Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Letter to the Jewish Pluralist

Letters to the Editor Israel’s Uncertain Future
Jacob Jorne
Rochester, New York
April 19, 2014

The future starts to take shape in my mind: there will be no two state solution, no involvement of the US and as the region becomes less important, the world will care less about this insane conflict. These events will lead to an apartheid state, which will become increasingly out of line with international norms. In this apartheid condition, Israel will become a religious state; cruel isolated and condemned.

It will be increasingly difficult for liberal and progressive people to live in Israel, and at the first major crisis people will “cash in on” their dual passports and leave. Israelis want dual passports with good reason, and it is not about economics. Young Palestinians do not want a state without opportunity; they want, instead, a bi-national state and they want equal rights, jobs, housing and education. Adding the unstable forces of fundamental Islam to these gloomy predictions creates an unimaginable future. read more


Rickie Gordon

In honor of the ending of the eleven months mourning period for our mother, my sister Leslie and I decided to commemorate this event with a new ritual. Even though we could not be physically together, we decided to study a portion of the Torah together so we could develop a connection and then share the fruits of our labor with the supportive loved ones in our individual communities.

After several weeks of deliberation, Leslie suggested we study Deuteronomy 22:1-3. Even though she is my younger sister and I am not typically shy to assert my opinions to her, she is a rabbi, and so, I deferred to her suggestion without hesitation. Now, I must admit I was a bit intimidated to embark on an official study session. I had never really engaged in this form of study and, when I was ready to begin, she was not available by phone so I figured I would just take the plunge. read more

Parshat Acharey Mot – by Cathy Harris

Parshat Acharey Mot: Leviticus 16:1 – 18:30
April 12 2014
Cathy Harris

In Acharey Mot, we read about our ancestors’ rituals

of purification from sin. We are also warned to abstain from certain sexual practices. At this time of year, as spring approaches and our spirits lift, we also celebrate Pesach. We recall our slavery and how we were freed. We celebrate justice. Today, we’re going to pull all of these topics together.

In Rabbi Shefa Gold’s Torah Journeys, she says: “After describing the ritual of purification, Acharey Mot continues with instructions about holiness in sexual relations. Decisions about intimacy must be made as part of our pursuit of holiness, which means our motives must be pure, our intentions clear and the implications considered regarding our actions and their effects on the whole.” [Gold] read more

A Demonstration for Peace in Jerusalem on April 11, 2014 – by David and Sharona Langerman

A Demonstration for Peace in Jerusalem on April 11, 2014
David and Sharona Langerman

Soldiers of the 1973 Yom Kippur Armored Unit ?????, the first to cross the Suez Canal, joined the Million Hands for Peace in

a demonstration to support the government of Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu to achieve a peace treaty with Palestinians and a two states solution. David is a soldier of the 1973 Yom Kippur Armored Unit.

Here are some pictures from the Jerusalem peace demonstration. For English translation click on the picture. read more

On the Wesleyan Open Hillel Statement – by Peter Eisenstadt

On the Wesleyan Open Hillel Statement
Peter Eisenstadt

Congratulations to the Wesleyan Student Jewish Community in becoming an “Open Hillel,” willing to listen to all shades of Jewish opinion, and refusing to abide by Hillel International’s restrictive standards on what and what isn’t acceptable Jewish speech. And thanks to them for choosing The Jewish Pluralist as a forum for publicizing their decision.

The news today from Israel is grim. The Kerry negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians seem on the verge (or over the verge) of breaking down. While this development is not exactly unexpected—no gambler would have given odds on its success when it began–its failure may well be catastrophic. In any event, we will soon hear the familiar debates and the usual arguments, offered, perhaps with some additional urgency. Is this the final proof that the two-state solution is dead? (I say no, because there is no alternative to it, but this is a subject for another day.) Will this give new impetus to the BDS movement? Unquestionably. What about a new intifada, or new Israeli military action along its increasingly unsettled borders, to say nothing of the unresolved nuclear question with Iran? Or what about one unified, post-Zionist state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan? Jews and non-Jews have to be able to discuss these questions calmly and rationally, without certain positions being labeled as a priori unsayable and unspeakable. read more

Wesleyan Student Jewish Community is an Open Hillel – by Danny Blinderman

Wesleyan Student Jewish Community is an Open Hillel Affiliate
Danny Blinderman
Wesleyan University ’14

After a lot of hard work, the Wesleyan Student Jewish Community is an Open Hillel. I view this as less of an act of transformation and more as an act of affirmation. Our community has essentially functioned as an Open Hillel for a long time, and I am incredibly grateful for the invigorating, accepting and meaningfully spiritual community I have had an opportunity to be a part of during my time at Wesleyan. At this moment, we thought it was important to affirm our principles and stand in solidarity with our peers who are fighting for the kind of open and pluralistic community we have long enjoyed. read more

Moishe Eisenstadt – by Peter Eisenstadt

Moishe Eisenstadt
Peter Eisenstadt

I would like to recycle something I wrote last August, before the inauguration of The Jewish Pluralist. Its about my uncle, Moishe Eisenstadt, and his murderer, released in a previous prisoner releases. I don’t have much to add to what I wrote then, except that the question of prisoner releases, gets to, like few other issues, the vast and perhaps unbridgeable gulf between Israeli and Palestinian perceptions of their respective situations and that of the “other.” I remain where I was last year—prisoner releases are unpleasant and uncomfortable, but if they lead to the possibility of serious peace negotiations, it would not have been in vain. However, it increasingly looks as if this is just what the Kerry negotiations will be, more futility, another bridge to nowhere, just more sound and fury, signifying nothing. BTW, on Jonathan Pollard: Why the US has to make concessions to Israel is beyond me, and though I have no objection to Pollard’s release in principle, doing before a final agreement, and just as another carrot to Israel to keep the negotiations going strikes me as lunacy. In any event, lets remember the real martyrs (and not someone justly sentenced for spying on his country), and their ranks certainly include my departed uncle, Moishe Eisenstadt.
I read the news from Israel pretty carefully, but I guess I didn’t pay particularly close attention to the news about Israel’s prisoner recent release. To the extent I thought about it, I viewed it, as I viewed most things, through my left-wing lenses, viewing it as a political necessity, a way of Israel to show some good will to other side, a way of, perhaps, beginning to thaw the long frozen efforts at serious negotiations towards a two-state solution. Perhaps, as Jeffrey Goldberg has suggested, it shows that Israel would rather release murderers than freeze settlements, but I suppose, you have to start somewhere. I read some of the horrible accounts of the murders committed by those released, and stories about those in Israel who did not want the murderers of the their loved ones to be freed, but I sympathized with the release nonetheless. There are far too many Palestinians in Israeli jails, I thought. If we remain on the level of individual atrocities, we will just endlessly recapitulate our rage; we need to learn to feel the pain of both sides. Certainly there are many Israelis who committed acts just as heinous. The calculus of the release is ultimately not based on any abstract standard of justice but is baldly utilitarian; whatever brings about the greatest good for the greatest number, which, in this case, is undoubtedly a two-state solution that recognizes the legitimate national aspirations of the two peoples, is to be welcomed. Making peace, for both sides, will be tough choice after tough choice, including releasing prisoners who really don’t deserve to be freed.
I still agree with that, I guess, but I was shocked to read that one of those released killed my uncle, Moishe Eisenstadt, in K’far Saba in 1994. It was one of the most brutal and senseless of all of the murders. He was 80 years old; he was sitting on a park bench, reading a book, when some monster crept up behind him, and split his head with an axe. I of course knew about his murder, but I hadn’t thought about it recently. I have been thinking a lot about it today. I have read the prisoner’s name, but I would just as well not give it any more publicity. My uncle’s murderer was about 35 years old when he committed his crime. He was from Gaza, a member of Fatah. As they say in Torah, may his name be forgotten. Nineteen years in prison is not enough for what he did.
I never knew my uncle Moishe very well (he was, what, an second uncle, or whatever you call it), but I saw him at family gatherings. He attended my Bar Mitzvah. (The obituaries call him Morris, which he used on official business, or Moshe, which he used in Israel, but in New York City he was always the Yiddish Moish or Moishe.) He owned a candy store, I believe, in Brooklyn. He was a natty dresser, and told funny stories, with Yiddish punch lines I never understood. When I was young, and didn’t quite yet know what things were sometimes best left unsaid, I mentioned to him at some family function that I thought he had more than a little resemblance to Adam Clayton Powell he was not impressed. “That schwartze?,” I believe was his response.   (He had the same pencil mustache, and roughly the same swarthy complexion.)  He was no saint, but a typical New York City Jew who came of age during the depression; my father’s relatives were always dirt poor, hounded by ill circumstance, and always scuffling to get by or break even.  We had a few gonifs, a few schmeils and schmazels, a few Communists, and a Zionist or two. He and his wife Fay made aliyah to be near their daughter, Rita. He was a  nice man, a good man, who lived a decent life. He did not deserve to die like a dog. read more

David Ben-Gurion: Our Festivals of Freedom – by Matia Kam

David Ben-Gurion: Our Festivals of Freedom
Matia Kam

The day after the declaration of the establishment of the state of Israel, at the end of Shabbat (6 of Iyar 1948) Ben-Gurion addressed the citizens of Israel in a live radio address: “Yesterday Israel witnessed a monumental event that only future generations would be able to measure its full historic significance.” Four years later Ben-Gurion did not hesitate to declare that Independence Day is “a redemptive and revolutionary event in the history of our nation,” thus adding to our calendar the first freedom festival after two thousand years of exile. “We are the last generation of oppression and the first of deliverance.” read more

Let’s Hear It For Tazria – by Nick Clark

Let’s Hear It For Tazria
A D’var Torah
(Leviticus 12:1-13:59)
Nick Clark
Temple B’rith Kodesh, Rochester, NY
March 29, 2014

Today I’d like to dedicate my d’var Torah for Tazria to Rabbi Rebecca Gutterman, Suzanne (my wife) and my friends in our Tanach and Torah study groups.

As I was reading the Parsha for today and doing some research on it, I came upon the first line from a bar mitzvah boy’s d’var Torah…
This is the grossest part of the Torah!

I couldn’t agree with him more. read more