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The Lerner School in Durham, North Carolina.

The speakers and organizations range from the Jewish world’s center far left to simply further and further left until you finally get to a “leading Muslim public intellectual” who was brought in from the Duke Islamic Studies Center to speak about the “Intersection of Spirituality and Social Justice,” by exploring Rumi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rabbi Heschel.

A J Street speaker is the authority in Judea Reform’s “Standing up for Israel” program.

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But wait: Judea Reform held an Israel Discussion Series in the 2014/15 school year. That sounds promising. Until you look at the topics and who covered them.

On Feb. 21, 2015, Prof. Sarah Shields of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spoke at Judea Reform. Her topic was: “Before 1948: the History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Shields was described by her students as “stridently anti-American and anti-Israel,” and “unbalanced.” She was one of four UNC professors to sign a petition to boycott Israeli academic institutions during the summer of 2014.

On Aug. 23, 2015, Marty Rosenbluth, who is described as “Amnesty International’s Country Specialist for Israel and the Occupied Territories for more than a dozen years,” gave a talk. The topic of Rosenbluth’s talk was “Balance of Fear: Can We Use a Human Rights Approach to Frame the Israel-Palestine Discussion?” You can just imagine who was framed by that talk.

Amnesty International accused Israel of committing war crimes in Lebanon and in Gaza. In 2006, Rosenbluth defended AI’s claims on the anti-Israel radio program “Democracy Now.” Rosenbluth is listed as an advisor by the Muslim American Society, an American offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A little over a month later, Judea Reform presented Sandra Korn to lead a discussion about “Open Hillel: On Red Lines in the Jewish Community.” Korn was “involved in the Open Hillel Campaign” at Harvard. Open Hillel, of course, is the effort of college students to overthrow the requirement that Hillel events be supportive – or at least not openly destructive – of Israel.

October’s fare in Judea Reform’s Israel discussion series brought Shai Ginsburg to speak about “Old and New Maps the Holy Land, and the State of Israel.” In the fall of 2014, Ginsburg, along with other members of the Jewish Studies department of nearby Duke University, wrote a letter to the school paper denouncing the upcoming Hillel’s “Israeli Shabbat: Bedouin Style,” and urging its cancelation. Why? Because, they wrote, “As you may know, there is a long history of Israeli appropriation of Palestinian, Arab, and/or Bedouin culture.”

In November, Temple Judea Reform invited in a member and “summer organizing intern for Jewish Voice for Peace,” Jade Brooks, to speak on the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions 101: A Global Movement for Justice.

In other words, Judea Reform brought in a promoter of BDS, from the single most anti-Israel “Jewish” group in the country, to educate their community about why doing harm to Israel qualifies as a “movement for justice.”

The final topic in Judea Reform’s “Israel Discussion Series” was about “preventing violent extremism in America.”  But this was not about attacks on the pro-Israel population or even simply American Jews. Instead it focused on “Anti-Islamic Bigotry.”

So Temple Judea Reform’s entire “Israel Discussion Series” gave the podium to not even one speaker or presentation other than Israel-bashers — with a small dose of criticism for “islamaphobia” added in for flavor.  Given the intimate relationship between shul and school, this record should give great pause to those who took comfort in its rabbi’s vouching for the pro-Israel position of the Lerner School.

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the JewishPress.com. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com

21 COMMENTS

  1. The odd thing is that this positioning of the Rabbi and his "temple", presumably with the agreement of his board, and in connivance with the school's staff. to a certain outlook on Israel and Zionism has been tried many times previously in history, most recently since Herzl's day in an attempt by them to force what are the genuine boundaries of Jewish nationalism and religious commitment to the obligations to the Land of Israel to fit their needs to be either liberal, progressive or just plain Americans of the Mosaic faith. Sir Montague, Stephen Wise, Martine Buber, Judah Magnes, and on to Peter Beinart and Tony Judt, they don't just disagree but seek to replace the "real thing" with something else and then declare that the truth. Israel isn't just niot that good but they are the hinest "pro-Israel" forces. Their education is on the mark. Their programs are the best. In the end, as you have pointed out, they promote totalitarian thought and programming content without pluralism.

  2. As a grandfather of four children, one who has graduated from this school. I assure you the facts are misleading and inaccurate. I am a veteran of the 6 day war who camped out in the dessert of the Sinai for months. I immigrated to Israel from Tunis in 1949 after my parents property was stolen from them. I know hatred, I have seen it. The problem with this article and many of the others is that it ignores everything that does not contribute to the narrative. They igore the children singing Hatikva, they ignore the many staff members who are also veterans of the IDF. They ignore statements of solidarity with those who die at the hands of terrorists. They ignore the celebration of the Jewish state.They ignore the school helping parents create a rally during the first Gaza war in 2008. They ignore countless other acts that show the school is nothing but pro-Israel giving the children nothing but love and admiration to the country I call home. No one at the school is pro-BDS, it violates the mission of the school. Just because people say things does not make it so. I don't have anything against people choosing to leave the school. I do have something against people choosing to leave and then attacking from the outside. What is the goal? What do they hope to achieve? If they wanted to make a change why wouldn't they stay and fight, why wouldn't they try to make the school better for all the children?

  3. So how to explain this cringe-worthy column written by the principal? She essentially says standing with Israel during the Gaza War was too controversial and easily misunderstood at Lerner, and then she also goes on to say that the range of opinions about Israel (which obviously includes BDS and worse) is "beautiful." Here's what she wrote: "Lerner is accused of not supporting Israel because a conscious decision was made to not send out communication regarding the conflict in Israel this past summer. In our community political opinions about Israel reach far and wide. This is a beautiful aspect of our community as it speaks to the diversity and strength of our area. With a major change in leadership this past summer, the decision to not send out communication was made so that my first communication on behalf of Lerner not be about Israel. Without members of the community knowing me or knowing my communication style, I did not want anyone reading into anything I wrote and drawing opinions without having greater context of who I am and what I stand for. “

  4. This article underscores the crucial need to support Torah-true kiruv organizations. There are many such organizations all along the Orthodox spectrum, including Aish haTorah, Chabad, community kollelim, and… well, lots of others that I can't think of off the top of my head. Pick your favorite(s) and make their support a priority in your giving. Also, check out some of the organizations that you and probably your parents have supported for years and make sure they're still kosher. Some are not.

    We must reach out with love and concern and reclaim our poor, benighted brothers and sisters before their odd forms of Judaism create a permanent split between us. It's not too late to reach at least some of them. Let's get to work!

  5. Those of you who read this article as factual are quite misled about the Lerner School. You are 100% wrong about Lerner. I have been involved since it s inception 20 years ago. You inaccuracies are damaging to a vibrant and growing Jewish Community I have lived here for 26 years benefiting from the compassionate support and rich life offered by this dynamic community. Sensationalizing this situation is irresponsible and shameful.

  6. This article's title has nothing to do with its contents. The title is about a school, the article about a congregation. The current rabbi, who began his tenure in July 2015, is condemned for a series that was planned before he was hired. The rabbi's, the congregation's, and the school's, consistant and decades of support for the State of Israel, of which there are many examples, are entirely ignored.

    Do not read this article as fact. Come meet the people on the ground and see this incredible, vibrant, congregation and school.

  7. Liberal Jews largely are assimilated fascists who have contributed enormously to the resurgence of anti-Semitism across the globe. Liberal values are not Jewish values. Liberals commit crimes, evade prosecution, lie to the public, and use political power for their own gain. You cannot be a liberal and a Jew, it is impossible. Supporting the genocidal cause of the arabs who call themselves palestinians makes you an anti-Israel liberal. Jews who support anti-Israel causes are the lowest form of life on earth b/c they benefit from Israel's existence but show no gratitude. When I see a liberal Jew I think to myself, what a piece of .

  8. Ms. Marcus has teed off on a very sad series of events without doing due diligence about the evolution of events in Durham. She is apparently unaware of the growth of very strong pro-Zionism in the community, which has been heavily influenced by close proximately to two large universities. These institutions are very like most other major Universities in this country, in their high jacked, confused opinions about Israel. And, yes, in the past, the Reform Synagogue has had issues and heavy influence by J Street. Beginning 9 years ago, a small group of us lead the fight against Duke hosting the PSM conference. This lead to a major article in Commentary Magazine authored by two Duke students, entitled “The Intifada Comes to Duke.” That was only the beginning. During the first Gaza War, hundreds of pro-Israeli people turned out to support Israel on the main street through the UNC Campus. We quickly became the “Voice for Israel” (http://www.voice4israel.com) with a monthly newsletter, sponsorship of talks and recognition by the local Federations of our important role in political influence. One of the Federations has grown a very substantial Israel Center. The very new Reform Rabbi has shown clear support for Israel and is now widely seen as moving in the direction of our community leadership. Things are moving very fast in this newly energized direction. We wish Ms. Marcus would come see for herself. The Voice for Israel has published very strong endorsement of the Pro-Israel activities of the Lerner Jewish Day School.

  9. Robert Gutman did you read the article? All of Judea Reform's anti-Israel events, which were all the Israel events posted, were from THIS calendar year, not in the past. My article was not focused on the Lerner School, per se, but on one strong endorsement of its pro Israel bona fides from the rabbi whose own shul hosted events that are totally unbalanced from the anti-Israel perspective. I have been following events at Duke and the surrounding year for years, and did a radio show on the PSM conference. It's great that you are working hard (and uphill, it seems) and kol haKavod to you for recognizing the need; much work remains to be done..

  10. As soon as I read that this school is affiliated with a Reform synagogue, I knew already what I was about to read. I'm sorry that this sounds so bigoted, but the worst leftist, self hating Jews are associated with the Reform Movement. They spend so much time demonizing Israel, they are convinced that they are "pro-Israel." It's a very sad state of affairs.

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