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Our Daunting Task


Small, independent, poorly funded groups and individuals have stepped up to the task, on campuses, on the streets, on the Internet. The large Jewish organizations are following, reluctantly and slowly, behind us.

As religious Jews we have an even greater task. Especially at this time of year, can we open our hearts to all those Jews whom we fear – whom we know – are behaving recklessly, selfishly, self-destructively? Can we try to understand, really understand, that they, too, are “b’Tzelem,” and that if we cannot find ways of connecting at some level to each other, our failure to do so may doom us?

Six years ago I first proposed a new kind of meeting of the twelve tribes in these very pages (“Jews on the Precipice,” front page essay, June 18, 2004). “So many Jews who hold passionate and opposing views have simply stopped listening and talking to each other,” I wrote. “The silence is more awful than arguments . We must come together in order to strategize about our very survival.”

If such a conclave were indeed to take place, I believe we would need one psychiatrist for every three Jews present. I am not saying we are crazy. I am saying we are all so angry at each other, so hard, so sure of our own position – so stiff-necked, arrogant and self-righteous – that without professional help we would all walk out on each other, mid-sentence, blood pressure boiling, curses on our lips.

I am asking us to envision doing something very difficult, very large. Can I actually sit in a room with J Streeters, or with Women in Black, or with others who demonstrate against Israel, sign petitions against Israel, arm the rogues at the United Nations with ammunition against Israel? Probably not. I fear I’d walk right out.

Moshe broke the first set of tablets at just such a moment. But he also begged God to forgive the Jews for the very sins that drove him to break the luchot.

We are all in Moshe’s position now. In Moshe’s merit, and for God’s sake, let us have less hate or even dislike for other Jews as we strengthen our resolve and gird our loins for battle.

Dr. Phyllis Chesler, an emerita professor of psychology and women’s studies and co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women’s Health Network, is the author of many works including “Women and Madness” (1972) and “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003). This essay was adapted from a speech she gave at Vacation Village on Shabbos Nachamu. She can be contacted through her website, www.phyllis-chesler.com.

About the Author: Dr. Phyllis Chesler is a professor emerita of psychology, a Middle East Forum fellow, and the author of fifteen books including “Women and Madness” (1972), “The New Anti-Semitism” (2003), and her latest, “An American Bride in Kabul” (2013). Her articles are archived at www.phyllis-chesler.com.


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