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October 19, 2018

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, OCTOBER 19, 2018 PAGE 5A 15 By Ammiel Hirsch NEWYORK (JTA)--Some- thing is rotten in the state of liberalism that threatens the future of progressive Judaism. Jews who call themselves "liberal" join organizations seeking to boycott, divest and sanction Israel in dispropor- tional numbers. They lead the attack against Israel with a kind of ferocity normally reserved for the world's worst regimes. Their antipathy for Israel leads them to join groups that even have anti- Semitic tendencies. But the danger is not only in the political realm. Like everything else in life, our actions, our politics are dictated by our core values and principles. Many liberal Jews are uncomfortable with Jewish particularism, assert- ing that it is an illiberal idea whose time has passed. While there was always a healthy tension in Jewish thought between the centrality of Jewish peoplehood and Jewish interactions with, and obliga- tions to, the world at large, it is increasingly difficult for liberal Jews today to accept that Jewish distinctiveness is a core Jewish value or even a contemporary social good. Thus, liberal Jews are abandoning their Jewish identity in accelera~ng and unsustainable numbers. Ac- cording to a Pew study pub- lished in August, nearly half of American Jews prefer not to identify with organized re- ligion. Their distancing from the Jewish community has already caused a significant contraction of our movement and, if not contained, will cause an implosion of the instrumentalities of Reform Judaism itself. If we do not reverse these trends, Reform Judaism two generations from now will be a shadow of what it is today. Pulitzer Prize winner Mi- chael Chabon's commence- ment address last spring at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion addressed these issues directly. Before a sanctuary filled with newly minted or soon-to-be Reform rabbis, cantors, educators and other Jewish professionals and their families, Chabon told these future leaders of Reform Judaism that since the last of his children's b'nai mitzvah, his retreat from religious practice has been near total. He contended that Judaism, like every other religion, is one giant interlocking sys- tem of division intended to enforce the division between, among other things, Jews and non-Jews. Chabon touched upon the very heart of Jewish distinc- tiveness and peoplehood. "An endogamous marriage is a ghetto of two," he said. "I want [my children] to marry into the tribe that prizes learning, inquiry, skepticism, openness to new ideas. I want my children to marry into the tribe that enshrines equality before the law and freedom of conscience and human rights There will be plenty of potential partners for my children to choose--a fair number [of whom] are even likely to be Jews." Such is the wounded state of Jewish liberalism today that in response, Chabon received a rousing ovation from most (but not all) of the crowd of students about to embark on their first full-time posi- tions in Reform synagogues, supported by many of their professional mentors. Under what theory of lib- eralism are we required to discard attachments and loyalties to Jews? What is this new Jewish progressivism that asserts that the acceptance of others requires the negation of self? Is a marriage between two Catholics, Hindus, Mus- lims or Universalists illiberal? Is a marriage between two indigenous Australians, eager to preserve Aboriginal civili- zation, illiberal? To care about fellow Jews, to feel connected to the Jewish people and to be attached to the Jewish state are not proof of ghetto Judaism. In fact, not to be committed to these values is evidence of Jewish decline. Don't liberals believe in diversity, in a pluralism of communities? Don't we be- lieve in the dignity of human difference? Or do we believe in diversity for everyone but Jews? We didn't build walls to keep people out; they built walls to keep us in. The goal of the particular existence of the Jewish people is to bring light to all the peoples of the earth. God "appointed you to be a light to the nations," Isa- iah preached, "opening eyes deprived of light, bringing prisoners, and all those who sit in darkness out of their dungeons." The point of the particular existence of the Jewish people is to promote the dignity of all people. Jew- ish chosenness never implied superiority. To the contrary, we were the lowest of nations. We were slaves. We liberal Jews never seem to speak about Jewish solidar- ity anymore. We speak about our obligations to the world with profound conviction and eloquence, but never seem to speak about our ob- ligations to Jews. Thus, for many Reform Jews, "tikkun olam" implies everyone in the world except Jews. It is rare to meet an American Reform youth or activist who consid- ers tikkun olam to include the obligation to assist, say, impoverished Jews in Israel or the former Soviet Union. A Reform tikkun olam mission would more likely travel to a poor African village than a soup kitchen for Jews in Ukraine. The irony is that the very concept of prophetic values emerged from the Hebrew prophets, who were fierce particularists At no time did they abandon the Jew- ish particular in favor of the universal. To the contrary, the universal was a function, a product, of the particular. The impetus and urgency of prophetic morality was an outcome of the centrality of the Jewish people, not its negation. The growing inclination among liberal Jews to de-em- phasize Jewish distinctiveness is the gravest threat to the future of liberal Judaism. For what are the prospects of the continuity of the people if the people are not committed to its own continuity--and does not even agree philosophically that it is a legitimate objective and a social good? Is it possible to sustain the Jewish people without being committed to the Jewish people? Can Juda- ism survive without Jews? It is the will to Jewish distinctiveness that ensures Jewish distinctiveness. It is the will to continue that has led to continuity. There is a ferocity to Jewish survival in- stincts, an indomitable sense of Jewish destiny.When these are lost, the future is lost. In the modern world, those who are not committed to Jew- ish survival will not survive as Jews. Ammiel Hirsch is the se- nior rabbi at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, a Reform congregation on New York's Upper West Side. This op-ed is adapted from his2018 Yore Kippur sermon, "From the Ghetto." The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media. By Zahava Englard Shapiro (Mida via JNS)--I write this just hours after an Arab terrorist shot and killed two Jews and seriously wounded a third in the Barkan industrial center in Israel's Shomron re- gion, where thousands of Jews and Arabs work side by side. I write this just after learn- ing thatArab terrorists set fire to chicken farms in the Yizrael Valley in northern Israel. I write this as southern Israel is still ablaze, for months, due to Arab terrorists in Gaza that began their arson attacks early this past summer. Iwrite this just22 days after Ari Fuld ~"~ was murdered in Gush Etzion. I write this after Israeli citi- zens have been attacked with rockets, knifed, gunned down, run down, ambushed on our roads, in our streets, in our capital, in our synagogues, in our schools, in our kitchens, and in our beds, spanning decades, with no end in sight. I write this after listening to countless impeccably written speeches, artfully delivered by our prime minister at- testing to Israel's right to defend itself. I write this after listening time and again to our defense minister's empty threats and tedious warnings to our enemy. The people of Israel wait in vain for the government to take action. We wait in vain for our leadership to implement concrete security measures, for the government to initi- ate preventative procedures. We wait in vain for our prime minister and defense minister to employ a definitive policy of deterrence. We wait in vain for them to execute the courage to put an end to it. To exhibit a desire for victory. We wait for our leadership to stand as proud Jews against our enemies. With strength of conviction. With dignity. We wait. We bleed. We bury our dead. And we wait some more. In the absence of leadership, we live and die at the whim of our enemies bent on our destruction. To its shame, this govern- ment will go down in history as the one that turned a blind eye to the flow of Jewish blood, andwho besmirched the tenet of Jewish dignity that the Li- kud had once stood for. Yes, to be certain, our government is front and center with its commitment to helping humanity at large, but at the same time, our leaders forsake its own people. They discard their own iden- tity, their compassion, and their duty to its people and they have shed the pride that accompanies a love of one's peoplehood. The Knesset today is home to Jews who sit at the helm, whose Torah and heritage is foreign to them. Rather than take definitive measures to put an end to enemy attacks, they turn on their own, deny the right of the people of Israel to their land, and uproot their people from their homes and property. Worse, they do not possess the mettle to apply our right to pray on the Temple Mount, the Jewish nation's most sacred place. Could it be, that in a des- perate attempt to grasp at any solution, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen a path of national suicide, by considering an enemy state on our soil? This is the path of those who have lost hope. Perhaps he can claim to be pragmatic. But pragmatism belongs to those who lost their hearts along their way. His pragmatism bares Jewish blood flowing easily throughout our land. In the vacuum of respon- sible governance, the onus of security falls on the indi- vidual. Individuals such as Marc Prowisor of The One Israel Fund, who is literally a one- man team who travels all over the country ensuring that communities and First Response teams have the equipment they need to pre- vent further victims to Arab terror. His mantra of"No more victims" is put into action without flowery speeches or fanfare, and works around the clock to fill in where our government won't. Other individuals such as Nadia Matar and Yehudit Katsover, indefatigable lead- ers of Women In Green, who have labored consistently over the years, preventing co- lonialist Arabs from destroy- ing our fields and illegally seizing our land, and who are currently spearheading the push for our rightful sov- ereignty over our ancestral land. Ari Fuld, HY"D, was also a brave warrior of our country who lived and died giving his life for his people. There are many more self- less Jews in Israel who take Leadership on page 15A By Justin Amler (MidaviaJNS)--There is an evil that exists in "Palestin- ian" society. An evil that seeks to de- stroy and to kill and to hurt and to eliminate all those around it. An evil that takes great joy in the murder of innocents. An evil that celebrates the tears and heartaches of the Jewish people. An evil that has only dark- ness in its heart, and only murder in its mind. Destroy. Murder. Burn. Wreck. These are the words it lives by, and these are the words it kills by, too. Today that evil visited two beautiful Jewish souls and snuffed out their light. Kim Levengrond-Yehezkel (z'l) and Ziv Hajbi (z"l) were taken from the world, brutally murdered by an Arab who will now be hailed as a hero and will, along with his family, receive copious amounts of money for his deed. He committed the atrocity in a place where hundreds of Jews and Muslims work side by side. He bound their hands and shot them point blank, ISIS-style, in the back of their heads. Kim was a young mother of an 18-month-old. Ziv was an accountant and the father of a three young chil- dren. They were not soldiers, they were not armed, they were not settlers. None of the usual excuses made to try to justify the barbaric behavior of Arabs who murder Israeli civilians. They were Jews. Kim, her husband and 18-month-old son, orphaned of his mother. The world will most likely feign their concern, if they mention it at all, and call for calm and restraint. Then they will continue to supply the Pales- tinian Authority entity with the funds needed to reward the murderers with a nice sizable pension that ensures the rest of their lives will be lived in comfort, while being honored by their community. We like to think we live in a world that fights evil, but we don't. We like to think we live in aworld where terrorists who murder are shunned and expelled from decent society, butwe don't. We like to think that we live in a world where those who murder and those who encourage and facilitate that murder are punished, but we don't. Instead, the "Palestinians" will name town squares after the murders. Schools will bear their names, and great big murals on walls will carry their image and "legacy" for all to admire and emulate. And all this time, this world will throw more money at them and demand from the tiny Jewish state that this evil that exists must be rewarded and it must be given a state of their own, a state whose goal is to continue that path of murder that the world turns a blind eye to. Then we will have peace, we are told. But peace will never come when dealing with evil, be- cause evil has only ever had one goal: to destroy every- thing and to kill everyone. You cannot fight evil with kindness. You cannot fight evil with appeasement. And you certainly cannot fight evil by appealing to blackened hearts. You can only fight evil with the sole intention of destroy- ing it, because anything less will ensure it will keep on trying to destroy you. Justin Amler is a noted South African born, Austra- lia-based writer and commen- tator on international issues. /