The Jewish Agency for Israel is embarking on a bold and necessary attempt to create a new mission for itself, downplaying its historic role in promoting immigration to Israel and emphasizing instead an intriguing but still amorphous notion of Jewish “peoplehood.”
Was it the name? When Rabbi Avi Weiss ordained a woman last year and gave her the made-up honorific of “Maharat,” the mainstream Orthodox world wasn’t pleased, but neither was it furious. Just as much criticism came from those who thought the compromise title was disingenuous, even demeaning. If Sara Hurwitz was to act as a rabbi in her Bronx synagogue, why not call her that?
Is this the Conservative movement’s moment? Arnold Eisen, chancellor of the flagship Jewish Theological Seminary, certainly thinks so, and his optimistic evaluation takes full account of the challenges facing what was once America’s largest Jewish religious denomination as it now struggles to define itself.
“For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.”
The Goldstone report’s myopic analysis did a terrible injustice to Israel. Yet in its own, painful way, the Goldstone report has been a revealing exercise. It revealed that the Israeli military has made a genuine attempt to investigate many of the charges contained in the report, and has done so with welcome transparency.