2002, killing six and injuring 70.
  • Visit the popular Dizengoff Center, where a suicide bomber blew himself up on the eve of the festive Purim holiday in 1996, killing 13 and injuring 130. Hear from experts about the wave of killings after Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed the Oslo Peace Accords in 1995.
  • Dinner near the beach, and then a visit to the shell of the Dolphinarium discotheque, where Palestinian terrorist killed 21 Israelis, 16 of them teenage girls out dancing in 2001.
  • Night in Tel Aviv

Day 6: Addressing Terrorists: Palestinians and Americans

  • Visit the site of the “Seafood Market attack” of 2002 in which two civilians and a police officer were killed in an attack by the terrorist group Tanzim. Hear from a leading expert on terrorism about the head of Tanzim, Marwan Barghouti, who led that attack as well as several others which killed a number of civilians, who is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison. Learn how Barghouti is one of the most famous Palestinians today who calls for a third “intifada” and how Palestinians want him to become the next president of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Discuss how, despite his murderous past and calls for additional terrorism against civilians, the New York Times thinks Barghouti could be a Noble Peace Prize winner.
  • Visit the Tel Aviv promenade where an expert in the funding of terrorism will relay the story of Taylor Force, an American visiting Israel who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist. The U.S. Congress passed a law in his name (H.R. 1164) which de-funds the PA unless it can show that it no longer finances terror.
  • Stop by a Christian monastery near Beit Shemesh and hear the story of Neta Sorek, an Israeli feminist who worked to bring peace with Palestinian Arabs, who was murdered for being Jewish by Palestinian terrorists while she walked in the gardens.
  • Afternoon tour of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem
  • Night in Jerusalem

Day 7: Terrorism throughout Jerusalem

  • Morning tour of Shaare Zedek Hospital where Jewish and Arab doctors and patients work and are treated side-by-side. Hear the story of Dr. David Appelbaum who ran the emergency room which treats dozens of terrorist victims, and how he and his daughter were killed in a Palestinian terrorist bombing while eating at a restaurant the night before her wedding. Dr. Appelbaum had just arrived from New York the day before where he was training first responders in how to deal with mass emergencies.
  • Go to downtown Jerusalem to the former location of a Sbarro restaurant where Hamas and Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine executed a bombing in a pizza store, killing 15 people including 7 children and a pregnant woman.
  • Drive over to Hebrew University in the eastern part of the city and learn about the school which was founded in 1925 and included Albert Einstein among its founders. Hear from a school historian about how buses with professors were often shot at in the 1940’s and how Hamas blew up the cafeteria in 2002, killing 9 people including five Americans.
  • Head back to the western side of the city to a small synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood where two Palestinian men walked into prayer services with axes and slaughtered worshipers in 2014.
  • Night in Jerusalem

Day 8: Jerusalem, America and Democracy

  • Tour the Israel Museum and the Shrine of the Book to see the Dead Sea Scrolls and learn how Judaism was practiced 2,000 years ago and about early Christianity.
  • Visit the Israeli Knesset, the parliament, to see how a democracy functions in the turbulent Middle East. Uniquely in the region, it has Jews, Muslims, Christians and Druze all serving in the parliament.
  • Tour the modern Supreme Court building and get a briefing about the most liberal country for thousands of miles in any direction.
  • Stop by Yad Kennedy, a large monument in the Jerusalem forest dedicated to the memory of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
  • Visit the only 9/11 memorial in the Middle East which includes the names of every person killed in the terrorist attacks in America of 2001.
  • Dinner at the new American embassy in Jerusalem, which President Donald Trump moved to Israel’s capital in 2018.
  • Night in Jerusalem

Day 9: 3,000 Years of Jewish Jerusalem

  • Visit the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall (the Kotel) and the Jewish Temple Mount. Witness that only Jewish visitors need armed guards to visit their holiest site, and experience the Mourabitat women who harass Jewish pilgrims.
  • Visit the Davidson Center and the City of David which detail the 3,000-year history of Jews in their holiest site. Tour the recently uncovered “Pilgrimage Road.” Read quotes from the leaders of the Palestinian Authority which claim that Jews have no history in Jerusalem and from the United Nations which declares that Israel has no rights to the site.
  • Pray at the Hurva Synagogue, rebuilt in 2010 after the Jordanians destroyed it in 1949 right before they evicted all of the Jews from the Old City and the eastern portion of Jerusalem. Read Jordan’s 1954 Nationality Law which specifically excludes Jews from obtaining citizenship.
  • Visit the Tiferet Yisrael development site, another synagogue destroyed by the Arabs which is now being rebuilt despite loud Palestinian protest.
  • Exit the Old City and climb the tower of the YMCA to get a 360-degree view of Jerusalem. Review the expansion of the city westward towards Jaffa in the 1860’s and the demographics which have seen Jews as the majority in Jerusalem since 1869.
  • Take a bus to Bethlehem and visit The Tomb of Rachel, now under heavy guard.
  • Dinner with a political expert to review the various debates about Jerusalem.
  • Night in Jerusalem

YMCA tower in Jerusalem
(photo: FirstOneThrough)
Day 10: The Ongoing War Today

  • Get early start and head to Hevron. Read the biblical chapters of Abraham buying the cave to bury his wife, Sarah, the Jewish matriarch. Climb the steps of the Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs up to the seventh step and learn the history of the site, from the time King Herod built the current structure (minus the minarets) over the cave, to how the Arabs took over the site when they invaded in the seventh and eighth century when they brought Islam throughout the Middle East and North Africa region turning sites holy to one religion into mosques and forbidding Jews from climbing above the seventh stair of their second holiest location. Review current history of Arabs slaughtering the Jewish community in 1929 and Britain’s forced expulsion of the remaining Jewish residents of the city, and how Israel reclaimed the area in a defensive war in 1967, allowing Jews to return to the city and pray at the Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs once again. Hear how most recently, Israel handed over almost the entirety of the city to the PA except for a small sliver, as part of the Oslo Accords, and how the remaining Jews in the city must live in an armed protective zone to prevent a recurrence of the 1929 massacre.
  • Drive to Sderot on the border of Gaza. Learn about the Hamas Charter, the most antisemitic document of any ruling governmental party ever written, and how the Palestinians elected Hamas to the majority of the Palestinian parliament in 2006 with full knowledge and support of its mission statement; and how Hamas took over Gaza in 2007 precipitating the Israeli blockade in 2008, which the United Nations Palmer Report of 2011 deemed as legal and necessary. Tour the bomb shelters where Israelis only have ten seconds to hide from missiles launched by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and hear about the wars launched from Gaza in 2008, 2012 and 2014.
  • Visit the burnt fields set afire from incendiary balloons launched by Palestinian youths over the past year.
  • Visit a Patriot Missile battery, a United States defense system, as well as Israel’s Iron Dome system whose R&D was partially funded by the U.S. Hear about how each technology works and how the United States is now purchasing the Iron Dome system for its own defenses.
  • Drive up to the Israeli city of Ashdod and visit the site where an Israeli-American was killed in 2019 by a Gazan missile.
  • Dinner in Tel Aviv before flight home.

The ZOA should probably call their trip “Let Our People UNDERSTAND.”


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Shrapnel of Intent

Israel: Security in a Small Country

The Free Speech Nickel

What do you Recognize in the Palestinians?

The Cave of the Jewish Matriarch and Arab Cultural Appropriation

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through Israel Analysis and FirstOneThrough

Anti-Israel Lobbyists Dwarf Pro-Israel Lobbyists

As AIPAC kicks off its 2019 conference in Washington, D.C., it is worth reviewing some basic statistics about this pro-Israel lobbying group.

Biden_at_AIPAC, once upon a time

According to Open Secrets, AIPAC spent $3.5 million on lobbying in 2018, slightly more than the $3.4 million it spent in 2017. This is a relatively small number compared to the anti-Israel Open Society Foundation (OSF) which spent $31.5 million in 2018 – NINE TIMES what AIPAC spent. That figure is also almost four times the $16 million that OSF spent on US lobbying in 2017. This huge jump in lobbying dollars may coincide with George Soros’s transfer of $18 BILLION into OSF, making it the second largest “charity”/ largest lobbying group in the United States. (By calling itself a charity instead of a lobbying group, Soros was able to avoid paying any capital gains on the billions of investment dollars in his hedge fund.)

In addition to its work lobbying the US government, the OSF directly funds many anti-Israel organizations according to NGO Monitor, including Adalah, Breaking the Silence, Ir Amim and Al-Haq.

That’s just one giant far left-wing lobbying group countering most of AIPAC’s agenda.

The left-wing J Street has likewise repeatedly fought the current Israeli administration and lobbied aggressively against it, and spent more money lobbying Congress in 2018 than AIPAC, a total of $4 million. Not one dollar of J Street went to Republican candidates, which is not surprising as it is really an alternative to the Republic Jewish Coalition, not a broad-based bipartisan group like AIPAC.

When it comes to foreign countries lobbying the US government, the number one country was South Korea, spending $82.5 million in 2018. I do not recall hearing any of the Democratic candidates for president who ran to the defense of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s remarks about AIPAC talking about South Korea.

Perhaps that is because foreign governments and their companies are mostly lobbying about trade deals which are critical for their economies. The top governments lobbying the US are:

South Korea
Bermuda
Japan
Ireland
Israel
Marshall Islands
Bahamas
Saudi Arabia
Qatar
China

That’s Israel at number five- behind Bermuda and Ireland.

But the liberal media will print articles about the pro-Israel lobby as if it’s a right-wing money machine – even though AIPAC doesn’t give money to candidates while J Street and the OSF do. It will try to defend Ilhan Omar’s AIPAC lobbying comments, while refusing to actually point out that it’s the left-wing groups like OSF and J Street that are really powerful and spending the money to trash Israel.

Perhaps the New York Times is getting money from J Street and George Soros too?


The bipartisan group AIPAC spends less on lobbying than the far left-wing J Street, and a small fraction of what George Soros’s Open Society spends on US lobbyists. The Democratic machine has taken notice what the money spigot is demanding and is taking their anti-Israel talking points to line their pockets. Not that the media will tell you what’s actually going on. #AlternativeFacts


Related First.One.Through articles:

J Street is a Partisan Left-Wing Group, NOT an Alternative to AIPAC

Ilhan Omar Isn’t Debating Israeli Policy, She is Attacking Americans

J Street’s Select Appreciation of Transparency

J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

Enduring Peace versus Peace Now

The Anger from the Zionist Center

The Democratic Party is Tacking to the Far Left-Wing Anti-Semitic Fringe

The Evil Architects at J Street Take a Bow

A Basic Lesson of How to be Supportive

The Impossible Liberal Standard

Liberals’ Biggest Enemies of 2015

The Illogic of Land Swaps

The Real “Symbol of the Conflict” is Neta Sorek

When Power Talks the Truth

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through Israel Analysis and FirstOneThrough

On Heretics and Slanderers

Judaism’s primary daily prayer has two common names in Hebrew, called the Amidah (because a person stands for the prayer), and the Shmoneh Esrei (which means “18” for the 18 blessings in the prayer). However, in reality, the Shmonesh Esrei has 19 blessings, as an additional one was added about 1900 years ago.

The nineteenth blessing was added by Jewish sages due to divisions within Judaism around the 2nd century CE. The background story resonates in some format today.

The Introduction of the 19th Blessing

After the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 70CE, the traditional model of Temple service was terminated. In its stead, rabbinic Judaism as outlined by the Pharisees, began to take root as the new established norm. It included traditions such as the Oral Law, which became codified in the Gemara or Talmud.

A competing group, the Sadducee sect, did not believe in the Oral Law and rejected the Pharisees’ Gemara. In reaction to that rejection, according to the Gemara in Berakhot 28b and 29a, Rabban Gamliel, the leading rabbi of the 2nd century, considered how to minimize the influence of the Sadducee sect within the Jewish community. In an attempt to keep the Sadducees from infiltrating the minds and hearts of the nation, he had a new blessing composed against these “heretics” to be inserted into the Shmoneh Esrei. As detailed in Berakhot, the goal of inserting the new blessing in the primary prayer was that Sadducees would not join in such service which cursed their efforts, and would disassociate themselves from the community. How could a person stand in prayer with a community that was reciting blessings that cursed them?

Interestingly, the Gemara did not offer a more straightforward explanation of the blessing: that Jews wanted the efforts of these heretics to fail and were collectively rejecting their views of Judaism.

Here is the prayer, as translated in Orthodox prayer books today:

וְלַמַּלְשִׁינִים אַל תְּהִי תִקְוָה. וְכָל הָרִשְׁעָה כְּרֶגַע תּאבֵד. וְכָל אויְבֵי עַמְּךָ מְהֵרָה יִכָּרֵתוּ. וְהַזֵדִים מְהֵרָה תְעַקֵּר וּתְשַׁבֵּר וּתְמַגֵּר וְתַכְנִיעַ בִּמְהֵרָה בְיָמֵינוּ. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’, שׁובֵר אויְבִים וּמַכְנִיעַ זֵדִים:

And for slanderers may there be no hope; and may all wickedness be destroyed instantly and may all Your enemies be cut down quickly. Quickly uproot, smash, and cast down the arrogant sinners and humble them quickly in our days. Blessed are You, O Lord, Who breaks enemies and humbles arrogant sinners.

Today, the prayer is normally translated to be against as “slanderers” rather than “heretics” as intended 1900 years ago. The difference is significant in terms of intention, but perhaps less meaningful in terms of population, as discussed below.

Heretics

The notion of condemning “heretics” was religion-oriented. These people were “enemies” of God, distorting His laws. They stood against God and were “arrogant sinners,” a corrupting force against organized and unified religious practice.

Seen from today’s perspective, heretics may mean people like “Jews for Jesus.” They are people who nominally state they are within the Jewish community but espouse views that are not in concert with Judaism. As opposed to Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and other religions which are viewed as completely distinct from Judaism and therefore neither addressed nor condemned, the blessing targets missionaries within the Jewish fold who seek to distort and undermine rabbinic Judaism.

Slanderers

While heretics are enemies of religion, slanderers are enemies of the people.

Two thousand years ago, the Pharisees and Sadducees did not only split on religious matters, but also on political ones. While the Pharisees delved into the meaning and application of Oral Law, the Sadducees were more politically-oriented. The Sadducees conspired and worked with the Romans, reporting on fellow Jews. They leveraged influence not just for their own benefit, but to undermine and harm fellow Jews.

In modern times, slanderers could mean Jewish groups like “Jewish Voice for Peace.” This organization actively seeks to wage an economic war against all Jews living in the eastern part of the Jewish homeland and much of Israel as well. Another is “J Street” which actively lobbied the US Obama Administration to label Jews living in the Old City of Jerusalem and the “West Bank” as “illegal,” pushing passage of UNSC Resolution 2334.

Orthodox versus Non-Orthodox Prayer Books

The 19th prayer against heretics/slanderers found above is as printed in Orthodox prayer books today. This blessing has been deleted from the Shmoneh Esrei in Reform synagogues. There are a few possible reasons for the active deletion.

Reform Jews may have deleted the blessing as they did not want prayers to include condemnation of fellow Jews. Perhaps they sought a more positive spiritual experience during the prominent prayer service.

It is also possible that some of the editors of the Reform prayer books believed that the blessing was taking aim at themselves as either heretics or slanderers.

The concern regarding heresy is that Reform Judaism broke from thousands of years of rabbinic Judaism in many facets, including believing that the Bible was written by a human, not God, and that the definition of “who is a Jew” is not limited to matrilineal descent but could be passed down from a Jewish father as well.

As it relates to slander, the leading rabbis of the Reform movement are active in groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, J Street, T’ruah and many others that publicly call out Israel on the global stage. While they believe they are striving to hold Israel to a high standard, there is no question as to their criticizing fellow Jews. Knowing that the 19th blessing was composed by Orthodox rabbis who were trying to enforce conformity and control, deleting the blessing could have been an attempt to free themselves of traditional constraints.

Whichever reason, the Orthodox (and still the Conservative branch of Judaism) is in the minority in keeping the blessing, as the Reform, Reconstructionist and Jewish Renewal branches of Judaism have deleted it. The non-Orthodox branches are the largest in the United States and do not fear being marginalized like the Sadducees of 1900 years ago. They have their own synagogues and do not need to pray in the handful of Orthodox shuls where the blessing against heretics is recited.

Israel Today

In Jerusalem, there is a cemetery on Emek Refaim Street that is run by a group affiliated with Jews for Jesus. They consider themselves proud advocates for the Jewish State, but also seek to convert Jews.

Mural from the wall above the cemetery in Jerusalem’s Emek Refaim Street
showing scenes from the Bible
(photo: FirstOneThrough)

While Israel allows all religions to operate openly within its borders, it prohibits missionary work. The heretics who run the cemetery know this, and are careful with how they distribute their literature, walking a fine line of sharing information while avoiding proselytizing.

The Jewish State has also begun to take a more forceful response to slanderers and those that actively seek to harm Israel and Israelis. Specifically, groups like Code Pink and Jewish Voice for Peace which lobby governments to sanction Israel and boycott goods are being stopped from entering the country.

It is likely not a coincidence that the government of Israel has begun to act against slanderers, and the fact that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is a political creature which only has Orthodox rabbis. Orthodox Judaism seeks a protective fence around religious practice and the Jewish people, and the rabbis have no issues calling out people who break from the insular fold and bring in external political forces to harm Israeli Jews. A theoretical office of the Chief Rabbinate which included all of the other branches of Judaism would likely not only redefine who is a Jew and the types of marriages that could be practiced in Israel, it would also likely greet Code Pink with a welcome banner at the airport.


There is a gap in the Jewish people, just as there was thousands of years ago: there are those that believe in traditional rabbinic Judaism and those that reject it. There are those that seek to slander and malign fellow Jews to the world and those that condemn such actions.

The Sadducees of 2,000 years ago ultimately faded away, while the rabbinic Judaism of the Pharisees became the established norm. Yet over the last few hundred years, new branches of Judaism emerged which initially only challenged the traditional rabbinic view of Judaism, and now confronts fellow Jews as well. It is the Sadducees Redux.

The divide within Judaism is not new; it was just dormant. The schism manifests itself when the Jews have power to control their own destiny, as opposed to 1900 years when they were helpless minorities scattered around the world. The questions for today are whether the Pharisees (Orthodox) or Sadducees Redux (Non-Orthodox/ Progressives) will prevail in defining the future of the Jewish people, and whether they will destroy themselves and the Zionist experiment in the process.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The Non-Orthodox Jewish Denominations Fight Israel

The Reform Movement’s Rick Jacobs Has no Understanding of Tolerance

Rick Jacobs’ Particular Reform Judaism

A Basic Lesson of How to be Supportive

Unity – not Uniformity – in the Pro-Israel Tent

An Orthodox Rabbi at the Capitol

For Liberals, It’s Israelis, Palestinians, and Indifference

Denying Entry and Citizenship

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through Israel Analysis

A Basic Lesson of How to be Supportive

There is a famous restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina called Hyman’s Seafood. Its menu is replete with non-kosher goodies like shrimp, crabs and calamari. The locals love the family run business – now in its fifth generation of management – as do the various celebrities and tourists who often must wait outside in line for up to an hour to enjoy the food and ambiance.

The warmth of the restaurant is very much part of the appeal. In addition to the many autographed pictures of movie stars that adorn the walls, are small cards sprinkled around the two-story building with sayings and words of advice. They include funny and off-color comments about relationships as well as more thoughtful sayings from important people such as Rabbi Israel Salanter. Yes, that’s a rabbi card in a traif restaurant.

The peculiarity keeps going. The storefront has mezuzahs on each door. There is even an option to have kosher food brought in from the local Chabad!

You see, the owners of Hyman’s are all about attitude. They envision a world that is inclusive, positive and happy. Their formula for creating that world includes spreading those messages throughout the store, and they live that credo by finding a way to enable every person to eat in their restaurant – even those that cannot eat their food because of dietary restrictions.

Pretty incredible.

Not surprisingly, the owners run their business in the same fashion. They have a sign on one of the walls that reads: “If you like us, tell others. If not, tell us!

It’s so simple and basic. Spread positive messages to everyone you can. Encourage others to frequent the establishment. Boost the store’s image and popularity.

However, if there are issues that bother you, don’t tell others about the perceived problems, but bring them up to management. Be constructive and the owners will make the effort to address the matter to the extent that they can. Don’t write letters to newspapers or get on social media with the bad news, as those actions would be detrimental to the business.

It is a simple concept that too many liberal self-declared “pro-Israel” groups and people fail to comprehend.

J Street and New Israel Fund

J Street’s tagline is that they are “pro-Israel,” even though it actively undermines Israel on the global stage. The group lobbied the Obama Administration to censure Israel at the United Nations and declare Jews living in the eastern part of the promised land to be illegal! How can such a group possibly be considered pro-Israel? Would someone who likes Hyman’s Seafood report them to the Department of Health? Trash them on Yelp?

The New Israel Fund supports Breaking the Silence which does media tours undermining the Israeli Defense Forces. How is that being constructive in working with the Israeli government itself to find ways to improve?

It’s not, and it’s not appreciated by the Israeli government.

Liberal “Balance”

Supporters of J Street and the New Israel Fund like Rabbi Sharon Brous believe that they truly love Israel and are simply trying to understand all sides of the situation with Palestinian Arabs. Brous penned a letter in the Los Angeles Times on August 26, 2018 about her taking her daughter to Hebron in an effort to show her “the other side,” which included “the harshest effects of the occupation.” Her letter described how difficult life was for the 200,000 Palestinian Arabs because some Jews wanted to reestablish the Jewish community there. She relayed how extreme and racist these Jews were.

Did she show a real balance to her daughter? Did she speak to the 93% of Palestinian Arabs that are antisemites? Did she tell her daughter that when the city was under Muslim control Jews were forbidden from even climbing the steps of the Tomb of the Jewish Patriarchs, let alone pray there? Did she educate her daughter that the Palestinian Authority has a law that calls for the death penalty for any Arab selling a home to Jews? That its president has demanded a Jew-free country?

Brous didn’t really show her daughter a complete or honest story. And that is her business to educate her daughter in a manner she desires.

However, her daughter wasn’t her real audience. The daughter was merely a tool for her to write to the whole world. Brous published her opinion piece marketed as a story in the widely read LA Times to publicly vilify Israel, written in a smug fashion of being an honest educator and parent.

The readers of paper understood the message: lovers of Israel think the country is vile too.


If groups like J Street and NIF, and public Jewish leaders like Brous want to be included in the pro-Israel community, they must learn a simple lesson from Hyman’s Seafood: if you have an issue, bring it up with directly with the party in charge. In public, sing the praises loudly to all.

Today’s self-declared “pro-Israel” alt-left groups and rabbis are harmful to Israel. Until these groups and individuals make major fundamental changes, they should be excluded from any pro-Israel forums, including schools, synagogues and umbrella Zionist organizations.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Unity – not Uniformity – in the Pro-Israel Tent

The Fault in Our Tent: The Limit of Acceptable Speech

Denying Entry and Citizenship

The Non-Orthodox Jewish Denominations Fight Israel

The Evil Architects at J Street Take a Bow

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

J Street Saddened by Passage of Palestinian Basic Law

A satire.

 

J Street’s tagline is “the political home of pro-Palestinian, pro-peace Americans.” It is not surprising that a group with such orientation would voice its strong displeasure with the Palestinian Basic Law, sayingThis is a sad day for Palestine and all who care about its democracy and its future.

J Street noted some troubling clauses in the Permanent Constitution Draft. Consider Article 2:

“Palestine is part of the Arab homeland. The state of Palestine abides by the Charter of the League of Arab States. The Palestinian people are part of the Arab and Islamic nations. Arab unity is a goal. The Palestinian people work on behalf of its realization.”

J Street was horrified to only see “Arab” written throughout the text. Where was the space for non-Arabs? Why was Palestine ascribed to be part only of the Islamic nations? How were non-Muslims going to feel about such language?

The language would get even worse as the text continued to become more specific. Consider Article 4:

“Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine and seat of its public authorities.”

How could the Palestinians state that Jerusalem is its capital when the Israelis claim the city for its eternal capital? Such a declaration spits in the face of Israel and diminishes a chance for peace and reconciliation.

Article 5 added to the problems:

“Arabic is the official language and Islam is the official religion in Palestine. Christianity and all other monotheistic religions are accorded sanctity and respect. The constitution guarantees equality in rights and duties to all citizens irrespective of their religious creed.”

J Street was apoplectic about this clause. Why wasn’t Hebrew included as an official language? Why was Islam declared as the only official religion? The Basic Law mentioned that Christianity would be accorded “sanctity and respect,” but the law would not even mention the word “Judaism.” What kind of respect was the Palestinian Law truly giving when it could not even bring itself to mention Jews and Judaism?

J Street’s press release was biting:

“The Israeli minority that lives in the West Bank already face terrible job persecution and have a difficult time buying land due to Palestinian law that forbids any Arab from selling land to a Jew (subject to penalty of death). The laws laid out in the Constitution further reiterate that Israeli Palestinians are second class in their own homeland.

“This is an alarming trend of Palestine pulling back from its commitments to become a liberal democracy and moving in an increasingly theocratic, authoritarian and xenophobic direction.”

J Street commented that it was concerned about Mahmoud Abbas’s recent comments that he will continue paying the families of murderers monthly stipends. “Several left-wing NGOs receive some of that money,” J Street noted. “But not enough.

J Street’s President Jeremy al-Ami, said that “We need more outspoken opposition to the far-right policies of xenophobia shown by Abbas and his cronies. We need more voices questioning the horrible laws and declarations in the Palestinian Constitution to make a better life for Israelis and Palestinians and Israeli Palestinians and Palestinian Israelis.


Arab MK Ayman Odeh at J Street Conference was given a warm welcome.
Odeh would later refuse to meet with Jewish leaders because the meeting
was on the same floor as the Jewish Agency.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Netanyahu’s Doctoral Thesis on the Nakba

Palestinian Job Fair for Peace

Fun With Cause-and-Effect: Gaza Border Protests

Israel’s Kite Business Gets a Second Wind

Silwan Circulars, Christmas 2014

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

Abbas’ European Audience for His Rantings

On January 14, 2018, the acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas gave a speech that surpassed his previous rantings about the Jews in the Middle East:

  • He not only said that Israel was a European colonial project as he has done many times, but added now that Jews have zero connection to Israel: “it constitutes a colonialist enterprise that has nothing to do with Judaism.
  • He not only said that the early Zionists hated European Jews and conspired with the Nazis to force Jews to move to Israel as he has done many times, but added that the early Zionists also despised the Jews from Arab countries “I hate them. They look like Arabs,” and worked with the Arab countries to expel the Jews

So Abbas doubled down on his fake history. Does it matter? Did he think he could negotiate a better deal with Israel with such additional insults? Obviously not.

But Israel was not his audience.

The entire Abbas rant was for European consumption. It is there that Abbas hopes he can force a better outcome in the Middle East.


Acting President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas

Consider the points which Abbas made:

  • The United States will no longer be an accepted mediator. “We will not accept America as a mediator with Israel. After what they did to us… A believer does not get bitten by the same snake twice, and we have been bitten a hundred times already.” Hey EU, we need you to step in. And if you accept Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, we will reject your involvement in the peace process as well.
  • Abbas is the sole man of peace to be a negotiating partner; the rest of the Arab world will pursue violence. “We don’t want war. We will not call for a military war with Israel. Whoever has [weapons] – go ahead and do it. I say this out in the open. If you have weapons, go ahead. I’m with you, and I will help you. Anyone who has weapons can go ahead. I don’t have weapons. I want the peaceful political path to reach a settlement. I see that there are only a few supporters of peace here. All the others are into war. The Americans are always telling us that we must stop paying salaries to the families of the martyrs and the prisoners. We categorically reject this demand. Under no circumstances will we allow the families of the martyrs, the wounded, and the prisoners to be harmed. These are our children, our families. We are proud of them, and we will pay them before we pay the living.” Abbas positioned himself as the peaceful reasonable man to run point on negotiations, even while he warns that the terrorism from all Arab Muslims will continue.
  • This situation in Palestine is completely Europe’s fault. “We have tried to raise the issue of the 100-year-old Balfour Declaration. Some people have rebuked us for this: After 100 years you bring this up again? Yes. We brought it up after 100 years, and we still do. We will continue to talk about it until Great Britain apologizes, pays reparations, and recognizes the State of Palestine. But the issue goes back long before that, my brothers. The late Egyptian intellectual Abdel-Wahab El-Messiri was among the most important people who talked about the Zionist movement and Judaism. His encyclopedias and volumes are well known throughout the Arab world. He describes that entity as follows: ‘The functional nature of Israel means that it was evoked by colonialism in order to fulfill a specific function, and thus it constitutes a colonialist enterprise that has nothing to do with Judaism… This did not begin 100 years ago. It did not begin with the Balfour Declaration. According to my humble knowledge – and I may be wrong and it actually began way before that… It began in 1653, when Cromwell ruled Britain. Cromwell staged a coup against the king and became the head of a republic in 1653. This was 300 years prior to the Balfour Declaration. He came up with the idea of transferring the Jews from Europe to the Middle East, to this region, because they wanted this region to become an advanced post to protect the interests and the convoys coming from Europe to the East. This is a well-known story, and there’s no need to repeat it – the East India Company and all that… He asked Holland, which owned the largest fleet in the world, to transfer the Jews, but the project was unsuccessful. This was in 1653.” Abbas told the European powers that they are the culprits that stole the land from Arabs to both rid themselves of Jews and create a safe outpost in the region to protect European interests. Jews are but tools in the European colonial project.

Abbas’s speech was not directed at the US nor at Israel. He views them as completely unhelpful to his plan to seize control of land and power in the holy land.

Abbas addressed the European powers to rectify the wrong that he believes they perpetrated on the Palestinian Arabs. He feels that it is not only Europe’s moral responsibility, but if they want to stop the bloodshed in the Middle East through peaceful negotiations, then the only people that can make that happen are Abbas and the European leaders.

Will the Europeans care that the speech was an insane antisemitic conspiracy of fake history? Why should they? J Street, a group of alt-left Jews, took the bait immediately and called on Europe to aggressively insert itself into the situation. “Now, however, in the absence of responsible American leadership, the international community must do everything in its power to prevent further backsliding and destructive measures by all parties.

Abbas knows his audience. J Street and the alt-left in Europe will support his view that Israel must be cornered and compelled to accept the Palestinian vision. They will adopt the revisionist history that Palestinian Arabs have been passive victims for hundreds of years of European, Jewish and American aggression, and it’s time for all of them to pay compensation.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Israel’s Colonial Neighbors from Arabia

Israel was never a British Colony; Judea and Samaria are not Israeli Colonies

J Street is a Partisan Left-Wing Group, NOT an Alternative to AIPAC

J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

Enduring Peace versus Peace Now

The Palestinians aren’t “Resorting to Violence”; They are Murdering and Waging War

The Cancer in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

750 Years of Continuous Jewish Jerusalem

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

The Non-Orthodox Jewish Denominations Fight Israel

The tensions between the non-Orthodox Jewish denominations and Israel seemingly became tense over the Israeli government’s decision to postpone plans for an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, the Western Wall. In truth, the relationship between the Reconstructionist, Jewish Renewal and Reform branches of Judaism (the 3R’s) and the Jewish State have been terrible for a long time.

There are a number of Jewish organizations that actively seek to harm Israel in public fora. As detailed in “Unity – not Uniformity – in the Pro-Israel Tent,” the largest and most noxious of the left-wing organizations are: the Jewish Voice for Peace that advocates for a global boycott of Israel; J Street that advocates for sanctions against Israel at the United Nations; and the New Israel Fund, that supports organizations that go on global tours bad-mouthing Israel and groups that seek to destroy the Jewish character of Israel.

What that article did not convey and will be discussed and explored here, was that these anti-Zionist groups are uniquely backed by non-Orthodox rabbis.

Jewish Voice for Peace

Arguably the most proudly vocal anti-Zionist group is the Jewish Voice for Peace, JVP. The rabbis of JVP have supported the Gaza flotilla; written books demonizing Israel as a modern day blood libel; and arguably promoted the murder of Israelis.


JVP post supporting convicted terrorist Rasmeah Odeh

JVP’s rabbinic leadership almost exclusively comes from the Reconstructionist and Jewish Renewal branches of Judaism. At their core, they seek a Judaism that has nothing to do with Zionism. Many are proudly anti-Zionist.

Rabbi Joseph Berman (Non-Denominational)
Rabbi Linda Holtzman (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Buzz Bogage, Denver, CO
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Evanston, IL (Reconstructionist)
Student Rabbi Leora Abelson
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Lev Baesh (Reform)
Rabbi David Basior (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Haim Beliak (Jewish Renewal)
Rabbi Joseph Berman (Unaffiliated)
Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener (Jewish Renewal)
Rabbi Meryl Crean (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Michael Davis (also backed by the Students for Justice in Palestine which has supported terrorist groups)
Rabbi Art Donsky (Non-denominational)
Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Sarah Bracha Gershuny (Egalitarian)
Rabbi Shai Gluskin (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Borukh Goldberg
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb (Jewish Renewal)
Rabbi Julie Greenberg
Rabbi Edward Klein
Rabbi Alan LaPayover (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Eyal Levinson (Jewish Renewal)
Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom (Conservative)
Rabbi David Mivasair (Progressive)
Rabbi Dev Noily (Progressive)
Rabbi Alexis Pearce (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Michael Ramberg (Progressive)
Rabbi Ken Rosenstein (Jewish Renewal)
Rabbi Shifrah Tobacman (Jewish Renewal)
Rabbi Brian Walt
Rabbi Lew Weiss (Reform)
Rabbi Alissa Wise (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Joey Wolf (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Rain Zohav (Jewish Renewal)

The Anti-Defamation has essentially labeled JVP a hate group stating:

“JVP has consistently co-sponsored demonstrations to oppose Israeli military policy that have been marked by signs comparing Israel to Nazi Germany and slogans that voice support for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. JVP has not condemned or sought to distance itself from these messages.”

The rabbis of these communities put politics front-and-center of their religion. And their politics are anti-Zionism.

J Street

J Street officially states that it is not in favor of the BDS movement, but has supported many speakers who do call for the boycott of Israel. More, J Street actively lobbied the Obama Administration to allow the censure of Israel at the United Nations and enabling the resolution labeling Israeli territory east of the Green Line to be deemed illegal.

The rabbinic core of J Street is slightly more “traditional” than the rabbis from JVP, counting many Reform rabbis. The list of hundreds of rabbis is too long to review here, but a sample highlights the trend:

Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, Brooklyn, NY (Reform)
Rabbi Lauren Henderson, Chicago, IL (Conservative)
Rabbi Alexander Kress, Abington, PA (Reform)
Rabbi Marisa Elana James, New York, NY (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie, New York, NY (Conservative)
Rabbi Amanda Schwartz, New York, NY (Conservative)
Rabbi Scott Aaron, Pittsburgh, PA (Reform)
Rabbi Alison Abrams, Deerfield, IL (Reform)
Rabbi Ruth Adar, Oakland, CA (Reform)
Rabbi David Adelson, New York, NY (Reform)
Rabbi Katy Z. Allen, Wayland, MA (Independent)
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, Philadelphia, PA (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Thomas Alpert, Needham, MA (Reform)
Rabbi Steven Altarescu, Bronx, NY (Reform)
Rabbi Camille Shira Angel, San Francisco, CA (Reform)
Rabbi David Ariel-Joel, Louisville, KY (Reform)
Susan J Averbach, San Francisco, CA (Humanistic Judaism)
Rabbi Benjamin Arnold, Evergreen, CO (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Melanie Aron, Los Gatos, CA (Reform)
Rabbi Arik W. Ascherman, Jerusalem, Israel (Reform)
Rabbi Aura Ahuvia, Woodstock, NY (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Larry Bach, Durham, NC (Reform)
Rabbi Lev Baesh, Lexington, MA (Reform)
Rabbi Chava Bahle, Suttons Bay, MI (Jewish Renewal)
Rabbi Justus Baird, Princeton, NJ (Reform)
Rabbi Rachel Evelyne Barenblat, Williamstown, MA (Jewish Renewal)
Rabbi Benjamin H. Barnett, Corvallis, OR (Pluralistic)
Rabbi Bernard Barsky, Dayton, OH
Rabbi Lewis M. Barth, Encino, CA (Reform)
Rabbi Geoffrey Basik, Baltimore, MD (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi David Dunn Bauer, San Francisco, CA (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Renee H. Bauer, Madison, WI
Rabbi David Baylinson, Atlanta, GA (Reform)
Rabbi Micah Becker-Klein, Hockessin, DE
Rabbi Martin Beifeld, Richmond, VA (Reform)
Rabbi Anne Belford, Houston, TX (Reform)
Rabbi Marc J. Belgrad, Buffalo Grove, IL (Reform)
Rabbi Arnold Mark Belzer, Savannah, GA (Reform)
Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appel, Highland Park, IL (post-denominational)
Rabbi Karen Bender, Tarzana, CA (Reform)
Rabbi Olivier BenHaim, Seattle, WA (Reform)
Rabbi Allen Bennett, San Francisco, CA (Reform)
Rabbi James Bennett, St. Louis, MO (Reform)
Rabbi Philip J. Bentley, Hendersonville, NC (Reform)

The Reform movement isn’t explicitly anti-Israel the way that much of the Reconstructionist and Jewish Renewal movements are currently. However, the current head of the Reform movement, Rabbi Rick Jacobs is particularly political and claims that the official stance of Reform Judaism is anti-settlements. How he declared that his personal anti-Jews living in Judea and Samaria politics should frame the entire movement is something that members of Reform Judaism need to address.

New Israel Fund

The New Israel Fund gives money to groups like Adalah that have a stated purpose of ending any Jewishness in Israel. It lures people to donate money stating that it is about equality in Israel – and by that it means ending the Jewish Law of Return; the Hatikvah; Jewish star on the national flag, et cetera.

The international council of NIF features a number of non-Orthodox rabbis:

Rabbi Rachel Mikva (Reform)
Rabbi Bernard Mehlman (Reform)
Rabbi Anson Laytner (Reform)
Rabbi Daniel Weiner (Reform)
Rabbi David Levin (Reform)
Rabbi Morris Allen (Conservative)
Rabbi Norman Cohen (Reform)
Rabbi Alexander Davis (Conservative)
Rabbi Shosh Dworsky (Conservative)
Rabbi David Freedman
Rabbi Yosi Gordon (Conservative)
Rabbi Michael Adam Latz (Reform)
Rabbi Cathy Nemiroff (Reform)
Rabbi Debra Rappaport (Reform)
Rabbi Alan Shavit-Lonstein (Conservative)
Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker (Reform)
Rabbi Sharon Stiefel (Reconstructionist)
Rabbi Aaron Weininger (Conservative)
Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman (Reform)
Rabbi Sharon Brous (Conservative)
Rabbi Rachel B. Cowan (Reform)
Rabbi Jerome K. Davidson (Reform)
Rabbi Marion Lev-Cohen (Reform)
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon (non-denominational)
Rabbi Aaron Panken (Reform)
Rabbi Gordon Tucker, White Plains (Conservative)

Relative to JVP and J Street, the New Israel Fund has many more Conservative rabbis joining its leadership ranks. But still, none of these anti-Zionist organizations that have thousands of rabbis in leadership positions have a single Orthodox rabbi.

Why?

Beyond Liberal Politics

There is no question that some of these forms of Judaism revolve around liberal politics more than religion. Many of the synagogues state clearly on their websites that they are focused on tikkun olam (repairing the world), and they do this not through Torah-inspired commandments like helping the widow and orphan, but in new imagined ways like raising the minimum wage and saving the planet.

But there are many liberal rabbis in the Orthodox community too, and they support the Jewish State. They are proud to point out that Israel is one of the most liberal countries in the world, and certainly within the xenophobic, antisemitic and misogynistic Middle East. When liberal Orthodox rabbis find a need to criticize the Israeli government, they do it directly with the government in a constructive manner, not through antagonistic actions on the global stage.

Therefore, the issue cannot be simply attributed to the politics of many rabbis in the non-Orthodox world. There must be something systemic in the religious philosophy of those denominations that make them embrace Israel-bashing.

Who Is a Jew

The key Jewish prayer Shemoneh Esrei recited several times every day begins with the blessing of “our God and the God of our fathers.” It encapsulates the notion that Judaism is both a religion of being, passed down physically from our ancestors, as well as one of choice – “our God” – in which each person takes ownership of his faith.

In regards to being a Jew, Orthodox Judaism (and Conservative Judaism, at this point in time) have held the line on using traditional halacha in critical life events that define “who is a Jew.” Two of those are birth and marriage.

Both the Orthodox and Conservative movements believe that the child of a Jewish mother is a Jew, regardless of the religion of the father. The other denominations believe in patrilineal descent, that religion can be passed down via the father’s religion. This is a fundamental breakdown between the religious denominations regarding “who is a Jew.”

Similarly, Orthodox and Conservative rabbis do not perform interfaith weddings. The rabbis in the other movements are very proud to perform such ceremonies and openly advertise their services.

These two life events are obviously interconnected. An interfaith couple will have a non-Jewish parent, and about half of the time, produce a non-Jewish child according to the traditions of matrilineal descent practiced by Orthodox and Conservative Judaism. Sanctioning interfaith marriages has produced a chasm between the Reform/Reconstructionist/Jewish Renewal (3R) movements with other Jewish denominations, AND with Israel itself.

Israel created a Law of Return in 1950 that allowed any Jew to move to Israel. In 1970, the law was amended to clarify that a Jew “means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion.” While the 1970 amendment made provisions for the non-Jewish spouse and children of a Jew to move to Israel, the Law of Return used a definition of matrilineal descent that only Conservative and Orthodox used, upsetting other denominations that support patrlineal descent. However, the law’s clause on conversion did accept non-Orthodox conversions performed outside of Israel, as decided by the Israeli Supreme Court in March 2016.

Universalism versus Particularism

Being a Jew is simply part one. The actions and demands of the religion, the mitzvot, are part two, and the breakdown between Orthodox Judaism and the branches that seek to harm Israel are profound.

Orthodox Judaism believes that the Torah has 613 commandments for a Jew to live by. Some are clear-cut, like “Do not kill,” while others are subject to broader interpretation like “keep the Sabbath holy,” as there may be many different methods of keeping the Sabbath holy. Conservative Judaism basically follows the concept of the 613 mitzvot, but interprets them differently (for example, Orthodox Jews will not use electricity on Sabbath to “keep it holy,” while Conservative Jews will often use electricity.)

In contrast, the 3R branches of Judaism have revamped the mitzvot in a way that fits a “new age” rewriting of the laws. They have made the commandments about human-centered spirituality that spreads out to God and all mankind, rather than commandments that are passed down from God to man.

The Jewish Renewal site makes its mantra clear, stating it’s “a transdenominational approach to revitalizing Judaism.” Its reach is to everyone: “Renewal is an attitude, not a denomination,” with “an emphasis on accessible spiritual experience.” In other words, this is a movement without demands, such as only eating kosher foods. It is more akin to a yoga retreat. Not only is there no need to be Jewish, a person needn’t perform ancient rote rituals. Just engage in new age meditation.

Reconstructionist Judaism is more traditional than Jewish Renewal, but far from “traditional.” Its emphasis is on “Jewish Identity,” as its website states: “what primarily gives Jews our identity is not belief but rather the feeling of belonging to the Jewish civilization itself. We observe Jewish holidays, rituals and customs, not because a divine being commanded us to, but because it is our primary method of reinforcing Jewish identity.” In other words, God’s commandments are not really commandments (or God doesn’t exist) for Reconstructionist Jews. The basis for observing any tradition is simply a matter of keeping the “Jewish identity” around, not because of any higher authority.

These days, the Reform movement has put the world front and center. It’s mission is to build “communities that transform the way people connect to Jewish life, building a more whole, just, and compassionate world.” It does this through tikkum olam, “repairing the world.” The movement’s leader, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, speaks of Reform Judaism as operating in concert with the global community: “the heart of a tikkun olam that embraces always both the universal and the particular.

These three branches of Judaism approach religious practice very differently than Orthodox Judaism. Their Judaism is centered on global mankind’s yearning to connect – to the planet and the people around the world – to achieve a personal fulfillment of serenity. Jewish rituals are props to achieve that state of zen. Similarly, non-Jews bring their own props to their encounters with God and mankind. Universalism and particularism (of props) coexist in a human-centered meditative state of bliss.

This 3R approach towards religion is an inversion of Orthodox Judaism that is premised on a top-down philosophy. The Bible and Ten Commandments began with God, not man. The 613 commandments given to Jews were just that – commandments – not guides to validate one’s own sense of social justice. These commandments were uniquely given to Jews, as Orthodoxy believes that non-Jews were given only seven commandments which relate to universal morality.

The orientation of particularism of Orthodox rabbis extends broadly: to Jewish people (they do not perform interfaith weddings); the Bible (with unique commandments only for Jews); and to the holy land itself, which they believe was given to the Jewish people. According to a Pew poll in 2013, 84% of Orthodox Jews believe that God gave Israel to the Jews. That compares to only 54%, 35% and 24% of Conservative, Reform, and non-denominational Jews, respectively. By way of comparison, 55% of Christians believe that God gave Israel to the Jews. How remarkable is that? Christians are more Zionistic than non-Orthodox Jews.

This dichotomy between Orthodox and non-Orthodox denominations is at the core of different approaches to the Jewish State and the holy land. For Orthodox Jews, the Jewish State is particular, just like the bible and Jewish people. In contrast, the non-Orthodox denominations focus on universalism, and shun particularism as a form of tribalism and nationalism, with more than a whiff of racism.

It is therefore not a surprise that Jewish denominations that shun particularism in favor of universalism also denounce Zionism.

But why would universalists attack Israel on the global stage?

The fundamental approaches to Judaism, Jews and the holy land do not just lead to a difference of opinions; it destroys the baseline of communication, making discussion virtually impossible. In mathematical terms, the universalists are speaking in base 10 and the particularists are speaking in base 7. They can both understand each other in simple matters, like single digit numbers or that Abraham is the father of monotheism. But on complicated matters like a democratic Jewish State living in peace and security in the heart of the Arab Muslim Middle East, the interaction falls apart like discussing the number 242 (equal to 242 in base 10, but just 170 when converting base 7 to base 10). They are just not talking about the same thing. So rather than talk to each other, they talk to people with a similar language. The 3R rabbis take their version of tikkun olam to the global stage, like the United Nations.

Whereas Orthodox liberal Jews can call out for rights for Israeli Arabs and Palestinian Arabs without vilifying Israel, non-Orthodox rabbis seemingly cannot. Orthodoxy can approach equality within the rubric that the holy land as special and unique for Jews, while the non-Orthodox only see tribalism and primitive thinking. The 3R rabbis burnish their bona fides by burning ties that could reek of particularism as they engage with the global community.

The Current Dynamic

The universalism / “anti-tribalism” movement within the 3R denominations often attacks both Orthodox Jews and the Jewish state. It has sometimes provoked a backlash.

In September 2015, the Reconstructionist movement announced a new policy to allow rabbis to marry non-Jews as a reaction to the movement’s conclusion that “many younger progressive Jews, including many rabbis and rabbinical students, now perceive restrictions placed on those who are intermarried as reinforcing a tribalism that feels personally alienating and morally troubling in the 21st century.” With such declaration, several Reconstructionist rabbis became fed up.

In April 2016, twenty Reconstructionist rabbis left the denomination to form Beit Kaplan, as they felt that the Reconstructionist movement had lost its way. They said that “the decision to form the association was sparked, in part, by the recent RRC policy shift that muddled the definition of what it means for a rabbi to have a Jewish family. Other contributing factors include a desire to return the focus of liberal Judaism to Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan’s vision of Jewish peoplehood and a desire to affirm connections to the Jewish people globally, including in Israel.”

Several Reconstructionist rabbis became infuriated with the official positions of Reconstructionist’s universalism. Their new assembly felt compelled to clarify that not only did it think that sanctioning rabbis intermarrying was a destructive force on the Jewish family, it said that it “unequivocally reject[s] any movement to delegitimize Israel in the community of nations,” because the Reconstructionist movement had become a haven for demonizing the Jewish State.

In short, Beit Kaplan felt that the Reconstructionist movement had lost the basic concept of the definition of being a Jew and the special nature of the Jewish State.

The 3R rabbis’ Israel-bashing had started to gain momentum during the 2014 Gaza War, when many non-Orthodox rabbis actively vilified the Jewish State. The lunatic rabbinic fringe even held fasts for the people of Gaza, but not for anyone in Israel.

Consider Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, the leader of an enormous gay Reconstructionist congregation, member of J Street and listed in Newsweek’s list of 50 Influential Rabbis. Her radical left-wing politics were mostly blessed by her members, but her tirades against Israel became too much for many to bear. In 2014, one of the board members of her congregation resigned, publicly stating the “recent [2014 Gaza War] events have demonstrated that CBST [the gay synagogue] is far more committed to a progressive political agenda than to the Jewish people….  I don’t want to raise my kids in a synagogue that’s praying for people firing rockets.

The attitude was pervasive. Leading rabbis of JVP and J Street – all non-Orthodox – called for a divorce between Judaism and the Jewish State, and between the holy land and Jews.

Consider Rabbi Brian Walt, a member of JVP and coordinator of the Jewish Fast for Gaza, who gave a talk entitled “Affirming a Judaism and Jewish identity without Zionism,” in which he declared: “political Zionism violates everything I believe about Judaism.” Or Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, on the board of J Street and signatory to the fast for Gaza who penned a letter for Code Pink to support the BDS movement, stating she “saw the destruction that is wrought by too many Israeli settlers,” making her change “my mind about the purchase of products made in the Jewish West Bank.

Non-Orthodox rabbis comfortably argued that there are too many Jews in the holy land because they segmented the religion, the people, the land and their identity. As they believe that religion is defined solely by identity, there is no need for a particular land, and no narrow definition of the Jewish people, as identity is self-selected.


Non-Orthodox rabbis wrap themselves in a tallit as a mere Jewish prop in a universalistic and humanistic approach towards meditation, while they shudder at the particularism of the God of Orthodox Judaism and the Jewish State.

Supporting Israel is not a battle of political orientation between liberal and conservative Jews. It is a philosophical break in the Jewish community with a fault line regarding the uniqueness of Jews and the Jewish State. The non-Orthodox denominations’ religious philosophy will only let it embrace an Israel that is: about people, not God; about rights not rituals; more secular than religious; more democratic than Jewish; and more universal than particular.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Students for Justice in Palestine’s Dick Pics

The Left-Wing’s Two State Solution: 1.5 States for Arabs, 0.5 for Jews

The Reform Movement’s Rick Jacobs Has no Understanding of Tolerance

A Seder in Jerusalem with Liberal Friends

There are Standards for Unity

The Three Camps of Ethnic Cleansing in the BDS Movement

The Anger from the Zionist Center

Tolerance at the Temple Mount

The Impossible Liberal Standard

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

Enduring Peace versus Peace Now

There have been many failed attempts at forging a peace deal in the Israel-Arab Conflict. In 2017, the Trump Administration stepped into the situation with a very different approach than the Obama Administration. While there are many facets to the new methods, a clear distinction is Trump’s goal of an “Enduring Peace” versus Obama’s goal of “Peace Now.”

Team Trump’s “Enduring Peace”

Trump placed two people with seemingly little diplomatic experience – but significant deal experience – to try their hands at crafting a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians: Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. While unfamiliar with diplomatic protocol, both Kushner and Greenblatt visited the region many times over their lives. They were joined in their effort by Dina Powell, an Egyptian-American who is the US deputy national security adviser for strategy.

A White House spokesperson made its goal clear for the talks on August 11, 2017 when it stated:

“Trump has previously noted that achieving an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will be difficult but he remains optimistic that peace is possible.”

Jason Greenblatt echoed those words in November after visiting the region several times stating:

“We have spent a lot of time listening to and engaging with the Israelis, Palestinians and key regional leaders over the past few months to help reach an enduring peace deal. We are not going to put an artificial timeline on the development or presentation of any specific ideas and will also never impose a deal. Our goal is to facilitate, not dictate a lasting peace agreement.”


Jason Greenblatt and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo: Kobi Gideon, GPO)

Team Trump’s stated mission is to forge a lasting peace that would endure for the future. The negotiators will take the time to work with the parties to structure an agreement that would provide lasting peace and security. This is a break from the Obama Administration.

Obama’s Progressive “Peace Now”

Obama had less international experience than Donald Trump when he assumed the office of the presidency in January 2009, and relied on his “progressive” liberal colleagues to educate him on the Israel-Arab conflict. Those left-wing parties included J Street and Americans for Peace Now. These groups advocated that the administration put “daylight” between America and Israel, as negotiations under President George W. Bush (which was viewed as very close to Israel), came up short of a deal. Obama made clear – to the delight of the far-left wing groups – that he was going to push the Israelis hard to stop building homes for Jews east of the Green Line (EGL).

The far-left groups believed that strong pressure on Israel was key to getting to a peace deal. They were ecstatic when Obama won a 10-month settlement freeze a few months after they met with Obama in July 2009 at the beginning of his term. They celebrated at the end of the Obama administration in December 2016, when Obama let United Nations Resolution 2334 pass declaring it was illegal under international law for Jews to live in EGL.

Jeremy Ben Ami, head of J Street said after the July 2009 meeting with Obama: “I left the room feeling we are at a truly historic moment of opportunity.  There may never be another American President who so clearly gets the issues strategically and has the political capital to try to pull off an agreement.”

The differences between Obama and Trump are both stark and clear.

The left-wing radicals believed that they had a moment in time, and that their anointed Messiah had a unique chance to forge peace in the Middle East. They felt both emboldened by Obama’s presidency and felt the urgency of time. They pushed the Obama Administration to get to a deal as quickly as possible by pushing a solution onto Israel.

Conversely, Team Trump has not shown such hubris. Their focus is not to get to a deal in the fastest time possible, but to establish an enduring peace. They recognize the fact that when Israel uprooted all of its settlements in Gaza and gave the land to the Palestinians it did not result in peace, but in three wars. Greenblatt and Kushner are content to take time to get to a lasting resolution, not the gratification of an immediate deal. They have stated that they are not going to let the UN impose a solution, like the Obama Administration advanced in December 2016.

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry failed to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians and watched the region descend into chaos. Their creation of “daylight” between Israel and the US; the use of international fora to attack Israel; and their rush to embrace the approach of “Peace Now” neither got to a deal nor set the parties on the path to enduring peace.

Hopefully the new approach of seasoned negotiators Greenblatt and Kushner to take their time to get to an “enduring peace” will yield much better results.


Related First.One.Through articles:

Jared Kushner’s Parents Donate $20 million to the First Hospital Likely to Win the Nobel Peace Prize

Mutual Disagreement of Mediators and Judges in the Arab-Israeli Conflict

John Kerry: The Declaration and Observations of a Failure

The Evil Architects at J Street Take a Bow

J Street is a Partisan Left-Wing Group, NOT an Alternative to AIPAC

J Street: Going Bigger and Bolder than BDS

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis

Unity – not Unanimity – in the Pro-Israel Tent

The story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible is just a few sentences in length, but it has long captured the imaginations of all sorts of people. Artists have pictured its physical heights, while biblical scholars and theologians have sought to decipher the story’s meaning.

A new book by Rabbi Shai Held, “The Heart of the Torah,” took an interesting approach to the story. Held questioned the essence of the “sin” of the architects and builders of the Tower of Babel. If the punishment for their actions was that the people of Babel were scattered around the Earth, each speaking a different language, it would imply that the crux of the offence was the group’s cohesiveness. Too much unity was a seemingly bad thing, at odds with today’s view of unity as a worthy goal.

Held responded to his own observation by advancing the notion that the problem of the people building the Tower was not their unity, but their uniformity. It was not a problem that everyone was working to accomplish something together, but that the societal structure created a monolithic mass in which people were indistinguishable from each other. Such a state is unnatural, and could only be accomplished with an authoritarian ruler. It was that totalitarian regime that was the core of the sin and what needed to be broken, not the cohesiveness of a multitude of people. Hence the “punishment” to create more unique individuals with their own language and direction who could not be controlled by a single ruler.

Unity of Purpose

A good example of a group of different people uniting in a common purpose can be found in sports.

A professional basketball team typically includes players with a variety of different skills: one player may be a good outside shooter; another a solid rebounder; a third good at dribbling and passing; etc. The players likely do not have a uniform set of skills, but have a unity of purpose of winning a game.

As part of the effort to win, the players support each other. They pass each other the ball. They set screens and picks to provide an open shot. They encourage and cheer their teammates on, whether they are playing well, or need encouragement to perform better.

That is unity, and the mark of a successful team dynamic.

Conversely, a bad teammate is one that throws the ball to opposing team. That never shows up for practice. That tells the referee that one of their teammates committed a foul. Allowing such a player onto the court hurts the entire team.

A good teammate tells a fellow teammate when he is in the paint for too long; a bad teammate tells the referee that his teammate should be called with a 3-second violation. A strong team witnesses teammates pulling each other up; a weak team has teammates shouting each other down.

In short, a team with unity uses active and passive means to help the team win. A flawed team has teammates yelling at each other and calling for outside forces to punish their own team.

With such orientation, it is useful to explore unity and uniformity in the pro-Zionist tent.

The Pro-Israel Tent

The pro-Israel camp has been attempting to figure out how wide to extend its community tent. There are many opinions surrounding Israel, whether about land, politics or religion. There is certainly no fear of uniformity. But what about unity? When do the myriad opinions become intolerable for a joint effort?

As in the sports example above, the pro-Israel tent should allow people with different voices, but not those that seek to use external pressure to harm the Jewish State. Outside forces might be financial, such as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel, and using the United Nations or United States to pass anti-Israel resolutions and laws.

There are a number of groups that claim to be pro-Israel that precisely take these actions:

  • Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is an advocate for BDS of Israel and lobbies governments, churches and schools to support BDS. It seeks to use financial pressure to force Israel to capitulate to a variety of demands ranging from giving up Judea and Samaria, to removing the limited blockade of Gaza. It has also proudly hosted events for convicted terrorists. The group’s leader, Rebecca Vilkomerson has stated clearly “our charge is to change U.S. policy [about Israel].”
  • J Street pushed the Obama Administration to declare the Jewish towns in Judea & Samaria (the “settlements”) as illegal and to allow a United Nations resolution to pass in December 2016. That action has set in motion a massive action campaign against businesses in Judea & Samaria.
  • New Israel Fund (NIF) supports a variety of groups that seek to end Israel as a Jewish State. NIF supports Adalah which seeks to replace the Jewish State with a bi-national state in which Jews would be a minority. NIF funds groups and movies that tour the world that demonize Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces.

All of these groups are bad actors. They go to international fora to condemn Israel and suggest punitive actions against the Jewish State. They do not seek to advance Israel by engaging with the country directly with concerns, but through external force.


Rabbi Held described the dangers of uniformity in his review of the Tower of Babel. “If everyone says the same words and thinks the same thoughts, then a society emerges in which there is no room for individual tastes, thoughts and aspirations, or for individual projects and creativity.” Uniformity is a problem, but not unity. Unity without uniformity combines the talents of each individual in a common purpose and enhances the participants as well as the end-result. However, a lack of uniformity together with a lack of unity is simply chaos. There is nothing that binds the people or mission together other than a flimsy veneer that will ultimately dissolve.

The Jewish State and pro-Israel groups will never have uniformity of opinions, but it should have unity of purpose. Those groups that want to be part of the Pro-Israel and Pro-Zionist movement should adhere to the basic principle of not going to external fora to harm Israelis or the government of Israel. While these groups may self-identify as pro-Israel, they cannot be welcomed into the pro-Israel community.


Related First.One.Through articles:

There are Standards for Unity

A Disservice to Jewish Community

Students for Justice in Palestine’s Dick Pics

The Fault in Our Tent: The Limit of Acceptable Speech

The Evil Architects at J Street Take a Bow

Subscribe YouTube channel: FirstOneThrough

Join Facebook group: FirstOne Through  Israel Analysis