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October 8, 2004

Promote Discourse On Leaders’ Israel Stance

An October 1 letter to the editor mirrors almost to the word a complaint sent to me via e-mail by Ira Foreman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, following the inclusion of my thoughts on the potential for mischief inherent in the Senator John Kerry campaign’s evocation of a new internationalism (“Group’s Partisanship Shows in Comment”).

Both are protesting that my comments, as quoted in a September 24 news article in this newspaper, violate the 501C3 barrier blocking organizations that receive charitable contributions from endorsing political candidates.

Both complain that while sharing a concern about Senator Kerry, I did not complain about President Bush’s alleged pressure on Israel. But I was not asked by the Forward to comment on Bush for the news article. Had I been asked, I might have said that any American president will employ a combination of support and criticism that will at times look like unfair pressure on the Jewish state. Bill Clinton did so, especially during Benjamin Netanyahu’s short tenure as prime minister.

But Clinton had sufficient political capital in his pro-Israel bank account to weather such downturns. Bush deserves to have that same capital with regard to Israel, though certainly most American Jews, to judge by all recent surveys, do not support his domestic policies and are even among his sharper critics with regard to the Iraq war.

The attacks by the letter writer and by Forman are attempts to quash a full-throated discourse in the American Jewish community. I believe that my statement to the Forward restated the concerns of many Jewish leaders, including the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, James Tisch, who told the New York Sun: “The issue confronting Kerry is that in saying that he wants to create alliances and more cooperation with the Europeans there is going to have to be give and take to those negotiations. The chances are that in trying to build the relationship and the coalitions with the Europeans, the Europeans will demand as a price for building that relationship that the United States forsake to some extent Israel. The question is what will a President Kerry do under such a situation?”

Those attempting to dismiss such questions out of hand by silencing those raising them may think they are helping the Democrats, but they are certainly not doing the Jewish community any service.

David Twersky


International Affairs

American Jewish Congress

New York, N.Y.

Incomparable Threats

Opinion writer Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s manifesto in miniature is a forthright defense of Jewish communal life in the areas of the historic homeland of the Jews, now and in the future, even if political realities and borderlines change (“A Settler’s Call for National Unity,” October 1). As a fellow revenant — that is, one who has returned to his ancestral home after an exile — I applaud his remarks.

Nevertheless, it is his acceptance of “the logic of demography” that confounds me. Riskin asserts that this logic dictates a Jewish state — one that is democratic — cannot exist with Judea and Samaria under its control. Moreover, he writes, the solution to the ongoing conflict must be a contiguous Palestinian state carved out of these areas, one that recognizes Israel and is governed as a democracy.

Riskin knows full well that the essence of Palestinian national aspirations is the negation of Jewish sovereignty — over land anywhere in the Land of Israel, be it Efrat, Shiloh or Tel Aviv. He knows, too, that Arab democracy is a nonstarter and that the Palestinian Authority is a classic case of a terrorist organization being permitted to upgrade to the level of what political scientists call a “crazy state.”

Riskin also must be aware that any withdrawal from territory will permit mortars, rockets and Qassam missiles to rain down on targets deep within Israel. In short, a Palestinian state is the continuation of the violence and terrorism.

His suggestion that Israel yield in the face of a lesser threat — namely, a recalcitrant population —while the greater threat, a Palestinian state, is to be tolerated is wrong thinking and quite dangerous.

Yisrael Medad

The writer lives in the West Bank city of Shiloh.

Torah-based Conviction

A Newsdesk item in the October 1 issue (“Shul Booted Over Sermon,”) misrepresented the nature of our organization’s dispute with a member congregation that invited a gay activist to serve as the guest rabbi for Rosh Hashanah.

The Union for Traditional Judaism dissolved its relationship with the congregation in question, the Montauk Minyan in Brooklyn, N.Y., after learning secondhand that the minyan had invited Rabbi Steven Greenberg, an Orthodox-ordained rabbi who openly advocates homosexuality, to occupy its High Holy Day pulpit and deliver sermons throughout the holiday.

We would not have objected if the congregation had invited Greenberg to be “one of its speakers” in a nonrabbinic capacity, as your report suggested. It was the fact that he was invited to serve in a principal rabbinic role that forced us to our decision.

We believe that all Jews, regardless of personal lifestyle, should be welcome in synagogues to pray, learn and come closer to God and Torah. Our issue with the minyan was its choice of a rabbi who had publicly broken with Halacha in print and on screen to serve as its teacher and guide during the holiday period. We would have made the same decision had the rabbi they had chosen openly supported defying any Jewish law, such as officiating at intermarriages or eating on Yom Kippur.

No one has the right to declare the forbidden permitted and then expect to occupy a traditional pulpit. A person who falls short of keeping core Torah values may still be seen in the broader context of the good things he does, but he forfeits the privilege of speaking on behalf of halachic Judaism.

Judaism recognizes that some people may be more strenuously challenged than others by certain kinds of impulses, but it believes that human beings are ultimately able to meet those challenges and control such drives. No one underestimates the painful struggle of doing so, but the Torah is based on the conviction that when it comes to behavior, God has invested us with the

ability to choose.

Rabbi Bruce Ginsburg


Rabbi Ronald Price

Executive Vice President

Union for Traditional Judaism

Teaneck, N.J.

Battle on Beatification About Vatican II’s Sway

It is a mistake to interpret the Catholic Church’s recent beatification of Anne Catherine Emmerich simply in terms of a battle between so-called “liberals” and “conservatives” over the Second Vatican Council (“Vatican Relations Deteriorating,” October 1). The more fundamental issue is whether the council’s teachings on relations with Jews are recognized sufficiently throughout the Catholic community as demanding “thoroughgoing reform as an overriding priority with many dimensions and implications.”

When Pope John Paul II solemnly dedicated the Church to “genuine fellowship” with the Jewish people in 2000 with prayers in St. Peter’s Basilica and at the Western Wall, he was not propounding a “liberal” or a “conservative” agenda item. He was committing the entire Catholic community, across the board.

Additionally, Emmerich’s being honored with the title “Blessed” did not just suddenly happen because of the publicity surrounding Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” a movie based on a book of Emmerich’s purported visions published after her death. Questionable aspects of her posthumous publications, especially how much material actually was composed by her “ghost writer” Clemens Brentano, had caused the Vatican in 1928 to halt the process of considering her candidacy for beatification. Pope Paul VI permitted its resumption in 1973 with the caveat that “her” books not be given any weight in assessing her case. The process has been churning along ever since.

For those Catholics who do make genuine fellowship with the Jewish people a high priority, the beatification is problematic — and not because of “liberal” or “conservative” inclinations. The fact of the matter is that Emmerich is most widely known because of the published visions attributed to her, and now through Gibson’s cinematic version of them. No doubt future printings of these books will identify the author as “Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich,” suggesting that her alleged visions have been officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church.

Since some of these visualizations are explicitly antisemitic, the Catholic moral imperative to eradicate antisemitism will be compromised. Ironically, writings that were disallowed in considering the merits of beatifying her will, for some Catholics, be validated by her beatification. To the degree that this happens, the beatification of Anne Catherine Emmerich will be a mixed blessing.

Philip Cunningham

Executive Director

Center for Christian-Jewish Learning,

Boston College

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

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