web analytics
September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Rabbinical Assembly’

Power’s Interventionism Thrills Pro-Israel Crowd Except on Israel

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Samantha Power brings to foreign policy an activist impulse that many in the pro-Israel community wish was more prevalent among American diplomats.

Except Power, a former White House national security council staffer nominated this week by President Obama to represent the United States at the United Nations, has at times directed her interventionist inclinations at Israel.

A former journalist and Harvard-educated lawyer known for her work on human rights and genocide, Power presents a rare and polarizing dilemma for the pro-Israel community: Enthusiastically embrace her proclivity for tough U.S. intervention and hope it never manifests in her dealings with Israel? Or block her?

Two conservative Jewish groups, the Zionist Organization of America and Emet, have taken the latter approach. In urging the Senate to kill Power’s nomination, they have cited a 2002 video in which Power appears to advocate transferring U.S. assistance from Israel to the Palestinians and deploying an interventionary force to protect the Palestinians, among other statements.

“The overwhelming evidence of her entire record causes us great fear and concern,” the ZOA said in a statement.

Meanwhile, an array of Jewish groups — including the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly — have endorsed her unreservedly.

The ADL and the Rabbinical Assembly, in separate releases, each used the phrase “champion of human rights” to describe Power, who first came to wide public attention with the publication of her 2002 book, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,” which considered American inaction in the face of various genocides.

Notably, two groups that maintain a regular U.N. presence, the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International, had no comment. B’nai B’rith’s said it was withholding approval of Power’s nomination until she addressed her earlier remarks under oath during Senate confirmation hearings.

“Israel has few real friends at the United Nations and at the top of the list is the United States, and it is really incumbent on the representative to be prepared, willing and able to rebuff and repel that kind of language,” said the group’s executive vice president, Daniel Mariaschin.

A similar dichotomy is playing out among Republican senators, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading critic of what he sees as Obama’s gun-shy foreign policy, saying he would support her, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a Tea Party favorite, expressing deep skepticism at the choice.

On Friday afternoon, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a pro-Israel leader in the body, strongly endorsed her on Twitter. “As United Nations Ambassador, Samantha Power will aggressively represent the United States interests in an increasingly hostile body,” he said on one Tweet, and then immediately: “Power will also be a strong supporter of our close friend and ally Israel.”

The difference was pronounced this week even among Republican Jews, with the Republican Jewish Coalition urging senators to ask Power hard questions about past statements and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whose failed candidacy last year for the U.S. House of Representatives was heavily touted by the RJC, singing her praises.

“I take my yarmulke off to President Obama for one of the most impressive actions of his presidency, namely, the nomination of Samantha Power to the post of American Ambassador to the United Nations,” Boteach wrote in the Huffington Post.

Power, 42, was born in Ireland, but moved to Pittsburgh as a child. Her coverage of the Balkan wars for a number of American media outlets in the 1990s led to an interest in human rights law. Her 2002 book drew strong reviews and attracted the attention of Barack Obama, who was then contemplating a Senate run. Power joined his 2008 presidential campaign as an adviser and later the Obama White House, where she worked on on multilateral organizations.

Central to critiques of Power is a chat she had with a University of California-Berkeley professor, Harry Kreisler, in 2002, when she headed Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights. Kreisler, hosting Power on his public access program, framed a question about U.S. intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a “thought experiment” and asked Power what she would do if “one party or another” seemed ready to commit genocide. At the time, Israelis and Palestinians were mired in the Second Intifada.

Rabbinical Assembly Unhappy about WOW Arrests

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Following Monday’s arrest of 10 women praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Conservative Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly (the international association of Conservative rabbis), called for “a quick solution that respects religious pluralism and women’s equality.”

An assembly press release stated that Schonfeld has been an outspoken critic of the treatment of non-Orthodox Jews at the wall. Among those arrested this time were RA members Debra Cantor of B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom in Bloomfield, Conn., and Robyn Fryer Bodzin of the Israel Center of Conservative Judaism in Flushing, N.Y.—both Conservative rabbis. In response to the arrests, Schonfeld declared:

“Today’s arrests at the Western Wall are a deeply concerning development at a time when we were hopeful for real progress on religious pluralism and women’s equality at this sacred site. It is unthinkable that in 2013, Israel is still denying the religious freedom of Jews wishing to express their faith without fear of being detained. Today’s action once again divides the Jewish community’s unity and drains energy away from crucial issues demanding our attention.”

Adding to Schonfeld’s comments, Conservative Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik, president of the Rabbinical Assembly issued the following statement:

“I am proud of rabbis Bodzin and Cantor and all those who were willing to put their personal freedom at risk today on behalf of all of us. Rabbi Cantor, one of the first women ordained by our movement, and Rabbi Fryer Bodzin, ordained in 2005, embody the immeasurable contribution that women make to the Conservative Rabbinate and world Jewry. “

Lapid: Let Conservatives and Reform in

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Yair Lapid, chairman and founder of the Yesh Atid Party, which ended with a surprisingly strong second place finish in the Israeli election Tuesday, had his first and only major appearance in the United States at last year’s convention of the Rabbinical Assembly. In May 2012, Lapid addressed the Atlanta convention of the international umbrella organization for Conservative rabbis.

During his address to the RA, Lapid focused on the need for increased religious pluralism in Israel, as can be seen in this online video excerpt of his remarks.

The full video of


Lapid’s entire remarks is also available. Highlights can be found at the following points:

9:00: “This is really important because I believe that Jewish identity is in danger, and you are the gatekeepers … You are part of the last line of defense that believes that Judaism shouldn’t be the jailhouse of ideas, but the liberator if ideas. Judaism should not be the disintegrator of people but what gets people together. And Judaism shouldn’t be subordinated to small politics because it answers a higher rule.”

19:34: “I’m going to do whatever is necessary, whatever is in my power, to make it feasible to women, Conservative or Reform, to pray at the wailing wall, wearing their prayer shawls.

“Why? Because Israel cannot be the only country in the Western World that has no freedom of religion for Jews. This is just wrong.”

20:20: “I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that there are going to be civil marriages in Israel.

“The total dominance of the Israeli Rabbanut over marriage and divorce in Israel is an insult to every free man. This is just wrong. “I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure the equality of all movements of Judaism in Israel … in conversion, in budgets, in the eyes of the law.”

21:45: “The majority of Israelis are actually Conservative, they just don’t know it. “The majority of Israelis want a pluralistic, sane, welcoming Judaism; they are just not aware of the fact that there is such a thing.”

No Thanksgiving Pardon for Jonathan Pollard

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

US President Barack Obama has issued the traditional presidential pardons this Thanksgiving, but did not add Jonathan Pollard to his list.

However, on the 26th anniversary of Pollard’s arrest, an hour-long meeting between seven Jewish leaders and Vice President Joe Biden at Biden’s office in the White House left the group “encouraged”.  Attendees at the Monday meeting included Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Simcha Katz, President of the Orthodox Union, Rabbi Steve Gutow, President of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly.

According to Pollard’s wife, Esther, Jonathan’s medical condition is grave, and he is weakening after 26 years in prison.  On Sunday, Esther issued a statement in which she fretted that “I feel he’s withering away in front of my eyes.” Pollard has been hospitalized four times this year.

In late September, Biden told a group of rabbis at a meeting in Florida that “President Obama was considering clemency, but I told him, ‘Over my dead body are we going to let him out before his time.’ ”

In the past year, the movement to gain clemency for Pollard has gained steam, with many US Senators, Congressmen, and other high-ranking officials joining the call for Obama to set Pollard free.

A Small Voice

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

This article was originally published in The Jewish Press on May 20, 1960. 


 


 


Yesterday, another Conservative Temple was dedicated.

 

Yesterday, ten more Jews married outside their faith.

 

Yesterday, a hundred thousand Jewish families sat down to enjoy a non-kosher meal.

 

Still yesterday, a million Jews lounged about the house discussing their Saturday auto ride to visit the relatives, while in New York and Cincinnati a score of young men prepared for their coming ordination as rabbis in the Reform movement.

 

Again yesterday, the largest gathering in the history of the Rabbinical Assembly-the national association of Conservative rabbis-convened at Grossinger’s Hotel, while a few miles away, another Conservative body, The National Federation of Men’s Clubs, opened the greatest convention in its existence.

 

Yesterday, Reform rabbis continued to marry and divorce, and convert individuals in violation of Jewish Law.

 

And yesterday, three million Jewish children played in the streets, victims of their elders ignorance and apathy, divorced from the beauties and truths of traditional Judaism, wanderers down a path that could end only in religious destruction.

 

The age we live in is not an age of faith. It is an age of reason, of doctrinal skepticism, of pragmatism, of agnosticism. It is an age of science that questions all. It is an age of Marxism that preaches materialism, not spirit. It is an age where religion is pushed to the side; doubted by the intellect, attacked by the Marxist, played by the masses.

 

It is an age that threatens the values that we hold dear. Torah and its pillar-faith-face a life and death struggle with this new age and its flashing rapiers, doubt and materialism.

 

Day by day the struggle continues. In every hamlet, in the soul of every Jew, the battle rages. Day by day traditional Judaism is faced with greater and greater problems, with an ever-widening gulf between it and the mass of our brother Jews, with ever growing heartbreak. Tragic? Yes. Heartbreaking? Undoubtedly. But far more tragic and far more heartbreaking all too often is the reaction of Orthodox Jewry to the crisis that threatens it.

 

One would imagine that having surveyed the awesome tasks that need be done, Orthodox leadership and organizations would put shoulders to the wheel and begin the holy task building a mighty community of Torah Jewry. One would imagine that our money, time, energy and talents would be carefully hoarded, each ounce to be saved for the building of yeshivas, synagogues, mikvahs, youth groups, and the countless myriads of institutions so vital to the survival of authentic Judaism. One would expect a concerted, dedicated, coordinated pooling of resources for the great battle against the desecrators of Torah. One would imagine that in our poverty, the great enemy would be waste; that in our lack of numbers the watchword would be unity. And yet, we seem to have so much.

 

             We have so many resources. Resources to pay for inexcusable duplication of institutions. Resources to put up fifteen yeshivas in a neighborhood wherein two good ones would suffice. Resources to erect three synagogues per block instead of the one large one that would be ample. Resources to have three major political parties to defend the faith in Israel, and twenty-three rabbinical organizations to defend it here.

 

We have so much energy. Energy to heap abuse on those other Orthodox Jews who might deviate ever so slightly from our particular standards. Energy to painstakingly search out the minutest failings in the other Orthodox Jew. Energy to condemn every Orthodox institution which does not conform every day in every way to our own strictures.

 

The curse of Disunity is an ancient one with us. Its shadow lies across the remains of many of our wrecked hopes. Is there indeed that much of a difference among the Orthodox rabbinical, lay or Zionist organizations? Is our background and practice so different so as to call for ten different bodies claiming to represent the “true” Orthodoxy? Surely not. The same laws of Shabbos, kashrus and taharas hamishpacha are accepted and practiced by all. The duplication and waste, the cross accusations and inter group hatreds, the curse of disunity are all inexcusable. It is something all too often fostered by petty politicians who when screaming denunciation do so merely to contemplate the sounds of their own voices, to admire the noises made by the rappings of their knuckles on the door of opportunity.

 

             The house of Judaism burns, and we debate who shall have the honor of putting out the fire. The Children of Israel wander in a barren desert, and we are too busy fighting our own petty, provincial quarrels. So long as this continues, we will have no moral right to blame Conservatism and Reform. The true enemy continues to be- ourselves.  


 


Has much really changed? We await your thoughts at magazine@jewishpress.com

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/a-small-voice-2/2011/07/27/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: