Sunday, January 08, 2023

Jodi Rudoren, editor in chief of the Forward, sent out in her weekly Friday newsletter:

When Ansche Chesed, a Conservative synagogue in the liberal bastion of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, convenes for Shabbat services tomorrow, three familiar words will not be recited from the bimah: raishit smichat gi’ulateinu.

Hebrew for “the initial sprouting of our redemption,” it’s the signature line from the Prayer for the State of Israel that Jews worldwide have been saying each week since shortly after the modern state was founded almost 75 years ago. But Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky, Ansche Chesed’s longtime leader, feels he can no longer honestly and full-throatedly pray for the success of Israel's leaders, ministers and advisers, as this liturgy calls for, since its new government includes right-wing extremists he considers akin to the Ku Klux Klan.

“I don't hope that this government succeeds; I hope that this government falls and is replaced by something better,” he explained in an interview. “I just could not imagine us saying this prayer that their efforts be successful. I think their efforts are dastardly.”

Rabbi Kalmanofsky is a staunch, lifelong Zionist — a liberal Zionist, as most American Jews would describe themselves, but also a religious Zionist, in the sense of seeing a Jewish homeland in the holy land as a fulfillment of a fundamental tenet of our faith, which makes the  radicalization of Israel's Religious Zionist party feel particularly personal for him. 

Rabbi Kalmanofsky did not think it was enough to join hundreds of his colleagues in signing a letter last month vowing not to let the Religious Zionist party's leaders speak at their synagogues....
These facts do not fit together: claiming to be a Zionist from a religious perspective and refusing to say the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel because it is a prayer that the government succeeds. Because that is not what the prayer says.

Our father in Shamayim (Heaven),
Rock-fortress and redeemer of Yisra’el —
bless the State of Israel,
the initial sprouting of our redemption.
Shield her beneath the wings of your lovingkindness;
spread over her your Sukkah of peace;
send your light and your truth to its leaders, officers, and counselors,
and correct them with your good counsel.
That is not at all inconsistent with being against some ministers. The prayer asks God to help them make the correct decisions.

If Rabbi Kalmanofsky doesn't think that God has the power to guide Israel's ministers to do the right thing, then his theology is suspect.

The other part that makes little sense is that Kalmanofsky, while claiming to be a  liberal, religious, Zionist in his letter to the congregation, also signed the letter that said that he would actively oppose not only the right-wing MKs from speaking at their own congregations, but protest them if they are speaking at any synagogue in their communities. Of course every synagogue can choose whom they allow to speak at their own temples, but even imagining that they would picket the (presumably Orthodox) shuls that might consider these MKs to be worth listening to is a huge chilul Hashem - public desecration of God's name that makes all Jews look bad. I have never seen Orthodox congregations picket outside Reform or Conservative temples for any reason, even though they invite speakers and have activities that are thoroughly offensive to many Orthodox Jews. The thought of such a protest being broadcast in the evening news is anathema to anyone who claims to care about klal Yisrael, the Jewish community. 

Rabbi Kalmanofsky says the right things about his love for and support for Israel, but it simply doesn't jive with these two letters.  He does not seem like an extremist or a fanatic, but his actions are as divisive and improper as those of BDSers.

I tweeted a response to him on Friday making my point about the prayer, but he did not respond.

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