Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Much has been written about the refusal of the leadership of the IOC to honor the memory of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich in a way befitting them as Olympians during opening ceremonies in London on Friday evening.
It is important, of course, for the world to remember what happened 40 years ago, but even more so to know who those 11 human beings were as fathers, sons, husbands, Jews, and Israelis. You can see their photographs and read their stories here.
Their names were:
David Berger—Ze’ev Friedman—Eliezer Halfin—Amitzur Shapira—Kehat Shorr—Mark Slavin—Andre Spitzer—Yakov Springer—Yossef Romano—Yossef Gutfreund—Moshe Weinberg.
Zichronam livrachah! May their memory be a blessing!
5.16.13 at 4:34 pm | She was too beautiful, magnificent, and inspiring. . .
5.14.13 at 6:26 am | “Initially, I came to seek answers about the. . .
5.12.13 at 7:44 am | “The morning is extremely important. It is the. . .
5.9.13 at 7:42 am | Love for God, one man’s yearning for his bride,. . .
5.5.13 at 8:00 am | “My life isn’t what you care about. It’s. . .
5.2.13 at 2:46 pm | The deeper purpose of the Shmitta year is to. . .
5.12.13 at 7:44 am | “The morning is extremely important. It is the. . . (107)
5.16.13 at 4:34 pm | She was too beautiful, magnificent, and inspiring. . . (79)
5.14.13 at 6:26 am | “Initially, I came to seek answers about the. . . (60)
July 25, 2012 | 8:30 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Yesterday, Governor Mitt Romney began his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, NV by accusing President Obama of “undermining” Israel’s position and speaking “as if our closest ally is the problem.” Romney charged, as well, that “the people of Israel deserve better than what they have received from the leader of the free world.”
The facts are clearly otherwise. Here are just a few of the things President Obama has done on behalf of Israel since he began his presidency (as compiled by the President’s supporters in 2011):
1. Worked on a multilateral strategy to counter efforts to de-legitimize Israel internationally (PBS 5/20/11);
2. Reaffirmed the special relationship between the US and Israel consistently;
3. Personally intervened with the government of Egypt to save Israelis being attacked in the Cairo Israeli embassy with gratitude expressed by the Israeli Prime Minister “attesting to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States” (PM Netanyahu – 9/10/11);
4. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said he cannot remember a better period of support from the United States, and that Israel’s relationship with the US is the strongest and most important Israel has with any nation in the world (News - 8/4/11);
5. Sent Israel the largest-ever security assistance funding in 2010 ($2.775 billion) and raised that to $3 billion for 2011 (Remarks by Andrew J. Shapiro at the Brookings Saban Center for ME Policy – 7/16/10) enabling Israel to benefit from an unprecedented financial commitment from the US;
6. Made Israel the leading beneficiary of US security assistance funds from the Foreign Military Finance Program for military training and equipment (Shapiro, Ibid);
7. Granted Israeli forces access to advanced US military hardware (such as the F35 Joint Strike Fighter) and emergency stockpiles of US Arms (Reuters – 10/8/10; UPI – 1/19/10);
8. Led the US Congress to help fund the Iron Dome defense rock system to stop missiles launched from Hamas and Hezbollah (Associated Press – 4/16/11);
9. Was personally thanked by PM Netanyahu in his speech to Congress for being “very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own…[and] for your steadfast commitment to Israel’s security…” (5/24/11);
10.Expanded bilateral security consultations and cooperation on a wide range of shared security challenges, including counter-terrorism and the prevention of illicit arms smuggling into Gaza (JTA – 1/21/09; White House – 7/20/11);
11.Lobbied heavily against the Goldstone report advancing beyond the Human Rights Council;
12.Expressed solidarity with Israel in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla incident;
13.Blocked the efforts in the United Nations to shift focus away from bi-lateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in finding a 2 state solution (Washington Post – 9/18/09; Reuters – 4/6/11);
14. Maintained consistent support reaching back several presidencies (Republican and Democrat) in supporting Israeli security and right to self-defense (Wall Street Journal – 5/23/11);
15.Called for a non-militarized Palestinian state and “phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces [upon the condition] of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-military state…” (5/19/11);
16.Expressed opposition to the Palestinians unilaterally seeking statehood recognition at the UN (Haaretz – 9/13/11);
17.Attacked delegitimizing efforts against Israel and efforts to isolate Israel at the UN (5/19/11);
18.Shared Israel’s concerns about Hamas’ participation in the Palestinian government while understanding Israel’s reluctance to negotiate with a party that has been unwilling to recognize [Israel’s] right to exist.” Has insisted that Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to all existing agreements…” (AIPAC Policy Conference – 5/22/11);
19.Affirmed repeatedly that the US is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons; has led the American government and the international effort to create the most comprehensive and biting international sanctions regime that the Iranian government has ever faced (MSNBC – 6/9/10);
There are many more examples of President Obama’s support for the State of Israel, its security, integrity and well-being. Governor Romney’s challenge is not only wrong on the facts, but undermines the traditional bi-partisan Republican and Democratic consensus of support for the Jewish state that has until recently united American Presidents and Congress.
Israel’s security requires and has always depended upon American bi-partisan support. Romney’s false, short-sighted and self-serving use of Israel as part of his campaign for the Presidency is not in Israel’s best interest and he should cease and desist.
July 22, 2012 | 7:37 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Once again, the leadership of the Presbyterian Church USA shows extraordinary insensitivity towards Israelis and Jews. This week the Church issued a statement that completely ignores the fact that those murdered in Bulgaria by a suicide bomber sponsored by Hezbollah (and probably Iran) were targeted specifically and only because they were Israelis/Jews.
Here is their complete statement on the massacre:
It is important to judge this statement in context. At this year’s Presbyterian Church USA National Conference earlier this month several votes were taken in their General Assembly on resolutions supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement against Israel. See http://www.bdsmovement.net/2012/palestinian-civil-society-welcomes-presbyterian-church-usa-israel-boycott-resolution-9197
1. By a vote of 333-331 with two abstentions, the assembly rejected a proposal to divest from companies selling equipment to the Israeli military in the West Bank;
2. By a vote of 403-175, a resolution was defeated that would have likened Israel’s West Bank presence to apartheid;
3. By a vote of 457-180, a resolution passed targeting only products manufactured in the West Bank.
There is nothing wrong with criticism, but there is a difference between fair and unfair criticism of Israel.
Israel is not a perfect society. No democracy is. Thus, being a critic of Israeli policies does not mean one is automatically anti-Israel. Indeed, Israelis themselves are among the most self-critical citizens of any nation in the world.
However, when individuals and groups consistently criticize one nation and one nation alone, one has to question such people’s deeper motivations and agenda.
After watching for several years the Presbyterian Church USA’s efforts on behalf of the BDS movement, those advocating for it I believe are unfair criticizers and part of the “anti-Israel camp.”
By “anti-Israel camp” I refer to those individuals and organizations whose criticism of Israel goes far beyond what is factual, reasonable and fair. These people rarely if ever voice criticism against Hamas’ or Fatah’s documented human rights violations against their own populations. They rarely if ever criticize human rights violations in other countries against which Israeli policies vis a vis Palestinians in the West Bank (as bad as they can be) pale by comparison. And they ignore the history of this conflict which gives context for current events.
Let us not, however, over-estimate the significance of the Presbyterian Church USA. It is a small denomination of 2.3 million members in America and Puerto Rico among an estimated 230 million American Christians. Yet, despite their very small size their resolutions have grabbed the world’s attention.
As an American Zionist of the moderate-left, I believe that criticism from love is the highest form of patriotism. That is why I have found a natural Zionist home in J Street, an American pro-Israel pro-peace movement that advocates for American leadership in helping Israel and the Palestinians find a two-state resolution to their conflict. I believe, as well, that if criticism of Israel does not pass the “stink test” of J Street, then one should ask about the motivations and agenda of those critics.
Before the vote, J Street called upon the Presbyterian Church USA to defeat the BDS resolutions. See http://jstreet.org/blog/post/boycott-divestment-and-sanctions-put-allies-at-odds. There J Street’s President Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote:
I would say to the Church’s leaders as they again consider joining forces with the BDS Movement, that the Movement’s rhetoric and tactics are not only a distraction, but a genuine threat to conflict resolution. Even the limited divestment approach under consideration by PCUSA falls under the rubric of larger BDS efforts to place blame entirely on one side of the conflict. Such an approach encourages not reconciliation, but polarization. Further, too many in and around the BDS movement refuse to acknowledge either the legitimacy of Israel or the right of the Jewish people as well as the Palestinian people to a state.
Now - back to the Presbyterian Church USA statement of this week concerning the tragedy in Bulgaria. Why did it completely ignore that the victims of this attack were Israelis-Jews? This could not be an oversight. It had to be deliberate. And it does not pass the “stink-test!”
I would hope that those fair-minded and decent members of the Presbyterian Church USA, of whom there are many, will protest the insensitivity and, yes, deeper animus of its own leadership towards the Jewish people and the state of Israel.
In the meantime, the Jewish people mourn our dead: Maor Harush (24) and Elior Price (25) from Acre; Itzik Kolangi (28) and Amir Menashe (28) from Petah Tikva; and Kochava Shriki (42) from Rishon Letzion.
We send our prayers and love to their families and friends in their loss. Zichronam livracha – May the memory of the righteous be a blessing.
July 20, 2012 | 7:48 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Below is an inspirational 11-minute TED talk and presentation by Louie Schwartzberg, photographer and film-maker, that is well worth watching:
Rebbe Nachman of Bratzlav, one of Judaism’s greatest tzadikim, put it this way:
“How wonderful it would be if we were worthy of hearing the song of the grass; every blade of grass sings a pure song to God, expecting nothing in return. It is wonderful to hear its song and to worship God in its midst.” (Cited in A Hidden Light: Stories and Teachings of Early HaBad and Bratzlav Hasidism, by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Netanel Miles-Yepez, p. 235).
And never to be outdone, we read in Psalms 136:
Hodu LAdonai ki tov, ki l’olam chasdo…
L’Oseh niflaot g’dolot l’vado, ki l’olam chasdo.
L’Oseh hashamayim bitvunah, ki l’olam chasdo.
L’Roka ha-aretz al hamayim, ki l’olam chasdo.
L’Oseh orim g’dolim, ki l’olam hasdo…
“Give thanks to God, for God’s love is eternal…
Who made great wonders, for God’s love is eternal.
Who made the heavens with wisdom, for God’s love is eternal.
Who spread the earth over the waters, for God’s love is eternal.
Who made the great lights, for God’s love is eternal…”
July 18, 2012 | 6:25 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
If a peaceful two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the goal of Israel’s leaders, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated, then the Levi Committee’s recommendations are anathema to that goal. Indeed, if the Israeli government were to adopt the recommendations that call for the legalization of Israeli settlement everywhere in the West Bank, a two-state solution to this conflict would become impossible.
The Committee’s recommendations would all but assure a “one-state” nightmare scenario, signal the end of Israel’s Jewish majority democracy by forcing Israel either to cede its Jewish character to the new Arab majority and remain democratic, or retain its Jewish majority and deny equal rights to Arab residents of Israel and lose its democracy. If Israel became the former, I fear she would lose much of Diaspora Jewry’s support, and if she became the latter she would invite unprecedented international pressure against her as a profoundly undemocratic state.
Further, the Levi Committee’s assertion that there is no Israeli occupation in the West Bank because, among other reasons, “it is impossible to foresee a time when Israel will relinquish these territories, if ever,” sends a dangerous signal to Palestinian leaders about the prospects for peaceably achieving a state for their people, and will give fodder to Palestinian extremists by unifying the Palestinian community as it prepares for the next war.
Truth to tell, there is nothing good or positive about the Levi Committee’s recommendations if Israel’s goal is a two-state solution to this conflict. It is irrelevant whether there is a legitimate argument about the “legality” of the settlements. It is irrelevant that Jews should have a right to live anywhere in the land including the West Bank just as Arabs live inside Israel. It is irrelevant that Israel occupies the West Bank because she won the war imposed upon her 45 years ago.
What is relevant is how the Jewish people will live in security and peace alongside a Palestinian state. What is relevant is how a partition of the land can be achieved. What is relevant is how the United States and the Quartet can assist these two peoples in making peace.
If Israel is more concerned about pursuing Truth (i.e. that it is justified historically, legally, and morally to hold onto the West Bank indefinitely) instead of pursuing peace as called upon by Jewish tradition, then it will adopt the Levi Committee’s recommendations. However, that would be a tragedy of historic proportions.
Those who love Israel should hope that her leaders stop its drift towards and acquiescence to the incessant demands of the settler community thereby destroying Israel’s future as a Jewish majority democracy.
Yes, Israel is justified in being suspect of Palestinian intentions and rightly concerned about threats from her enemies. However, for the sake of Israel’s democracy and Jewish character, the Israeli government should reject the committee’s recommendations and redouble efforts toward finding a two-state resolution to this conflict.
July 17, 2012 | 7:27 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Last December 1, 2011 I posted on my personal blog the following arguing for the release of Jonathan Pollard. Yesterday, from Israel Hillary Clinton once again stated that Pollard would remain imprisoned. For the life of me, I do not understand why, nor the rationale upon which successive presidents have based their decision to keep Pollard in prison.
I reprint my original blog again and will do so periodically until it is no longer necessary.
01 Thursday Dec 2011
It is time for President Obama to commute Jonathan Pollard’s life sentence to time served for his guilty conviction of spying for Israel. Not only has Pollard now spent 26 years in prison, but he is in failing health. The latter would not be reason enough to commute the sentence if the punishment really did fit the crime, but the sentence from the beginning was grossly unfair.
Long ago it was revealed that Casper Weinberger, the then American Secretary of Defense, bore such animus against Pollard for his leaking American security documents to Israel that the Defense Secretary wanted to make a severe example of Pollard for his treachery. Weinberger had submitted a letter to the judge in Pollard’s case incorrectly alleging that information from Pollard had reached the former Soviet Union, and it was on this basis that the judge made the sentence so severe.
All this information was recently repeated to Vice President Joe Biden when he met with seven American Jewish leaders about the Pollard case. Included in this meeting was Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Dr. Simcha Katz of the Union of Orthodox Congregations, Rabbi Julie Schonfield of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly, Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Michael Adler, a Miami community leader.
The meeting was called because two months ago the Vice President publicly condemned Pollard in the harshest terms provoking a strong response from many in the American Jewish community. The good news is that VP Biden welcomed a meeting at all. To date he is the highest-ranking American official ever to hold a meeting about Pollard, as was reported by Rebecca Anna Stoil, the Washington Representative of The Jerusalem Post. However, the Jewish leaders agreed to strict confidentiality as to what Biden’s response was or what he would advise the President to do in this case.
Pollard’s sentence is extreme relative to the sentences of other guilty foreign spies and agents. The average sentence in an American court given to others convicted of the same crime of spying for an ally as Pollard received has been two to four years. People convicted of treason also served far less time than Pollard. The Jewish leadership delegation cited to Biden the case of Hasan Abu-Jihad, who received only a 10-year sentence for spying for al-Qaida. American spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hansen, convicted of spying for the former USSR, also were given less time. Other than Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were executed for passing top nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union in the early 50s (only Julius was likely guilty), no one has received a more harsh sentence than Jonathan Pollard – and again, his crime was passing secrets to an ally, Israel.
Reason and precedent dictate that Jonathan Pollard be released with a commutation of his sentence soon, perhaps before Hanukah. Humanitarian concerns also recommend his early release. Pollard has been hospitalized 4 times in the last year and suffers from a number of maladies including diabetes, nausea, dizziness, black-outs, problems with his gall bladder, kidneys, sinuses, eyes, and feet.
Finally, the Jewish leadership delegation told the Vice President that there is virtual consensus in the American Jewish community that President Obama should commute Pollard’s sentence to time served. The Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis both passed resolutions years ago calling for justice and commutation. I agree wholeheartedly.
There is a political consideration here for the President as well. Though his record is solidly pro-Israel (only the Republican Jewish coalition refutes this based on anti-Obama political enmity), his releasing Pollard would be well-received in Israel and would undercut the same Republican Jewish Coalition that loves to distort and lie about Obama’s pro-Israel credentials.
Mr. President – commute Pollard’s sentence now!
July 11, 2012 | 6:00 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Is American Democracy, our tradition of free elections and our advancement as an enlightened society being compromised by big money in politics and an aversion to facts and rational discourse?
I believe it is, and so what constitutes “enlightened leadership” becomes a central question as we anticipate going to the polls in November. Ever the optimist, I believe that good leaders can make a difference.
In their book “A Hidden Light: Stories and Teachings of Early HaBaD and Bratzlav Hasidism,” Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi and Netanel Miles-Yepez have written:
“If we think in terms of Rupert Sheldrake’s morphogenetic field and Carl Jung’s collective unconscious, we can see how individual shifts in consciousness may have an impact on the greater field of consciousness…as major shifts occur in the thoughts and feelings of individuals or groups of individuals, a ripple-effect is sent through the entire field, causing tiny adjustments and adaptations throughout.” (p. 72)
I mention all this because in this week’s Torah portion Pinchas we learn of the first significant transference of leadership and power in Jewish history. Aaron and Miriam have died, and Moses is fast approaching the end of his life. God singles out Joshua to assume leadership from Moses (Numbers 17:16-18). In verse 16 we read:
“Yifkod YHVH Elohei ruchot l’chol basar ish al ha-eidah - “May YHVH, God of the spirits of all flesh appoint a leader over the community.”
Note that ruchot (spirits) is a plural form, not singular. It is not written Elohei ruach l’chol basar, “God the SPIRIT of all flesh”, rather the “spirits” of all flesh.
The Talmud offers this famous story to explain:
“Rabbi Abba stated in the name of Shmuel: For three years there was a dispute between the School of Shammai and the School of Hillel, Shammai asserting, ‘The law is in agreement with our view,’ and Hillel contending, ‘The law is in agreement with our view.’ Then a bat kol (a heavenly voice) announced, Eilu v’eilu divrei Elohim chayim (‘The utterances of these and those are the words of the living God, but the law is in agreement with the rulings of the School of Hillel.’ Because they [Hillel] were kindly and modest, they studied their own rulings and those of the School of Shammai, and they were even so humble as to mention the opinions of the School of Shammai before their own.” (Talmud, Eruvin 13b)
From this we derive four principle characteristics of the enlightened leader:
 Acknowledgment of Diversity of Opinion – No one human being can know the complete Truth, which is why Rabbi Abraham Isaac Cook, in emphasizing the importance of argument and debate among the sages, cited Talmud Berachot 64a, “Rabbi Elazar said in the name of Rabbi Haninah: “Chachamim marbim shalom.” Torah Scholars increase peace in the world.”
 The Importance of Kindness and Modesty - The opinions offered by the School of Hillel were followed because Hillel’s disciples (emulating their mentor) strove to personify the virtues of kindness and modesty towards their adversaries thus enabling compromise and the development of consensus for the sake of the common good.
 The Endorsement of Tolerance – Rashi comments on Numbers 27:16, saying: “Appoint over them a leader who will be tolerant of everyone, each in accordance with his understanding.”
 The Need to Transcend Partisanship –Talmud B’rachot 58a says: “If one sees a gathering of 600,000 Jews or more, [the leader] must recite the blessing – ‘Praised be God, the Wise One of Mysteries.’” (See also Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Torah Commentary on Pinchas in this week’s Jerusalem Post - http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=180132). We learn from this that it is impossible to truly know God’s will. Anyone who claims such knowledge is not only a false prophet but an idolater guilty of the worst hubris.
In sum, Jewish tradition requires in our leaders knowledge, wisdom, vision, and the virtues of kindness, modesty, open-mindedness, tolerance, and willingness to acknowledge truth coming even from one’s most ardent adversary.
I believe that there are such leaders currently serving in American politics, and many face tough reelection fights because of the enormous funding of their opponents, many of whom do not possess the knowledge, wisdom, intelligence, experience, vision, or virtues that our tradition requires of our leaders.
As we move towards November, it would do us well to consider what qualifications for high public office Judaism sets as a standard.
July 8, 2012 | 12:06 pm
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
In today’s NY Times (Sunday, July 8 - front page, front section, above the fold) there is a must-read article for anyone who has cancer, who is a cancer survivor, who loves someone with cancer, and who might be high risk themselves (“In Leukemia Treatment, Glimpses of the future” by Gina Kolata)
What makes the news reported in this article so extraordinary is that medical science now possesses the means to determine the differences in genetic constitution of cancers compared to normal cells in the same individual, and that cancer-driving mutated genes, or the proteins they program for, may be targeted by existing drugs, or drugs that can be developed. The problem is still far from simple, but the individualized genetic approach to cancer is the most promising in humankind’s history of grappling with this large array of disorders.
“What is important, medical researchers say, is the genes that drive a cancer, not the tissue or organ – liver or brain, bone marrow, blood or colon – where the cancer originates… under this new approach, researchers expect that treatment will be tailored to an individual tumor’s mutations, with drugs, eventually, that hit several key aberrant genes at once. The cocktails of medicines would be analogous to H.I.V. treatment, which uses several different drugs at once to strike the virus in a number of critical areas.”
Kol hakavod to the medical researchers! Keep it up – we’re all behind you!