To the Editor:
We as supporters of Israel and Jews have long complained about incitement by Palestinian and Muslim leaders and have often criticized the general worldwide Islamic leadership for not speaking out against these provocations. We cite references to Jews being “sons of monkeys and pigs” by Palestinian and Muslim leaders as examples of the dehumanization of Jews that fosters an environment where terrorism and massacres seem justifiable.
We cannot stand by when leaders among us do the same. In a recent blog post (since deleted), a community leader referred to “Arab-Muslim animals that span the globe” and “a beast in human form”, crossing a line and losing sight of the difference that makes us an Am Kadosh. While the writer predictably responded with belated lawyerly parsing and asserted that it was not a reference to all Muslims and just the terrorists among them (although some of the comments about Israel being the “zookeeper” of the “unruly animals” and whether peace is possible with these “savages” hardly lends itself to that narrow a reading), I am certain that many of the Palestinian and Muslim leaders could do the same about the statements made by them. If you have to resort to Talmudic inferences to explain away your comments, you have already crossed the line by a large margin. As a people, we have a special burden to speak out against calls for terrorists to be cremated with their “ashes buried with deceased pigs” as such a prescription is reminiscent of the type of twisted and sadistic treatment that our enemies have visited on Jews over history.
When there is another incident involving Jewish terrorism (and we have seen more than one example in the last few months), many critics of Israel and Jews in general can and will point to this type of writing as incitement and encouragement for those heinous acts.
And it will not just reflect on the writer. If the other leaders of the Teaneck and wider community are silent, we all will be deemed guilty by association and our silence will be viewed, fairly or not, as acquiescence.
I by no means begrudge anyone entitlement to their own opinions, but it reflects on our whole community when a community leader speaks in these terms. I appeal to Rabbis, lay leaders and members of our community to speak out on behalf of some (hopefully large) portion of the local community to disavow these comments.
However angry, upset and despondent we are about recent events in Israel, stooping to the level of the worst of our enemies is the first step down a slippery slope that will find us surrendering the moral high ground that we can, should and must retain.
Simply not agreeing silently or rolling our eyes at this is not enough. Just like we demand of the Islamic leaders of the world to actively and expressly disown unacceptable expressions of hatred from among their midst, our leaders and community must meet this burden and loudly and specifically denounce these comments.
To the Editor:
After many challenging months for Klal Yisrael the unthinkable horror of this week has touched a very sensitive nerve in the long history of the suffering of our People. Images of Jews being killed in shul while davening Shmoneh Esrei are a part of our history that we hoped were a thing of the past. We cry on Tisha B’Av and recount on Yom Kippur of our beloved Rabbanim such as Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Chanina Ben Tradyon and the other Asara Harugei Malchus. Kinos that depict in graphic description of Jews murdered by the Crusaders while davening in shul and eyewitness accounts of similar events in 1648 are part of our collective memory. The desecration and destruction of shuls which began with Kristallnacht culminated with the murder of six million of our brothers and sisters. Pictures of Jews killed while wearing Tallis and Tefillin are associated in our minds and hearts with our darkest days.
This afternoon I went to be menachem avel at the home of Rabbi Moshe Twersky Zecher Tzaddik Vkadosh Livracha. Many of you including myself have a personal connection to his brother Rabbi Mayer Twersky. Some of you know his sister Rebbetzin Tzipora Rosenblatt from Riverdale and some of you know his mother Rebbetzin Dr. Atara Twersky, the daughter of the Rav, from Boston.
I had some time to speak with Rabbi Mayer Twersky at the beis avel and I will hopefully share with you some of his words when I return.
After leaving the shiva home I went to the shul in Har Nof where the murders took place, as there was a public recitation of Tehillim.There are now posters describing Kedoshei Har Nof in a shul that until Tuesday was one of many beautiful places where Jews simply gathered to daven and learn Torah.
I went to the Kosel to daven Mincha. As it was Yom Kippur Katan the mood felt like Neila as we all cried out to Hashem to put an end to our suffering. Hopefully the month of Kislev, which was a time for miracles, will become one once again as we await our final Geula.
The original reason for my trip was to give shiurim in Ramat Beit Shemesh. Baruch Hashem. I gave several shiurim and hope to give more over Shabbos. Our response is to learn and daven more. Please try in whatever way you can to keep alive the dreams of Torah and Tefilla of these Kedoshim and all the Kedoshim of the past.
May we only hear bsoros tovos from Eretz Yisrael and from all of Achenu Bnei Yisrael.
Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Congregation Ohr HaTorah
To the Editor:
Pastor Hagee, the leader of a San Antonio, Texas mega-church and Chairman of Christians United for Israel, the largest Christian Zionist group in the U.S., made the remarks Sunday night in a speech to the Zionist Organization of America. In his speech Pastor Hagee also mocked the president’s track record of support for the state of Israel, whom he accused of trying to “break (the relationship) for the last five years.”
We understand and appreciate that Pastor Hagee has strong opinions and is genuinely concerned for the well-being and safety of the Jewish state of Israel. That said, the pastor’s remarks about President Obama were offensive and misplaced. One can agree to disagree about the president and his administration’s record in dealing with Israel, but to apply the label of “antisemitic” is a serious denigration and distortion of the term.
As we witnessed from the horrific killings in a Jerusalem synagogue last week, there are many, myriad and serious threats to Jews around the world. Antisemitic is a term that should never be used lightly, or applied to exact a political score or make a political point. I recall how the same label was once applied, in a much different context, to President George H.W. Bush. We spoke out then, and we must speak out again now.
We need to keep things in perspective and avoid generalizations when it comes to the realities of the U.S.-Israel relationship. The president continues to be a staunch ally and friend of Israel and friend of the Jewish community. And while we and members of the Jewish community have not always seen eye-to-eye with this administration on certain issues involving the Jewish State, the fact remains that this administration has continued the strong and unwavering alliance with Israel.
Abraham H. Foxman
ADL National Director