Dear Rabbi Fried,
What is your opinion of the decision by Netanyahu to scrap the plans to make the Wall a place that all Jews can pray as they like and the threats by many American Jewish leaders to cut their support to Israel if they don’t ratify the decision to make it a place for all branches of Judaism?
— Marcella K.
As I am a rabbi and not a politician, I stay away from addressing political issues in this column. I will say, however, that the kinds of statements which I have seen over these past weeks from non-Orthodox rabbinical leadership as well as from the heads of many Jewish organizations and Federations has caused me profound sadness and disillusion with their leadership.
The Israeli cabinet’s decision not to upend the generations-old status quo of the Kotel was met with howls of outrage by many leaders of non-Orthodox institutions, including threats to break ties with Israel and its support. I could not be more horrified and outraged by such threats, which, to me, expose a very thin or superficial connection to Israel to begin with. During a time when Israel is surrounded by existential threats from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinians, when Israeli families are risking their lives to live in Israel and sadly losing them, such as last week’s brutal murder of a family in their home Friday night, Israel needs and demands unconditional support from it Diaspora brethren.
Furthermore, we sadly see so many young Jews on campuses supporting Palestinian causes far more than the cause of Israel and they are often at the forefront of the BDS movement, exposing a tremendous breach in the younger generation’s commitment to Israel and Klal Yisrael. This disconnect was already shown clearly by the most recent Pew report, exposing a broad apathy by younger American Jews toward Israel’s very existence.
It is clear to me that when statements of protest and outrage by Jewish leaders are peppered with threats of severing ties, these leaders are feeding the fires of disengagement by the younger generation, fires which are already burning brightly. It’s one thing to protest and express their opinion. It’s quite another thing to threaten that it’s their way or the highway. Without question their threats have crossed a dangerous red line, and the public way they have been expressing this lack of support is playing neatly into the hands of Israel’s enemies, we can be sure.
I say this without addressing the actual issue: what is or should be the status of the Kotel with regards to being considered an Orthodox synagogue or a public square. I will, perhaps, address this in next week’s column, God willing. For now, I am only addressing my personal sadness and outrage at the willingness of today’s Jewish leadership to throw Israel under the bus if they don’t get their way about the way this decision, or any decision, is made by the Israeli government.
We are presently observing the three-week mourning period over the destruction of the very Temple which was located beyond the Wall; its holiness is what imbues the remaining Western Wall of the Temple courtyard with its holiness. It is that holiness which has attracted, and continues to attract, millions of Jews throughout the generations to that spot, bringing them together as one.
The mission of Jewish leadership is to send a message to the generation that even when things are not exactly the way we want them to be in Israel, we will always have Israel’s back. Our support, moral and financial, is non-wavering. That is the true message of the Temple, the Wall and the Jewish people.
Dear Rabbi Fried,