Friday, July 25, 2014

Tune Out the Hatred - Mas'ei 5774

July has been a challenging month, to say the least. It has reminded me, among other things, that my Jewish identity depends not only on how I define myself, but also on how others define me.

Growing up in idyllic Western Massachusetts, the fabled Berkshires, I was not really exposed to anti-Semitism. I say, “not really,” because when a high-school friend used the idiom “to Jew you down,” in conversation with me, I knew that she did not really understand the import of the phrase, and she certainly did not connect it to any actual Jews (like the one she was talking to). And when I chose in 6th grade to wore a kippah every day to my small-town public elementary school, and an assortment of kids amused themselves by knocking it off of my head just to see me pick it up and kiss it (I now know that you do not have to kiss a kippah if it falls, but I did not know that in sixth grade), I knew that that was just ordinary kid-teasing, not anti-Semitism per se.

And really, for my entire life, having grown up decades after the Shoah, in a free country that is Israel’s greatest ally, I have had only limited exposure to classic anti-Semitism. Having lived in Great Neck for seven years, I am certain that virtually all of our children on this peninsula are accustomed to the idea that hatred of Jews is something that happens far away, if at all.

And I must confess that there have been times in recent years that I have watched the anti-Israel activism around the world, and even on US university campuses, and drawn a distinction in my head between anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.

But no more. I think that it is undeniable that we are seeing a rising tide of anti-Semitism around the world. Let me give you a few examples from the past week:

In Calgary, Alberta:

Police removed a sign from a Belgian cafe saying that Jews were not allowed following a complaint by an anti-Semitism watchdog.
Anti-Jewish sign appearing in a cafe in Belgium. The Turkish reads, "Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Jews are not under any circumstances."

Now consider this:

There are several armed conflicts going on around the world. Ukraine is in the news lately, primarily because of the Malaysian plane that was shot down by a missile last week. But what about the civil war in Syria? Estimates of total dead range from 120,000 to 160,000, including tens of thousands of non-combatants, and hundreds of children, and, get this, 2,000 Palestinians. That’s right! Nearly three times as many Palestinians have been killed in Syria at the hands of Syrians in the past three years than in Israel’s current incursion in Gaza.

So where is the international outrage over Syria? Where are the students holding “die-ins”? Where are the riots on the streets of Paris? Why are no Berliners chanting, “Gas the Syrians!”?

The only conclusion that can be reached is this: nobody cares about Arab deaths, unless they are at the hands of Jews. Why? I can only point to one thing: hatred of Jews and all things Jewish. (Jeffrey Goldberg, writing in the Atlantic, makes the same observations, but sidesteps the question of anti-Semitism.)

Because, let’s face it: we’ve done pretty well, despite the dramatic challenges we have faced in the last century or so. Israel is a modern miracle, a near-impossibility that has not only come into existence, but thrived despite all of the challenges she has faced: an unfriendly agricultural climate; geographical separation from much of the world; 66 years of war; terrorism within and without her borders; and so forth.

And Israel is, we hope, the final stop on a long and at times unpleasant journey. This morning in Parashat Mas’ei, we read about the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert. By my count (and I could be wrong), the Torah identifies 43 different locations where the Israelites camped on their way from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Israel. We are a nation that emerged from wandering in the desert, and we have carried that trait with us across centuries and continents. We are a people that has constantly been on the move.

Truth be told, much of that movement was due to the very same, ancient hatred that we have seen expressed in the past week. Most of our relocations have been, historically, to allow ourselves to live better somewhere else. And with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, perhaps we were deluded into thinking that having a home base would bring that wandering to an end, and perhaps lessen the hatred to boot. (Hence the recent wave of French emigration to Israel.)

In the middle of the 20th century, it was widely known that a rabbi had two major subjects to address in every sermon: the Shoah (Holocaust) and Israel, and the implication that was reinforced every Shabbat in synagogues like this all over North America was, Israel is the answer to anti-Semitism.

That may be true. It is certainly a good thing for the Jews to have a homeland.

But the downside of this formula was that it sent the message that the reason to return to synagogue each week was to be reminded about how everybody hates us; that the reason to stick together, to stick to Judaism, was because the non-Jews of this world would never let us join their clubs.

Well, we are past that. One only has to glance at the rate of intermarriage in this country to see that the barriers to full membership in non-Jewish society have been lifted. We are free to be who we want to be, and that can mean to be Jewish or not Jewish or whatever.

But the rising tide of anti-Semitism (actually, anti-Semitic acts are decreasing in the United States even while they are on the rise abroad) threatens to cause us to do something that I have always repudiated: to be defined by those who hate us. Our identity should be positive, not negative. We should be defined by who we are, not by what others say or feel about us. We are not Jews by virtue of prejudice; we are Jews because we embrace our heritage. And in today’s climate of infinite choice, we have to emphasize the positive reasons to choose Judaism (And I’m not talking about potential converts; I’m talking about born Jews. We are all Jews by choice.)

So what are those features of positive Jewish identity? What does it mean to be Jewish? Help me out here:

Torah / study / learning / law
customs / holidays / rituals / prayer
foods / music / prayer / art

These are all features of our positive Jewish identity. And there are so many of them!

My challenge to all of us, the strongly affiliated and the not-so, is to look at the hatred that is being directed at Jews around the world.  And then ask yourself:  what does it mean to ME to be Jewish?  For some of us, being Jewish is an essential part of who we are. For others, it matters, but we may not know why beyond a nagging feeling that it ought to matter.  

Whatever the nature of your connection, I challenge you to dig deeper and qualify how and why you are and need to be part of a community.  If you do not have an answer to this question, then you will only be letting those who hate us - whether they know you personally or not - define you.  

Knowledge and love and personal connection are what has sustained Jewish civilization for centuries, through times of oppression and genocide and the constant uprooting and relocation that has always been a part of Jewish life.

And though I would certainly never talk anyone out of becoming more observant, what I am advocating here is not that.  I am suggesting that we each take a moment, or several, to determine how you fit in and belong to this greater cousins’ club known as Am Yisrael.

Why is this important? Because we need to be equipped to defend ourselves and our tradition. When an angry mob in Germany (!) chants, Jude, Jude, feiges Schwein, komm heraus und kämpf allein, / (Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight), we may be frightened, angered, disgusted, shocked, and so forth. But, like Israelis, who have managed to live with terrorism and fear and constant political pressures inside and out, we have to try to tune that stuff out, and arm ourselves with all of the positives of being Jewish. We have to equip our children with pride, so that they can saunter out into this world and face the mis-informed mobs on college campuses and speak with quiet confidence about the richness of our ancient tradition.

This week has left me fundamentally changed. Never again will I doubt that anti-Semitism lingers under the surface of much of humanity. Never again will I separate anti-Zionism or anti-Israel activism from anti-Semitism; I am now certain that they are one and the same.

We conclude Bemidbar / Numbers today, and whenever we get to the end of one of the five books of the Torah, we stand up and proudly declare, “Hazaq, hazaq, venithazzeq!” Be strong, be strong, and we will be strengthened.

We can fear the anti-Semitism, and but that would be exactly what the terrorists want us to do. Or we can be strong: strong in our beliefs, strong in our pride, strong in our commitment to Israel and Jewish living and learning, and thereby strengthen one another. That is the formula that has worked for two thousand years, the secret to a strong community, and it will continue to work for us as well, as we continue the Jewish journey.

Shabbat shalom.

Rabbi Seth Adelson
(Originally delivered at Temple Israel of Great Neck, Shabbat morning, 7/26/14.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Double Minyan for Peace, or, Seeing the Holiness in Others - Mattot 5774

On Tuesday evening, I experienced an evening minyan like no other. I was not here at Temple Israel, where there was the regular evening minyan at 8 PM, thanks to those who made the effort to come.

No, this minyan was unique. It was at Temple Sinai in Roslyn, and it was part of a Long Island Board of Rabbis (LIBOR) program that brought together Jews and Muslims from the area for learning and prayer. It was part of a world-wide program called Boharim BaHayyim, Choose Life, and such meetings were held all over the world: in Israel (where there were four such meetups in Jerusalem alone), in Kuwait, in the US and Canada, in several European countries. 

Tuesday was Shiv’ah Asar beTammuz, the 17th of Tammuz, which is one of the five minor fast days of the Jewish calendar, a sun-up to sundown fast, commemorating (among other things) the day upon which Moshe broke the tablets of Torah that he received on Mt. Sinai, and the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem by the Babylonians after the siege of 586 BCE. It was also the eighteenth day of Ramadan. So observant Jews and Muslims around the world were fasting together on this day, and given the current situation in Israel and Gaza, some of us took this as an opportunity to meet, learn, pray, and break bread together after the fast. (An article about the international event also appeared on the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot’s website, and Nechama Liss-Levenson, a Great Neck writer and member of Great Neck Synagogue, blogged about the event for the Forward.)

The meeting at Temple Sinai attracted about 60 people, about half Jews and half Muslims. Among the Jews, there were representatives of Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox communities.

So, after some introductory speeches, Rabbi Lina Zerbarini of the Sid Jacobson JCC taught a passage from our textual tradition, which we discussed as a group. The text, from the Talmud Yerushalmi (30b), raises the question of the greatest principle found in the Torah:
ואהבת לרעך כמוך ר' עקיבה או' זהו כלל גדול בתורה
בן עזאי אומ' זה ספר תולדות אדם זה כלל גדול מזה
Rabbi Akiva taught: “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ [Leviticus, 19:18] This is the most important rule in the Torah.” Ben Azzai says: “’This is the record of Adam’s line. When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God,’ [Gen. 5:1] And this is an even more important rule.”
Why does Ben Azzai argue that this statement regarding the creation of human in God’s image is greater than loving your neighbor? Because it is essential to acknowledge the spark of Divine holiness that is present in each of us on this Earth - rich and poor, black and white, American and Pakistani, Jewish and Christian and Hindu and Buddhist and Muslim and secular and, yes, even the atheists. This latter principle should lead to the first one; that is, seeing the holiness in others should enable us to love them as we love ourselves.

A visiting Islamic scholar, Imam Ibrahim Negm, who is a special advisor to the Grand Mufti of Al-Azhar University in Cairo, invoked a similar principle from Muslim tradition. He said that you cannot call yourself truly faithful until you understand and appreciate the value of the faith of others. This fits nicely in-between the two Torah principles identified in the Talmud.

And then that minyan. The Jews went first. Temple Sinai’s bimah faces west, but the Jewish custom is that if there is a sefer Torah in the room, we face the Torah. So we gathered on the bimah together and recited the traditional ma’ariv, while the Muslims in the room sat patiently and observed in their seats. After we concluded with Mourner’s Qaddish, we returned to our seats while the Muslims, men and women, removed their shoes, gathered at the back of the room, and performed their evening prayer, known in Arabic by the name maghrib, a cognate to our ma’ariv.

I wonder how often it has happened that Muslims have gathered to pray in a synagogue? (It is worth pointing out here that both Muslims and Jews acknowledge each other’s tradition as purely monotheistic, and therefore that neither a synagogue nor a mosque is a place of avodah zarah, of idol worship. Not all Jewish authorities agree that this is the case for Christian houses of worship.)

At the end of both the Jewish and Muslim prayers is, interestingly enough, a prayer for peace. Just as we say “Oseh shalom bimromav,” they conclude by saying, “As-salaam aleikum.” How ironic, and yet not so.


Some of you may have noticed that Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi passed away a little more than two weeks ago. Reb Zalman, as he was generally known, was a key figure in the Jewish Renewal movement. He came from the Chabad-Lubavitch fold, but left them to forge his own path in the middle of the 20th century, drawing on a variety of religious traditions that brought him away from his Hasidic background. His obit in the New York Times said the following:

"His exposure to Eastern religion, medieval Christian mysticism and LSD... helped him formulate some of the innovations he brought to contemporary Jewish practice...

[Reb Zalman] “realized that all forms of religion are masks that the divine wears to communicate with us,” [a friend was quoted as saying]. “Behind all religions there’s a reality, and this reality wears whatever clothes it needs to speak to a particular people.”

Speaking as one who stands up and advocates for Jewish tradition on a daily basis, I must confess that some of his ideas were too far beyond the pale of what is normative in Judaism to be appealing to me. But what does indeed resonate with me is the idea that all religious traditions have similar objectives: to get us in touch with the Divine, to encourage us reach out to one another in healthy, inspiring ways, to spur us to do good works in this world.

He was, in this regard, not too far away from Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, from whose work the Reconstructionist movement emerged. Rabbi Kaplan rejected the idea of Jewish chosenness, arguing instead that all religious paths to God are effectively equal.

Now, I know that these sorts of ideas make some of us uncomfortable. If all religions serve the same goals, why should we be in any way particularistic? In other words, why be Jewish, when being Christian might be just as good and much easier? Kaplan’s response to this is that the Torah is ours; our ancestors have carried it with them for centuries and given it to us. I would add the rhetorical question, “Who are we to leave such a rich, glorious tradition? Who are we to deny our own heritage, to abandon what we have received from our parents and grandparents and all who preceded them?”

But the larger point here is that just as our tradition is rich and glorious and valuable and meaningful, inspiring centuries of Jews and, let’s face it, launching other religious traditions, so too are the teachings of the other great religions. And while we differ over dogma and rituals, the goals are ultimately the same. Love your neighbor as yourself. See the holiness in yourself as well as others. Pursue peace with all your being. Our tradition teaches this, and we should learn it and live it; and likewise for everybody else.

We need not fear the other. On the contrary, we should strive to see the divinity in each human being on this Earth. We cannot live a holy life until we understand and value the needs of everybody else around us, and appreciate their life and faith and fundamental human rights.

We must instead cooperate with all of the good, open, moderate people in this world, the ones who are willing to talk, and to bypass and constrain the bad actors. In our own corner, we have to work to eliminate the Jewish extremists like the group that carried out the brutal murder of 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir. And across the border, we have to reach out beyond Hamas to the people of Palestine and Gaza. (A credible poll from the past week by Palestinian pollsters indicated that roughly 70% of Gaza’s population does NOT support Hamas.)

Let’s face it. Just as Gaza has been hijacked by terrorists, who are more insistent on shooting rockets into Israel then taking care of their own people, so too have certain parts of the Muslim world been hijacked. And parts of Judaism and Christianity. There are even violent Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, and Hindu nationalists in India who have persecuted Muslim minorities there.

But about 30 Muslims came the other night to break bread with Jews right here on Long Island, and hundreds more around the world did the same. We need to find more ways of bringing people together, not just one day a year, not just in the 30 or so gatherings that were held on Tuesday evening around the world, but again and again in more places and more contexts, in synagogues, in mosques, in churches, in ashrams, in temples of all sorts. We need to seek and appreciate the divinity in others.

As I wrote these words, I received the not-particularly-surprising news that Israel has launched its ground invasion. I hope and pray with all my being that our valiant IDF forces are able to take out terrorist infrastructure with a minimum of pain and loss and suffering on both sides, a minimum of lives lost. But we know that people will die, some ordinary people, some good people, some civilians. We should not lose sight of the divinity of a single person who loses a life or is injured, and we should continue to pray that this round will pass quickly.

But we should further pray that a long-term solution is found more quickly, that the good people of Gaza throw off the yoke of Hamas, that the good people of Israel are safe and secure and never again subject to hourly bombardment by terrorists of any stripe.

As a part of the illustrious tradition that God gave to us, every weekday, three times a day, we offer in the Shemoneh Esreh, the weekday Amidah, a series of berakhot / blessings that follow the pattern of: Praise - Request - Thanks - Peace.

I really wish, some times more than others, that we could save those thanks to God for when we get the peace. But tefillah / prayer does not work that way. On the contrary, it’s a blueprint for what could be. We thank God in advance for what we hope will be a better world.

And that goes double for the ma’ariv / maghrib minyan in which I participated on Tuesday evening. A blueprint. An aspiration. A hope.

I assure you that I am not as naive as I might seem. But I am filled with hope. We have to keep hoping for peace, concluding every service with a plea to God for peace, and taking baby steps toward peace, even in our darkest hours.

Shabbat shalom.

Rabbi Seth Adelson
(Originally delivered at Temple Israel of Great Neck, Shabbat morning, 7/19/2014.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Let's NOT see this movie again. Ever. - Pinehas 5774

At the beginning of Parashat Pinehas, which we read this morning, there is a curious, unique phenomenon. In the very third verse (Numbers 25:12), we read the following:
לָכֵן אֱמֹר:  הִנְנִי נֹתֵן לוֹ אֶת-בְּרִיתִי שָׁלוֹם
Say, therefore, “I grant [Pinehas] my covenant of peace.”
The curiosity here is that the letter vav in the word “shalom,” as it appears in the Torah scroll (although it does not appear that way in our humash) is broken in half. The context is that the zealot Pinehas has just stabbed to death an Israelite man and his Midianite paramour, a flagrant act of violence that seems to be in line with God’s command. However, the broken vav, and the broken shalom / peace, suggests that peace achieved through violence is flawed. It is not the kind of peace that we desire, or that the world needs.

I think that it is impossible not to read these words divorced from the current situation in Israel, where the citizens of the Jewish state want peace, security, and safety, and Hamas continues to send indiscriminate rockets into Israel, over 500 in the last several days. 

There is a saying in modern Hebrew:
את הסרט הזה כבר ראינו
Et haseret hazeh, kvar ra'inu.
We’ve seen this movie before.

Every time this expression creeps back into the daily lexicon, I am reminded that it is getting harder for me to maintain my youthful idealism. Because not only have we seen this film, but we already know that there will be a sequel.

Amidst the onslaught of information pouring out of Israel this week regarding the current situation, a surprising article caught my eye. It was surprising not because there was information in it that was new to me, but rather because of the forum. It was the New York Times, and my sense of the way that the Times reports on Israel is that they usually lead with the Palestinian body count, and bury the explanation of why Israel was attacking in the first place. The result is that Israel generally appears to be the primary aggressor, although this of course not always the case. (Some of us would surely argue that this is never the case.)

But in this case, the article was about Israel’s approach to bombing terrorist sites in Gaza. Now, as you may know, Hamas has installed its rocket launchers and terrorist infrastructure in the alleys of residential neighborhoods, adjacent to schools and hospitals, in courtyards of mosques, and so forth. As you may also know, the IDF goes out of its way to warn residents before bombing these places: by placing phone calls in Arabic with instructions to vacate, by dropping leaflets, and by “knocking on the roof” - that is, firing a non-explosive missile at the building to scare out those who have not yet evacuated.

If you have been following the news carefully about the last two Gaza incursions since Israel disengaged in 2005, you know about these warnings. The army’s goal, of course, is to destroy the ability to terrorize rather than lives. Of course, nobody wants to lose their home to an Israeli shell, but better the building than the lives of the people therein.

As quoted in an article published by Honest Reporting, former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, Col. Richard Kemp said of Israel’s previous operations in Gaza: “the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”

But while this pattern of warning is not only curious and surprisingly considerate (what other army warns its targets in advance to get out of the way?), it has also been largely underreported in the mainstream press, perhaps because it does not fit the Israel-as-aggressor storyline. (BTW, a follow-up analysis in the online magazine Slate revealed the Times’ bias even in an article that was at least superficially friendly to Israel, as did the Honest Reporting article mentioned above.) The Times somehow missed the fact that Hamas is deliberately telling Gazan civilians to ignore the warnings, and instructing them to act as human shields.

Israel is in a very delicate position here. Every couple of years, Gaza erupts into a show of force by Hamas and Islamic Jihad and perhaps other factions. Israel shows restraint (note that the first few hundred rockets of this installment were fired into Israel with no response - over 650 rockets were launched into Israel since the beginning of the year till the start of this operation - and only when the situation is truly unbearable for the Israeli populace, then come the airstrikes and the ground war. Furthermore, we all know that it is only a matter of time until the next round of rockets, which will have an even greater range, and the next Israeli incursion. And while the warnings do in fact reduce civilian casualties, Israel still comes off in the mainstream media looking like the aggressor.

But Israel is far more savvy regarding public opinion than ever before, and hence the warnings. Not that anybody in the international court of public opinion wants to give Israel any credit for doing so.

This week, I not only read just about everything I could about the situation, but I also listened in on three conference calls for rabbis on the current situation in Israel. The first featured Avihai Mandelblit, PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff; the second featured Israel’s consul general in New York, Ido Aharoni, and IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. The third was with Israeli’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer. All of them said essentially the same thing: that the goal of the current IDF operation, Protective Edge, was to restore peace and quiet in the areas that are now being targeted by Hamas rockets. Among the additional points of interest were the following:

  • The current escalation by Hamas actually preceded the kidnapping and murder of the three young Israeli men and the aftermath of the incident.
  • Hamas is acting now out of desperation, having lost much of the support of two of its best patrons in terror, Syria and Iran, to their own internal issues..
  • Of the nearly 600 rockets in the barrage of the last few days, only a small subset were actually headed to populated areas, and most of those were successfully shot down by the Iron Dome system (provided by Uncle Sam). The technology, by the way, is good but not foolproof - it has about a 90% success rate.
  • Amb. Ron Dermer pointed out that the Iron Dome system is actually beneficial to the Palestinian cause as well. If there were more missiles falling in populated areas and more death and destruction within Israel, there would be greater calls on the IDF to move faster and retaliate more heavily in Gaza, resulting in more Palestinian deaths.
I must confess that in evaluating all of this, I am still troubled by the primary goal. Yes, it is important to restore peace and security, so that Israelis can go on about their lives and work and recreation as normal.

But the problem is that this is only a short-term goal. Who is thinking long-term here? And, recalling Pinehas and the broken vav, is there not a better way to achieve peace, and decades of quiet and stability rather than years, and the resulting economic benefit for both sides?

Let’s look at this another way: This is the third such major attack on terrorists and their infrastructure in Gaza since 2005  The military refer it to “trimming the grass”. Each time Hamas improves its technology; they are now manufacturing better-quality rockets in Gaza, and soon they will be able to blanket Israel with missiles. Each time, Israel quiets them for a a year or two. Then the barrage will resume. And hence the movie sequel.

In this round, there are now so-called M-302 missiles, which can reach Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel’s two largest population centers. There will be more M-302s, and maybe even the next missile up, with better accuracy. Soon, virtually all of the Israeli population, from Haifa to Eilat, will be subject to bombing.

Nobody wants to negotiate with terrorists. Let’s be clear - that’s what they are. Lt. Col. Peter Lerner pointed out that if Hamas had invested their resources in civilian infrastructure instead of terrorist infrastructure, they would be in a very different place. But that’s not where they are; that is not who they are.

The bad actors in the Arab world, whether it’s Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, ISIS, or the next wave of Islamists, would rather put their energy into military, rather than economic development. And that yields even more movie sequels, and more fractured peace all over the region.

But what can Israel do? What can we do?

We are certainly not going to simply flatten Gaza, as many armchair military strategists have boldly suggested. We are not barbarians. We are not murderers. We do not kill civilians.

We are not going to invade and take back Gaza. Who wants that?  

(My own chief military advisor, my wife, suggests the following: invade Gaza, root out Hamas, hand it over to Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah, and get out. Tell them, “Elect whoever you want, but kindly remember that if you wage war on us we’ll be back.” I don’t think it’s quite so simple, given the complexity of the Palestinian street.)

We can only continue the current situation for so long.

Ladies and gentlemen, all the goals are short-term. We have to think long-term. We have to think past maintaining the temporary safety and security, and find a way to create a healthy, de-militarized Gaza. We don’t negotiate with terrorists, but we have to find a solution.

We’re the most clever people in the world. Even the most ardent Jew-haters will boldly concede that. We can figure this out. It will take international partners and cooperation and eventually we will have to trust them, and they will have to trust us, and trust, as you know, is in dreadfully short supply. But we can do this. We can find a complete peace, a shalom of sheleimut, of wholeness. We can repair that vav.

Meanwhile, what can we here in Great Neck do?

Call your Israeli friends and relatives and tell them that you are thinking of them. Email our elected officials about support of Israel in her time of need. Communicate through social media. Share personal stories. (If you are not on Facebook, you might want to sign up and go to the Temple Israel page to receive updates from our sister kehillah in Ashkelon, which is the largest population center close to Gaza. Our Facebook-master and Vice President Dan Goldberger is posting there regularly.)

Let’s not ever resort to name-calling or gross generalizations about the other side. The real criminal actors here are the terrorists of Hamas and their ilk; ultimately, we will have to find a way to work around them, to engage directly with reasonable Palestinians; and I pray every day that there will be more of them with whom to engage.

In Psalm 29, which we chant every Friday evening during Qabbalat Shabbat, and every Shabbat morning when we carry the Torah around, we say (v. 11):

ה' עֹז לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן; ה' יְבָרֵךְ אֶת-עַמּוֹ בַשָּׁלוֹם
Adonai oz le-amo yiten, Adonai yevarekh et amo vashalom. May God give strength to His people, and may God bless His people with peace.

Let us continue to be strong as we seek not only quiet, but real shalom, real lasting peace, so that we will never see this movie again.

Rabbi Seth Adelson
(Originally delivered at Temple Israel of Great Neck, Shabbat morning, 7/12/2014.)