Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
In the black night
the river runs cold
slowly passing me by
over formerly sharp edged stones
worn smooth by centuries of churning,
as if through earthy veins -
and I Jacob, alone,
shiver and wait
to meet my brother
Will there be war?
And will the angels carry my soul
up the rungs of the ladder
leaving my blood
to soak the earthly crust?
And I struggle yet again
as if in my mother’s womb
and in my dreams.
We played together as children once,
my brother Esau and me
and I confess tonight
how I wronged him
and wrenched from him his birthright
as this Being has done to me
between my thighs.
I was so young
driven by ego and need,
blinded by ambition,
my mother’s dreams
and my father’s silence.
I so craved to be first born
adored by my father,
to assume his place when he died
that my name be remembered
and define a people.
How Esau suffered and wailed
and I didn’t care.
Whatever his dreams
they were nothing to me –
my heart was hard –
his life be damned!
But, after all these years
I’ve learned that Esau and I
each alone is
a palga gufa – a half soul
without the other -
as two souls separated at creation
in a sea of souls –
the yin missing the yang –
the dark and light never to touch –
the mind divorced from body –
the soul in exile –
without a beating bleating heart
to witness –
and no access to the thirty-two paths
to carry us together
up the ladder
and through the spheres.
It’s come to this!
To struggle again –
To live or die.
I’m ready for death
protect Esau and your servant -
my brother and me
as one –
and return us to each other.
El na r’fa na lanu!
Grant us peace and rest!
I’m very tired!
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December 8, 2011 | 7:17 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Following the Israeli “Social Justice” movements protests this past summer that drew 450,000 into tent cities throughout the country, Hiddush, Freedom of Religion for Israel, an organization led by Rabbi Uri Regev, published findings about what Israelis really believe about the secular-religious divide in the Jewish state.
64% view the tension between secular and ultra-Orthodox as the most or second-most acute domestic conflict in the country;
30% view the tension between rich and poor as such;
87% believe ultra-Orthodox young people should be obligated to do either military or national service;
79% favor reducing subsidies for students in yeshivot so as to encourage ultra-Orthodox men to join the workforce;
80% maintain that core curriculum studies should be mandatory in ultra-Orthodox schools as they are in other schools;
65% believes that yeshiva subsidies and the absence of ultra-Orthodox men from the workforce are some of the essential reasons for the heavy burden on the middle class;
83% support Israel’s Declaration of Independence’s promise of “freedom of religion and conscience;”
80% are dissatisfied with the government’s handling of religion/state matters;
62% support freedom of marriage and legal recognition of both civil and religious marriages of all streams in Judaism;
62% support equal recognition of all conversions to Judaism, whether Orthodox, Conservative or Reform;
60%-65% support allowing civil marriages, relaxing Shabbat restrictions, and more.
Two scholars reflect on the meaning and consequences of current trends in Israeli society:
Prof. Eugene Kandel, head of the National Economic Council, holds that Israel could be one of the 15 richest countries in the world, if only haredi men (i.e. ultra-Orthodox) and Arab women participated in the workforce relative to their size in the population.
Prof. Dan Ben- David, who heads the Taub Center, repeatedly reminds us that if we don’t address these issues, Israel faces the threat of slipping into the economic state of a developing country.
December 7, 2011 | 6:51 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
“I decided to write this paper because I have of late been asked questions from both Jews and non-Jews that until recently I had never heard before, questions that call into question the very legitimacy of the State of Israel. I have seen nothing in print that can serve as a comprehensive primer, fact sheet, briefing and background paper that can assist rabbis, Jewish leaders, college and university students and faculty, and our friends in the interfaith community, in dealing effectively with the complexities and nuances that underlie the growing international movement to delegitimize Israel.”
So begins my article entitled “The International Delegitimization Campaign against Israel and the Urgent Need of a Comprehensive Two-State, End-of-Conflict Peace Agreement” (CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly, Fall 2011, pages 90-109) that can be accessed on Temple Israel of Hollywood’s Web-site (www.tioh.org - Click Here to Read the Article.)
In this piece I address the following questions and themes:
• What Is the Delegitimization Movement and What Does It Seek to Do?
• Why Israel Is Not an Apartheid State Despite Claims by the Delegitimization Network
• The United Nations General Assembly: The Central International Arena of Delegitimization Efforts
• Other Delegitimizing Actions (The UN Resolution on “Zionism as Racism”; The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; Palestinian school textbooks; Official Palestinian maps; The Israel Lobby by John Meersheimer and Stephen Walt; Israel’s security barrier; International boycott of Israel; Israel as the “greatest threat to world peace”; The UN’s Goldstone Report)
• We Cannot Deny That Israel Is an Imperfect Democracy
• The Settlements
• Legitimate Criticism vs Delegitimization: Embrace Loving Critics and Distance Delegitimizers
• Jewish Organizational Perspectives: Who Is Really In and Out of the Pro-Israel Camp (a review of 14 major American Jewish organizations and their respective positions Israel)
• Why Settling the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Is Strategically and Morally Necessary Now Before It Is Too Late
• What Do We do Now?
An old UJA advertisement once read “We never promised you a rose garden.” Anyone with eyes wide open understands the truth of this statement. Indeed, the situation between Israelis and Palestinians and within their respective societies is complex and difficult. Nevertheless, unless this conflict is settled, I fear for the Zionist enterprise altogether. In the 1970s there was an American Zionist movement called Ein b’reira (“There is no alternative”). That message is even more to the point today.
December 6, 2011 | 11:43 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
I was a 19 year-old UC Berkeley sophomore when I first became involved with the Bay Area Council on Soviet Jewry. It was 1969 and in the middle of a very harsh era for the Jews of the Soviet Union. For the crime of identifying publicly as Jews, learning Hebrew in small groups in private homes and for applying to immigrate to the State of Israel, Jews were fired from their jobs, expelled from universities, arrested, charged with treason, tried, convicted, and imprisoned.
Many of us had become activists after reading Elie Wiesel’s The Jews of Silence. For me, the arrest of 11 Leningrad Jews at the airport as they attempted to hijack a plane out of the country drew me in. The leader was given the death penalty (later commuted because of world-wide reaction) and the others long prison sentences of hard labor in Siberia. The courage of these and many more people was extraordinary and an inspiration.
We in the west protested, marched, disrupted Soviet cultural events, painted “Let My People Go” on the side of docked Soviet vessels, agitated the established Jewish community to take this issue on publicly, and lobbied our Senators and Congressional Representatives urging them to pass the Jackson-Vanik Amendment tying favorite nation status with the USSR to open immigration policies for Jews wishing to leave.
I offer this remembrance as a preamble for your viewing the YouTube below. It shows thousands of Russian Jews singing openly in a concert led by a male Jewish choral group of 10 voices with an energetic back-up band somewhere in Russia.
As I watched it, I pinched myself realizing how much has changed in the 42 years since I was first active in the movement. Jews are now free to leave, and those who remain are able to live openly as Jews. The Reform movement is active in the FSU training leaders, establishing congregations and creating connections with Israel and American Jewish communities. Chabad is also very active there. Thousands have immigrated to America, and more than one million formerly Soviet Jews are living as citizens in the State of Israel.
December 5, 2011 | 6:55 pm
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
This past week, as President of the regional board of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) along with our ARZA Regional Director Jerry Krautman, we welcomed Alex Cicelsky from Israel who is on a national speaking tour sponsored by ARZA. That hour was so exciting and inspiring that I wanted to tell you about Alex and the ground-breaking environmental work being done on Kibbutz Lotan.
Alex is a senior staff member and founder of the “Center for Creative Ecology” (CfCE) and a founder of Kibbutz Lotan, one of two Reform Kibbutzim in the Arava about 60 miles north of the southern city of Eilat. The Kibbutz was founded in 1982, has 200 members with 60 children and is a cross-generational community. The Kibbutz has become a nationally and internationally recognized center for developing cutting-edge environmental technologies and projects.
Originally from New York State, Alex made aliyah in 1982. He studied international agriculture at Cornel University’s School of Agriculture and is an expert in soil and water sciences, desert architecture, urban planning, and green technologies. He is engaged actively with the Global Ecovillage Network.
Kibbutz Lotan is a remarkable example of what can be done in Israel when smart, motivated, principled, courageous, and inspired people (backed by the Reform movement) join together in common cause. The Kibbutz grows dates, has a dairy of 250 cows and is developing a goat dairy. Most significantly, it is a center for eco-tourism, has a bird reserve for millions of annually migrating birds, and is constructing its own wetland in the middle of the desert using treated waste water and desalinated water piped in from the Gulf of Eilat. Lotan has developed numerous desert energy technologies, designed green architecture for the severe desert climate, water management systems, and desert agriculture. It is a center, as well, for environmental education and peace-building in association with “Friends of the Earth,” drawing together Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian youth in a regional network of natural builders and organic gardeners in the Yesh Meayin Eco-Education Farm and the Marda Palestine Permaculture Education Center.
The Kibbutz built a youth center comprised of 25 desert dormitory structures (25 more units are planned at $25K/unit) that welcomed last summer 600 National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY – the American Reform youth movement). Any American university student can earn 16 course credits for a semester of living and working at Lotan, and post-university green apprenticeships are available. Lotan has also developed materials on how to make “green” businesses anywhere in the world.
Lotan is internationally recognized as a leading ecological center and has received monetary support from the European Union (EU) for its water recycling systems, funds from the Jewish National Fund (JNF) for its “Bird Hide,” (a structure giving food, shelter and water to migrating birds) and is recognized for its programs to build bridges between Arabs and Jews. For example, it built the Bustan-Medwed Wadi El Naam Health Clinic that draws thousands of Bedouin from the greater desert region for state-of-the-art health care.
Alex explained that Kibbutz Lotan’s mission is to fulfill Judaism’s core values of “tilling and protecting” the earth citing the famous Midrash from Kohelet Rabba 7:28: “Upon presenting the wonder of creation to Adam, God said: ‘See my works, how fine and excellent they are! Now all that I created, for you I created. Think upon this, and do not corrupt and desolate my world; for if you corrupt it, there is no one to set it right after you.’”
I was deeply impressed, inspired and proud of what Alex and Kibbutz Lotan have created. It is but one example of how Israel’s Reform movement is breaking new ground and fulfilling the promise of the Jewish State and the Jewish people to be an or lagoyim, a light unto the nations.
For more information on Kibbutz Lotan and Alex’s work, you can go to Lotan’s website, www.kibbutzlotan.com, Facebook (lotan.kibbutz), and Youtube (kibbutzlotan). If you wish to assist the Kibbutz, you can send contributions to ARZA (Association of Reform Zionists of America) and direct the gift to Kibbutz Lotan (ARZA, 633 Third Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10017 (212-650-4280)).