June 25, 2017

Do US Jews value pluralism over justice?

I am outraged by Israel's long years of bait-and-switch with Judaism's non-Orthodox denominations, most of whom fervently support and advocate for the Jewish state, culminating in the latest decision to abandon even a compromise of their basic religious rights. This last straw in a long-running scam to exclude and demonize non-Orthodox Jews should rattle us all to our core.

Equally striking, however, is the general contrast between our community's instant and very public outrage over this spiritual and emotional offense, which targets mostly absentee co-religionists who otherwise enjoy freedom of travel and self-expression vs. the daily and hourly humiliation and subjugation of 2+ million Palestinians -- whose plight, regardless of who is at fault, is at least somewhat and significantly in the hands of the same Israeli government which has now again inconvenienced and insulted Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews. 

Unless as a throwaway line with which to blame "the Arabs" and excuse Israel, even mentioning the Palestinians' situation commonly engenders charges of anti-Semitism and perfidy hurled reflexively by Federation leaders, pulpit rabbis, radio hosts, and blog idols of the official pro-Israel line. Speakers are disinvited, academic tenures are threatened. 

The American Jewish Diaspora won't dare notice -- and actively distracts from the reality -- that Palestinians are routinely and daily denied basic human dignity, rights and services, except to blame and denigrate the Palestinians themselves. Yet, for over three decades, to have one integral but single right -- the right to non-Orthodox observance, including "Who is a Jew" -- denied them in the land of our forefathers is an existential crisis demanding urgent moral umbrage.

In most cases, the same American Jewish establishment which once again warns vocally and righteously of the specter of an alienated American Jewry still thinks little of the Palestinians who live within sight of the Western Wall. As a community, we staunchly defend the Israeli Government's actions with regard to the basic rights of Palestinians, then we turn around and expect that same government to show remorse for how it allows us to pray and validate conversions. 

If this is the Light Unto the Nations, then which nations do we mean? And if we cannot even bear to hear the prayers and grievances of those under our immediate or indirect control, then how can we expect God to hear our own entreaties at the site of his Holy Temple?

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