Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Last month upon returning from Israel where my synagogue group met Eritrean and Sudanese refugees living in squalor in south Tel Aviv, I wrote a blog about their plight and argued why the Israeli government's efforts in amending the Prevention of Infiltration Law, contrary to the High Court's ruling to release all detainees within 90 days, so as to incarcerate and/or deport these people was contrary to Israel's own Basic Laws and not befitting Israel in its role as the last resort of refuge for the Jewish people.
Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center, has called upon all friends of Israel to sign a petition to Prime Minister Netanyahu asking the Israeli government to reverse its draconian intention to deal harshly with these refugees.
Below is Anat's letter and how you can include your signature on this petition to Prime Minister Netanyahu. The goal is 25,000 signatures. Please sign it and distribute this blog to your friends to follow suit.
For those in Los Angeles, Anat Hoffman will be speaking tonight (Tuesday, December 3, 7:30 PM) at Temple Israel of Hollywood. All are welcome.
Sign our letter to the Prime Minister - http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50494/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12521
Dear Friends of Israel ,
One year ago, I wrote to you about the 53,000 asylum seekers in Israel, the vast majority of which come from Eritrea and Sudan. Many of these individuals are the survivors of unspeakable horrors at home as well as during their Exodus through the Sinai to Israel. They have arrived to Israel over the last decade, believing the country to be a haven free from the evils of their home countries and neighboring countries.
Today, I come to you with a question: how can Israel—a country founded by refugees—continue to imprison and deport African asylum seekers who desperately need her protection? Just over 2 months ago, Israel’s High Court of Justice unanimously ruled that amendments to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, which were being used to hold asylum seekers in detention for 3 years or more, were unconstitutional and contradicted Israel’s Basic Laws. The High Court demanded that the State release all imprisoned asylum seekers within 90 days, by December 15th, 2013.
Since the High Court’s decision, only a quarter of the asylum seekers in detention have been released. In defiance of the High Court, the Israeli government instead has begun the legislative process to pass new amendments to the Prevention of Infiltration Law, which will keep the same asylum seekers who the High Court ordered to be released to Sadot, an “open” detention center, where they will be held indefinitely.
Sadot is not an “open” center. Prisoners there will have to submit to a headcount three times each day, which, because of Sadot’s isolation along the border with Egypt, will ensure that prisoners will not be able to leave the facility. The Israel Prison Service, which has no prior experience operating an “open” detention center, is slated to run the facility. Anyone who breaches the conditions of the “open” center risks immediately being transferred to the closed prison for anywhere from three months to a year.
Sadot currently has room for 3,300 prisoners, nearly 2,000 more people than those that are currently detained at Saharonim and Ktziot. To fill the other available spaces at Sadot, the Israeli authorities have indicated that they plan to actively arrest asylum seekers who currently are living freely in Israeli cities and to force them to relocate to Sadot facility.
Once an asylum seeker is forced into the “open” detention center at Sadot, the only way that he or she can leave the facility is to consent to “voluntary” deportation to his or her country of origin or a third country. Given that asylum seekers in Sadot will be coerced into making an impossible choice between indefinite imprisonment in Israel and torture and indefinite imprisonment in their home countries, their “consent” to deportation cannot be considered “voluntary.”
Capturing the desperation of asylum seekers in detention, a Darfuri asylum seeker told human rights groups, "I would rather die in my own country than be in prison forever in Israel. I would do anything to get out of prison."
These detention policies are contrary to the democratic and moral values of the State of Israel and have one clear aim: to force those who seek help and protection out of Israel.
Speaking on November 24th, 2013, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not have made the Israeli government’s intentions any clearer: “We are determined to remove the tens of thousands of infiltrators who are here.”
We are calling on the Israeli government to end these unjust policies. Israel has long championed refugee rights—we must help Israel reclaim this position, and fight for those fleeing persecution.
Executive Director, IRAC
Action Alert: Sign the letter to the PM! http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/50494/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12521
We are asking our supporters to sign this letter to Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, insisting that Israel release asylum seekers from detention and provide them with a legal, moral, and fair path to apply for asylum in safety. Our goal is 25,000 in the next two weeks so please forward it to your friends and family and post it on your Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Anat Hoffman's Speaking Tour Dates
Tuesday, Dec 3, 19:30 – Temple Israel of Hollywood – Hollywood, CA
12.3.13 at 6:33 am | Anat Hoffman's letter and a link to include your. . .
12.2.13 at 7:19 am | To acknowledge vulnerability is to accept our. . .
11.29.13 at 6:59 am | The recently published Pew Study of the American. . .
11.27.13 at 8:45 am | The two pieces below published in today’s. . .
11.24.13 at 12:15 pm | Kerry turned to the Jewish community to enlist. . .
11.24.13 at 8:10 am | “As corny as this sounds I get up in the. . .
12.3.13 at 6:33 am | Anat Hoffman's letter and a link to include your. . . (80)
11.17.13 at 7:20 am | Thousands of secular Israelis are turning to the. . . (80)
12.18.11 at 5:57 pm | General George Washington and a Polish Jewish. . . (78)
December 2, 2013 | 7:19 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
It is true in our interpersonal relationships, as it is true in religion, science, politics, business, education, technology, and the arts – that those who take the greatest risks, who act from love and not fear, who challenge the limits of current thinking and think outside the box, who meld their self-interests with the common good, who act on behalf of justice, compassion and peace, that these are the people who not only evolve and grow as individuals, but effect progress in society and the world as a whole.
I have pondered for years why some people are uncommonly courageous, willing to step outside the mainstream to create something new, to fight for justice and peace, despite the inherent risks.
I ponder as well why other people resist positive change, hold tenaciously to their truths regardless of the evidence that disproves their veracity, are risk adverse, and seek certainty even if it means ignoring innovations that will improve their quality of life and the quality of life of others.
Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston in the Graduate College of Social Work, has studied such differences in people and come to the conclusion that the determining factor in the way people think and behave is how they cope with vulnerability, for it is vulnerability that underpins our feelings about ourselves, our relationships to others and to the world around us.
At the heart of vulnerability, she says, is the fear of losing connection with others due to a sense of inherent unworthiness. The most frightened among us fear especially the shame that comes with disconnection. These people assume that because they themselves feel unworthy they will be rejected when others discover the truth about them, that they are not smart enough, desirable enough, lovable enough, talented enough, competent enough, promotable enough, or wealthy enough. Whatever the deficiency they feel, they fear being revealed as flawed and vulnerable.
Those who do not fear their vulnerability are what Dr. Brown calls “whole-hearted” because they feel worthy of love and connection, despite their flaws, and so they allow their vulnerabilities to be known and seen and do not worry about rejection. Such people tend to have greater empathy and tenderness, and rather than fear the shame that comes with disconnection, they feel courage in connection. It is that courage born in a sense of self-worthiness that enables them to muster their abilities, insights and talents and take risks, create, innovate, and change.
Those who fear disconnection the most not only become numb to their vulnerabilities, they numb other emotions including empathy, compassion, gratitude, and joy. Disconnected, they feel miserable and seek means to discharge their misery. Is it any wonder, Dr. Brown asks, that this generation of Americans is the most addicted and medicated cohort of any we have seen before in American history?
Those numb to vulnerability tend to crave certainty and black/white answers to life’s most difficult challenges. They regard intolerance as virtue, openness as destabilizing, nuanced thinking as elitist, and creativity as subversion.
To acknowledge vulnerability is to accept our humanity, for none of us is perfect. Recognizing our vulnerability means that we are alive, and being courageous in connection we invest in relationships that may or may not work out. We start something new that may or may not bear fruit. Vulnerability understood this way is hardly negative, it is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.
As I have thought about the role that vulnerability plays in the way people, communities and nations respond to creativity, innovation, and change, I believe that Dr. Brown has identified a key emotional reality that we ignore at our own peril.
November 29, 2013 | 6:59 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
This week Joseph finds himself imprisoned on the false charge of trying to seduce Potifar’s wife. Already known as a dream interpreter, Joseph is called from the dungeons to interpret Pharaoh’s seemingly inscrutable dreams, and convinces Pharaoh that God has blessed him with far-sighted wisdom and the grace of success. Consequently, Pharaoh elevates Joseph to the position of the kingdom’s chief overseer, second in power only to Pharaoh himself.
In his position Joseph deftly manages the realm, and when the years of famine arrive as predicted, word spreads that Egypt has stockpiled an overabundance of grain, and that surrounding peoples can seek sustenance from the throne.
Suffering the effects of the famine along with everyone else, Jacob instructs his surviving older sons to procure food for the family, lest they all die, and they appear before Joseph.
In the dramatic conclusion in next week’s parasha, Joseph will reveal his true identity to his brothers and explain that their sale of him served his life’s purpose, that God had sent him ahead into Egypt as a slave to save his family.
Joseph is a key transitional figure between the patriarchal era in Genesis and the birth of the spiritual nation of Israel in Exodus. As such, he was the first court Jew in history. He understood Egyptian culture and society. He spoke the language, dressed as a native, took an Egyptian name, married an Egyptian woman, and sired children, the very first Hebrew children to be born in Diaspora.
Despite his acculturation, Joseph did not become an Egyptian, nor did he forsake his ancestral faith. Indeed, he is the prototype of a politically powerful leader who assures Jewish survival.
Fast forward to the second century B.C.E. For 200 years Greek culture had been spreading throughout the lands of the Mediterranean. Jews were attracted to Greek population centers, to the abstract sciences, humanism, philosophy, and commerce.
By the time of the Maccabees (165 BCE), Jews living in the land of Israel had divided into three distinct groups; traditionalists living in villages who followed the priests and observed Jewish law; radical Hellenists living in the cities who saw no advantage in remaining Jewish, who named their children using Greek names, spoke Greek, stopped circumcising their sons, ceased celebrating Shabbat and the Hagim, and rejected kashrut; and the moderately Hellenized Jews who lived as Greeks but maintained their Jewish cultural identity.
When finally the radical Hellenizers conspired with the Greek King Antiochus IV to introduce a pantheon of gods into the Jerusalem Temple, including the sacrifice of the detested pig, moderate Jews were shocked and rose up to fight alongside the traditionalists and save Judaism and the Jewish people from destruction.
For Joseph, Jewish survival meant remembering who he was as an Israelite living in exile. For the Maccabees and their moderate Jewish allies, it meant war in the ancestral homeland.
In these opening years of the 21st century, we liberal American Jews are confronted with a serious challenge. Of the 5.5 million American Jews, 2 million identify with the liberal non-orthodox religious streams, 600,000 with the orthodox and the rest as “just Jewish” and marginal at best.
The recently published Pew Study of the American Jewish community makes it clear that if current trends continue, 30 years from now liberal Jews will diminish by 30% to 1.4 million total, assuming that our current 1.7 children per family birthrate continues and we do not reverse the loss of 75% of the children born to intermarriages who do not identify as Jews. The current intermarriage rate is upwards of 60%. The orthodox community’s birthrate is a shy less than 5 children per family, meaning that in 30 years orthodox Jews will double their numbers.
The declining birthrate in liberal American Jewry is a real threat to our survival. We will need to increase our birthrate, create a more compelling liberal faith that attracts more converts, more intermarried families, more LGBT Jews, and retains all who struggle with faith and claim to be atheists but who feel culturally, ethically and ancestrally Jewish. And we will have to educate everyone better than we do in Jewish history, literature, tradition, and thought.
The core of the challenge is as old as Joseph, and is as Ari Shavit writes in “My Promised Land – The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel”:
“…how to maintain Jewish identity in an open world not shielded by the walls of a ghetto,…[with] secularization and emancipation eroding the old formula of Jewish survival...”
and, I would add for those who have faith, that places God in the center of our people’s daily life and identity.
Hanukah and Miketz remind us that Jewish survival is not a given, that the State of Israel and America Jewry, especially now, need each other to thrive and depend upon each other to survive.
Shabbat shalom and Hag Hanukah sameach!
November 27, 2013 | 8:45 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Much is being written on the Israeli response to the Geneva agreement. One can find reasoned arguments for and against, that it is a “bad deal” and “historic mistake” (ala PM Netanyahu) and a “mitzvah” (ala former Deputy Prime Minister and Oslo negotiator Yossi Beilin).
The two pieces below published in today’s Al-Monitor offer insight into both the security and diplomatic realities and opportunities that will be considered during the next six months of diplomacy as well as politics in Israel itself.
I find it noteworthy that so often Israel’s military chiefs and former heads of Israel's security services, Shin Bet (ala “The Gatekeepers”), are the least panicked and most clear-thinking people in Israel.
I also have come to believe that though PM Netanyahu, by all accounts, is sincere in his worries over Iran’s nuclear weapons program, as are most Israelis across the political spectrum, Bibi so often plays to the politics of fear, and that usually does not result in the wisest of policies, public statements and consequences.
Fear keeps people stuck in the wounds and sufferings of the past on the one hand, and disallows them the freedom to create new, wiser and more secure realities moving forward on the other. Though there are risks in every option, there are also risks and dangers in doing nothing.
"Netanyahu's alarm about Iran balanced by military chiefs," Al-Monitor - According to Ben Caspit, “There’s no panic at all among Israel’s professional military echelons. Nobody talks about a catastrophe or an imminent second holocaust. People discuss the merits of the agreement with levelheadedness and discretion. After all, doomsday prophecies are not their thing. For this we have Netanyahu.” http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/11/iran-agreement-israel-defense-apparatus-not-alarmist.html#
Netanayahu plays the Iran card in Israeli politics," Al-Monitor - Mazal Mualem makes the case that Netanyahu is “using the Iranian nuclear project for internal political needs.” http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/11/benjamin-netanyahu-deal-nuclear-iran-israeli-public.html
Note: I have just discovered the Al-Monitor Middle Eastern news service. Here is a description of its mission taken from its web-site:
“Al-Monitor - launched February 13, 2012, features reporting and analysis by prominent journalists and experts from the Middle East, including through its Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey Pulses. Al-Monitor’s content is regularly referenced in The Wall Street Journal, Time, Reuters, Le Monde, The New York Times, The Economist and many other publications. The Washington Post has called the site “invaluable,” The Huffington Post referred to it as "increasingly a daily must-read for insightful commentary on the Middle East” while The Economist recommended Al-Monitor’s Egypt and Iran coverage in its What To Read section. Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/about#ixzz2lrdUKijU
November 24, 2013 | 12:15 pm
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
President Obama and Secretary Kerry are to be congratulated, along with Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, for this diplomatic success between Iran and the P5+1 to eventually eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons capability in future agreements.
Contrary to naysayers who say, including Israeli PM Netanyahu, that this is somehow a “bad deal,” one need only read what the agreement actually requires to realize that that this deal effectively stops advancement of Iran’s nuclear progress for six months, leaves most of the sanctions in place pending continued progress, while a stronger agreement is developed.
The President and Secretary of State are also to be congratulated on their diplomatic efforts to rid Syria of chemical weapons.
Each of these successes, despite them being imperfect, is a mitzvah because each pursues and effects the fulfillment of our duty to save lives (pikuach nefesh).
President Obama and Secretary Kerry are also to be congratulated for devoting enormous time and political capital in bringing the Palestinians and Israel to the negotiating table with the goal of peacefully and diplomatically bringing about a two states for two people’s resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Their initial efforts are only a beginning. The road will be very tough because a viable and fair peace agreement will require Israel and the Palestinians to make difficult concessions and compromises on all the core issues of borders, settlements, land swaps, Jerusalem, water, and refugees.
The alternative to an agreement, however, for the Jewish people is unthinkable - namely, the end of the Zionist dream and the erosion of the Jewish democratic state of Israel.
J Street, a pro-Israel pro-peace political organization in Washington, D.C. that supports a two-states for two-peoples agreement, has answered Secretary Kerry’s challenge to America and to America's Jews to be part of the “great constituency for peace.” J Street's response is “The 2 Campaign” using these words:
"The 2 Campaign answers Secretary of State John Kerry’s challenge to rally a “great constituency for peace” behind the administration’s initiative to achieve a two-state solution.
In particular, Kerry turned to the Jewish community to enlist our support, because he recognizes “no one has a stronger voice” when it comes to Israel. Most in the organized Jewish community are now on record supporting a two-state solution and have applauded Secretary Kerry’s efforts. However, too many are then quick to list the reasons why an agreement isn’t possible.
The 2 Campaign is a concerted effort across the country to convey to Secretary Kerry that he has the support of the American Jewish community and beyond in pushing negotiations forward, especially in the most difficult moments. Achieving a two-state solution is in the American, Israeli and Palestinian national interest.
Together, we will demonstrate the resolve of pro-Israel Americans to see a two-state solution reached. We will show policymakers and political leaders that we support US leadership in helping the parties make the difficult, but necessary choices with regard to Jerusalem, borders, refugees and security.
The 2 Campaign will consist of a major multimedia effort that will unfold as the negotiations progress, a national petition, educational outreach across the country and major events in key American cities. Join Us!"
Become part of the solution – sign the 2 Campaign petition here http://www.jstreetu.org/latest/2campaign
Note that I am a national co-chair of the 700 member J Street Rabbinic Cabinet.
November 24, 2013 | 8:10 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
I did not know Michael Weiner personally, but I wish I had. Since his death on Thursday of brain cancer at the age of 51, the eulogies have poured in from around the country, and by all accounts Weiner was the embodiment of what it means to be mensch.
A happily married man and a loving father of three daughters, Michael Weiner served as the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA) since 2009, and had been involved in the business of baseball for many years. He was most widely known, respected, admired, and loved as a professional of uncommon ability, skill, integrity, decency, compassion, empathy, and humility.
Michael Weiner loved baseball. He loved the players and recognized that without them there would be no game. The business of the game, though important, in his mind and heart was secondary to the integrity of the game and the well-being of its players. He was so effective at building consensus in labor issues and so deft at simplifying and making understandable to lay people (he was a Harvard Law grad) complex legal and contractual language, that of the four major sports in the United States only Major League Baseball has been successful in negotiating a collective bargaining agreement ensuring 21 consecutive years of labor peace, largely because of Michael Weiner.
As if all this weren’t enough, Weiner also taught Sunday School at the Jewish Center of Northwest Jersey, and, as one might assume, the children adored him.
As Weiner’s cancer progressed (he was first diagnosed in August, 2012) he reflected about his life. It is this statement that led me to write this blog of memorial to a man I did not know personally. Its message is what all of us ought to emulate:
“As corny as this sounds I get up in the morning and I feel I’m going to live each day as it comes. I don’t take any day for granted. I don’t take the next morning for granted. What I look for each day is beauty, meaning and joy, and if I can find beauty, meaning and joy, that’s a good day.”
Zichrono livracha – May Michael Weiner’s memory be a blessing, and may his family and loved ones find comfort among all mourners in Zion and Jerusalem. Amen!
November 22, 2013 | 3:46 pm
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
I can’t stop the dreams
That come in the night,
For even while awake
I’m gazing towards light.
My mother died,
My father sighed,
And he wondered
What will become of me
And my dreams?
Trusting a man along the way
I found my brothers lying in wait
To banish me from the clan
And send me away.
They could not utter aloud
Even my name,
And, casting me into a pit
They spat me away
And broke my father’s heart.
My name had been written with stars –
But I became a slave
And as flesh in a woman’s heart.
Her master, incensed
Sent me to Sheol,
But still a seer
I glimpsed a glow
And blessings bubbled
Into my dreams.
Alas, I was given reprieve,
Restored to the King,
And I served him faithfully
With shaven head, an Egyptian name,
Secure at his right hand.
There, alone, my heart hardened,
I trusted no one,
Neither man nor angel,
But I dreamed my dreams
And waited for redemption.
My brothers came,
Their faces forlorn,
Begging for bread
Before the throne,
Thinking me Viceroy,
With scepter in hand,
Not as Joseph
From their clan.
My heart had shut down
For twenty odd years
My love blown away
In cold desert tears.
As my father re-dug his father’s old wells,
Seeing my brothers
I recalled where I dwelt,
And water seeped up
Into my steeped-up heart,
To open me to love again.
I forgave them
And brought them near,
And saved them
from their fears,
As God intended
all these years.
November 21, 2013 | 8:20 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Chief Israeli negotiator in the Israel-Palestinian talks, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, posted the following extraordinary statement about the settler movement and their representatives (Naftali Bennet’s Bayit Hayehudi party and the right wing of Likud) for trying to determine for the minority of the Israeli population what the majority of Israelis want, a two-states for two-peoples solution.
More and more former Israeli right-wing politicians (e.g. Tzipi Livni, Tzachi Hanegbi whose mother Geula Cohen founded the “Greater Israel Movement”, former Likud leader Meir Shitreet, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as well as all six living former heads of Israel’s security service, Shin Bet, as documented in the film “The Gatekeepers”) have come to the position that there is NO alternative to a two-state solution – NONE! A one-state solution is unsustainable and would end Israel’s democracy and Jewish character.
Minister Tzipi Livni wrote:
“Those who decide for the majority are in fact a radical minority which has taken control of our lives. …They call us 'brother' and 'sister', but the truth of the matter is that they don't care about their 'family', they are motivated by narrow interest at the expense of our children's future – with more and more announcements of settlement construction they attempt to prevent us from reaching an agreement which will secure the existence of a strong, Jewish and democratic Zionist state….Let's stop for a moment and ask the people right now whether they are willing to pay the price for construction that might or might not happen, for building in places like Eli, we should ask whether we are ready to pay the price of serious damage to our strategic relations with the US, Israel's isolation in the world, severe damage to our economy, a worsening boycott against us, ongoing damage to the legitimacy of the IDF to act, and the freedom of our soldiers to travel the world without fear of being arrested, and most importantly – the cost of losing our identity as a Jewish and democratic state….This is a direct, genuine question which is not related to whether we have a partner or not. What the impact is on security is a question that is related only to us: In what kind of country do we want to live, and what country do we want to leave our children." I also want to make another thing clear: Violence will not bring political achievement. And we will fight against terrorism and extremists firmly and without compromise."
-Chief Negotiator, Tzipi Livni on Settlement Building and Naftali Bennett’s Party Bayit Hayehudi, Ynet News, November 13, 2013 from Livni’s Facebook Page.
The leader of Meretz, Zahava Gal-on, said at the national conference of J Street in Washington D.C. at the end of September, “Bibi tells the world one thing and his policies are entirely different.”
I wrote about East Jerusalem settlements in former blogs, and the following article published by Al-Monitor, confirms those blogs and Geveret Gal-on’s observation of the discrepancy of rhetoric and actions of the Prime Minister and the government of Israel.
Netanyahu government 'Israelizes' east Jerusalem Al-Monitor - http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/11/jerusalem-two-state-solution-building-plans-netanyahu.html