In many Jewish communities, it’s easier to name an American serving in the Israel Defense Forces than in our own military. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t ignite the same intense reaction among Jews as did the fighting in World War II, when the Nazis’ obsession with extermination prompted a widespread desire to defend and a personal connection to the threat, whether one’s family was directly subject to the Holocaust, or not. And of course, then and for decades later, there was a military draft. Avoiding service was generally not an option. Now the volunteer armed forces are filled mostly with Protestants from middle America.
President Obama’s predilection for finding diplomatic compromises for knotty world conflicts won him the Nobel Peace Prize, but it doesn’t always play well at home, where engagement can be ridiculed as naïve or wishy-washy. Sometimes, though, it’s the only way to thread the needle. And the president seems to have done just that with his long-awaited new policy on Sudan.
Even if granted the very best of intentions, Richard Goldstone’s report on Israel’s and Hamas’s conduct during last winter’s military operation in Gaza has left a bitter and confusing legacy. Bitter, because rather than being a constructive prod toward self-examination of the morality of a new kind of warfare, the report has left Israel only more isolated and defensive. And confusing because the way Goldstone described his work in an exclusive interview with the Forward does not square with the irresponsible conclusions in the report itself.
The decision to transform United Jewish Communities to The Jewish Federations of North America, the organization’s chief executive, Jerry Silverman, said, was intended to create “a stronger, cohesive brand” for the umbrella organization that represents 157 restless, disparate local federations. Whatever you think of the lingo, Silverman is onto something.
An act of civil disobedience by a rabbi and ministers in Philadelphia helped to shut down a notorious gun shop. This kind of local non-violent protest, combined with efforts to change municipal and state laws, is a powerful way to combat the epidemic of gun violence that haunts too many communities in America.