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Jewish Journal

Love the Stranger as Yourself – Racism in Halacha’s Name

by Rabbi John Rosove

January 9, 2012 | 9:29 am

We Jews are like all people, only more so. Our talents are immense. Our hearts are huge. Our generosity as a people is probably the most pronounced of any people on earth. Our accomplishments are second to none. Our motivation to heal the world is not only a profound religious principle, but it becomes an obsessive fixation on the need for justice and compassion in the world. This is all to the good.

But, our stupidity is also legion; our fear, though justified by experience, leads us to say and do things that are self-defeating; our hatred and rage at the world as deep as any on earth; and of late our racism in Israel is a growing source of national shame.

The Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), based in Jerusalem, has taken the lead in calling out racist attacks on Arabs, misogynist policies against women, and irresponsible hate speech from ultra-Orthodox Rabbis against their perceived enemies.

Anat Hoffman (the Director of the IRAC) recently announced the publication “Love the Stranger as Yourself – Racism in Halacha’s Name. The following is from the report’s preface:

“Love the Stranger as Yourself – Racism in Halacha’s Name is the first report of its kind collecting racist statements made by rabbis in general and by rabbis holding civil servants positions in particular. Rabbis making such statements are the minority in Israel. But their growing numbers and the legitimacy they enjoy must be a cause for concern and must be a spur to action. These rabbis undermine the foundations of Israeli democracy, incite hatred and fear, and besmirch Judaism as a whole with their message of Xenophobia.

It might be assumed that a person who devotes his life to sacred matters would be obligated to meet high standards of ethics and morality. In reality these rabbis are not called to account for actions that would be considered criminal offenses were they made by any other civil servant.

The Israel Religious Action Center is dedicated to fight against the government’s non-accountability with respect to racial incitement in the name of Halacha (Jewish religious law). Our commitment to this struggle stems from our profound commitment to Judaism and Israeli democracy.”

I applaud this work and this commitment to action, and I urge you to read the report in its entirety.

 

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