Are Rabbis then to quote Shakespeare in their Synagogues but never fight against Israelis being banned at the bard’s festivals?
Those who believe that Rabbis should be non-controversial and promote peace and harmony and never fight anti-Semitic bigots are guilty of cowardice. Indeed, this sentiment is more Christian than Jewish. Judaism lives not in the celestial spheres but on terra firma. A rabbi’s objective is not to get his congregants into heaven but to assist them in creating a more righteous earth. How can we ask University students to stand up for Israel during Apartheid week if Rabbis wont’ stand up even in their own congregations?
Saying that Rabbis should not be at the vanguard of fighting anti-Semitism is an invitation for spiritual irrelevance, moral timidity, and ethical retreat.
This past weekend I attended the memorial service in Atlanta for Cary Booker, father of my friend of 22 years, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, one of the finest friends of the American Jewish community and my study partner in Torah. I try never to visit Atlanta without visiting the gravesite of Martin Luther King, Jr. the greatest American of the 20th century and the man who restored this nation to its founding ideals of all men being created equal. What made King a great spiritual leader was not the fact that he was a mesmerizing speaker. Less so was it the fact that he was a talented writer. Rather, what made King the most influential pastor in America was his fight for his people, his fearlessness in standing up to tyranny, his bravery in confronting the evil of segregation and racial hatred and ultimately bringing it to its knees. King’s dreams of racial equality was realized through his soaring rhetoric but through his daring marches, leading children in the face of fire hoses and attack dogs, being bludgeoned by racist cops and corrupt officials. And though he paid with his life, of him it is today written what was said in ancient times of Joseph. On a slab of marble in front of Lorraine Hotel room 306, where he was murdered, the monument so beautifully reads, “Behold here cometh the dreamer. Come let us slay him. And let us see what shall become of his dreams.”