Why I Can’t Quit B’nai Jeshurun

A Vibrant Jewish Community Trumps Politics

Mr. Abbas’s Drama: Not everyone at B’nai Jeshurun agrees with the rabbis’ statement about Palestinian statehood. But that doesn’t mean they are going to abandon the congregation, either.
Getty Images
Mr. Abbas’s Drama: Not everyone at B’nai Jeshurun agrees with the rabbis’ statement about Palestinian statehood. But that doesn’t mean they are going to abandon the congregation, either.

By Jordana Horn

Published December 13, 2012, issue of December 21, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

“You’re taking them to BJ after what the rabbis there did?” the text message from my ex-husband read. He was referring to the fact that I’d taken my two boys to Shabbat services that morning at the Upper West Side congregation B’nai Jeshurun.

And he wasn’t the only one expressing disbelief. “If MY rabbis wrote an e-mail like that, I’d stop being a member there,” one of my friends told me over lunch, jabbing her finger in the air as a ‘J’accuse.’ Another friend forwarded me an e-mail he’d sent to the synagogue’s rabbis, which concluded with him telling them that he was only sorry he wasn’t a member and therefore couldn’t resign his membership.

As most everyone knows by now, the rabbis of BJ unleashed a tidal wave of criticism with their e-mailed statement supporting the United Nations vote on the upgrade of Palestine’s status. News of their statement was splashed across the front page of The New York Times, and used as a handy illustration in the latest salvo of loyalty wars — accusations by Jews, against Jews, of being not adequately loyal or too blindly loyal to the State of Israel.

“I am sure that those of us who occasionally attend services at B’nai Jeshurun, as I do, and those who are members and frequent attendees, are deeply divided about these issues,” Alan Dershowitz wrote in the Forward’s pages. “It required incredible chutzpah and insensitivity to the intelligence of congregants for the rabbis and lay-leaders to issue their announcement without first allowing both sides of this issue to be heard and debated.”

That being said, surely the general position of BJ’s rabbis came as not much of a surprise to those in the know. BJ has long worn its left-wing politics proudly, practically binding them as signs upon their hands and letting them serve as symbols between their eyes.

As someone whose politics run more middle of the road, I often find myself alienated by the institutionalized assumption that every congregant is on the right side — that is, the left side! — of any given debate. Statements are routinely made in shul by the rabbis, whether as part of a sermon or as offhanded remarks, that reflect their liberal outlook.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.