Torah for the Day

I want to share with you a statement that was unanimously voted on by 42 members of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association. If I were living in Minnesota, I would have signed this statement. I think it is loving of Israel but appropriately critical of a possible annexation.

Some might argue that American rabbis ought not articulate a position about Israeli politics. The argument goes something like this: “You don’t live there, your children aren’t defending the state. If you want to express an opinion, make aliyah.” I have never liked this response. First, Israelis of all political persuasions have always called upon diaspora Jews to support their various positions. Second, the State of Israel gives itself the title of spokesman for worldwide Jewry. That relationship has to be reciprocal. Finally, as a leader of the Jewish community, I believe it is important for me to take a stance about Israel. I have been your rabbi for 12 years now. You know I love Israel and that I devote much of rabbinate to teaching others to appreciate the State of Israel and all of its accomplishments. My love of Israel is unwavering. And out of my deep love, sometimes comes criticism.

The metaphor that comes to mind is that of family. I love my children. I love my siblings. I love my parents. I love my in-laws. The love does not blind me. The unconditional love allows – actually demands – that I express a critical voice.

Statement On Annexation By The Minnesota Rabbinical Association

We speak unanimously as the 42 rabbis of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association (MRA) to oppose any unilateral annexation of the West Bank.

We share our pride in a vision of Israel that lives the ebb and flow of Jewish time and aspires to uphold Jewish values. It is with these ideals in mind that we must speak out against annexation, a rupture in such a vision.

We write as rabbis from all denominations of the Jewish people. We write as lovers of Zion and as dedicated champions of the people and State of Israel. All of us have spent time studying in Israel, living there, or leading congregational and community trips to further the connection between Jews in Minnesota and the people of Israel. Many of us have relatives and all of us have friends residing in the Promised Land. We write this letter from a place of deep love.

The MRA has helped our community understand that our love of Israel is consistent with our support for human dignity. We have never wavered in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the sovereign state of Israel, the land of our origins. Any unilateral moves that extend Israeli sovereignty or annex additional lands in the West Bank without either providing for citizenship of the Palestinian residents or doing so in a framework of ongoing direct negotiations with the PA will lead to a weakening of Israel’s moral position. We have been able to say for decades that Israeli governments have stood firm in support of a two-state solution. We understand the intransigence of the PA. However, unilateral decisions only bear out the reasons for their actions. In addition, making this decision at a time of great civil unrest in America will only further weaken the important bipartisan support we work hard to secure for Israel inside our congressional delegation and our state as a whole.

We have no illusions that our letter will carry more weight than the many voices which have already been raised against this idea. However, our silence on annexation would only imply acquiescence. Now is the time for restraint and we pray it will be evident in the weeks ahead.