The February fight over whether a Brooklyn supermarket should boycott Israeli goods may not have been the most important battle in the debate over the international movement to impose boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. It may, however, have been the most visible.
That’s because the supermarket was the Park Slope Food Co-op, the venerable organic food mecca in Brooklyn’s most gentrified corner. The neighborhood is home to countless media professionals who covered the brawl in their backyard with uncommon excitement.
On the anti-boycott side, the most effective advocate wasn’t some Israeli flag-waving propagandist. Rather, it was Andy Bachman, the progressive rabbi at Congregation Beth Elohim, the local Reform synagogue. For those glad to see the boycott defeated, Bachman deserves much of the credit.
“[T]he reasonable center prevailed,” Bachman wrote in a piece for the Forward about the debate. “It was the intellectually cooperative result of what happens when a community is willing to model tolerance of perspective and moderation in behavior.”
The co-op coup was only the latest demonstration of the rabbi’s growing influence. Bachman, 49, has led Beth Elohim since 2006. Known for his rapport with young, engaged Jews, he has built bridges with more observant egalitarian independent minyans, housing a number of prayer groups in Beth Elohim’s space.
In another sign of his clout, the Union for Reform Judaism chose Bachman’s synagogue to host an investiture ceremony for Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the newly named head of the Reform movement.
Also this year, Bachman’s synagogue won a $250,000 grant to fix its collapsed ceiling. With Bachman keeping the syngogue full, they’ll need a finished roof.