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A Message From Rabbi Gewirtz

May 19, 2021
8 Sivan 5781
 
Dear Congregational Family,
 
I write to you heartbroken, dismayed and I will admit, quite frightened about the unfolding events in Israel, the Palestinian territories and the reactions here at home by many sectors of society.
 
First and foremost, I stand in steadfast support, with every fiber of my being, behind and for Israel. Full stop!
 
I urge you to fervently do the same. In moments like these, Israel needs us emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and financially. Full stop!
 
Indeed, I believe with a full heart that without a thriving Israel there, Jews will ultimately not be safe anywhere, including right here. Full stop!
 
Most of us don’t remember what life for Jews was like before the existence of Israel. Thank God, because we have thrived in this country, we have sometimes conveniently forgotten the Zionist imperative. Our ability to flourish and survive will ultimately not be possible without the existence of the State of Israel. I urge you to email and call your elected officials and make them know about your concern and the need for steadfast United States support of our Homeland. The calls and emails count.
 
As we have experienced too often through our history, people seem to forget, that we Jews have been murdered, tortured, and chased from almost every part of this planet. Rockets are being indiscriminately shot into any reachable part of our Homeland to kill innocent civilians. If this were happening in any part of this country, an overwhelming majority of our polarized nation would be in support of the same response Israel is displaying today. It is utterly heartbreaking that innocent Palestinians are dying. Their lives count as much as anyone’s life.

However, the difference is that Israel is doing everything in its power to target her attacks. When terrorist organizations like Hamas, cowardly hide their militants in the basements of apartment building, hospitals, or news outlets, where innocent people dwell, the blame lays at Hamas’ doorstep.  Israel gives as much fair warning as possible to protect innocent people from attack, but Hamas makes it impossible not to cause civilian casualties. Israel has nothing to gain, politically or militarily by killing innocent Palestinians. Israel does have the obligation, however, to eliminate terrorist threats, including stockpiles of weapons and a network of tunnels that are meant to accumulate more missiles and the means by which to infiltrate and kidnap Israelis.
 
Moreover, I am profoundly worried, almost as much as I am about Israel’s existential safety, as I am about the reaction in this country and abroad to the current conflict. To be blunt, I think at best, the reaction from the entertainment, sports, political and academic (but from other circles as well) circles has been abhorrent. At worst, however, I believe it smacks of anti-Semitism. Somehow Israel has become the “Oppressor”; “Imperialist, “Colonialist” and “Apartheid State”.  To watch people, some of whom are prominent, entangle Israel’s right to exist with other important causes of justice is not only simplistic thinking, but it is despicable. I am a fervent advocate, as most of you know, of equal rights and justice for all people. Because I am Jewish, I fight for any and every oppressed group. But to group every oppressed people, without understanding the nuance behind it all is lazy and hateful. I want to be awoken to any disparity about which I may not be fully cognizant, but to support causes just be part of anything that is considered Woke is taking the easy way out.
 
Israel bears part of the responsibility for Palestinian hardship. There have been too many chapters written to pretend there is no Israeli accountability. Indeed, I believe with a full heart that Palestinian nationhood should manifest in reality. And we should work with all our might to manifest such a reality.  However, there are decades of history that show how impossible and complicated the Palestinian leadership has made such feasible. Deal after deal has been rejected over the years; and more, the rejections come along with the blowing up of Israeli buses, kidnapping and random knife-attacks. The reaction from too many here at home comes with no knowledge of the layered chronicles of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
 
Finally, I fret for how easily we get duped ourselves. There is indeed a growing and alarming anti-Israel sentiment expressed on the political Left of our nation. It sears at my soul. But our job here is to articulate and educate our neighbors on all sides of the political spectrum. I don’t mean by yelling, canceling, and writing anonymously on social media, but by meticulously explaining our case. As I have said to you before: Our job is to unite as Jews in this country; to have civil and informative dialogue; to listen and learn from each other. Our job is not, however, to add this issue to the litany of reasons our politics are right and other side is wrong.  We are all entitled to our own conservative and liberal ideas, and still support Israel. If we allow this to become like every other political issue of our day, we might win an argument, but will contribute to the defeat of our Homeland. We can stand up for all kinds of rights for all kinds of people, without inhibiting our ability to stand with Israel. Please, I implore you to not group all issues and all groups as one. Do your research; read articles from all sides; and then state your case. But don’t, like too many are attempting to do, make all this binary. It is abidingly complicated and thus so must we be in our navigating of it all.
 
Unfortunately, many, including Jews, make the case that we can be anti-Israel, without being anti-Semitic. That is just not true. Pretending such is just a way of hating Jews. We can certainly critique Israel. We can advocate to pursue peace more steadfastly. We can argue for a change in leadership.  All of that is fair game. But the premise must come from a place where the belief is in an Israel that has the ultimate right to exist without the constant threat of destruction. If people want Israel gone, they want Jews gone also. Full Stop!
 
We are living through one of the more dangerous times in our history as Jews. I implore us all to keep our collective eye on the ball both in supporting Israel and in dealing with the growing anti-Semitism here at home. But, please let us be wise in our reactions and in our fight. Israel’s existence depends on it and on us.
 
Please join my family and me in praying and fighting for Israel and the Jewish People.
 
With love and steadfast solidarity,
 
Matthew
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Fri, June 18 2021 8 Tammuz 5781