Monthly Archives: July 2013

Will (or should) My Voice Be Heard?

The news that there is a commitment to renew peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian leadership is welcome news indeed. Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts should be acknowledged and appreciated by all.

Many are still skeptical about whether a “2 state solution” can really work and I, too, have concerns. But, I believe it is the best hope and in the absence of any other idea or proposal that will allow for self determination for Palestinians and a secure future for Israel as a Jewish state, I hope that both parties will vigorously pursue this possibility for a resolution to the conflict.

One of the interesting aspects of the current discussion is the decision by the Knesset to bring any proposed peace settlement to a national referendum before it is signed by the leadership. While I understand completely why such a referendum seems like a good idea, there are two aspects of it that trouble me.

First, it seems to go against the idea of representative government. In a democracy, the people elect the individuals (or the parties) that they feel can best represent their opinions and protect their interests. Those individuals are the ones who should make decisions based on their expertise, their experience and their insights  on the situation.

If a majority of the members of the Knesset felt that a peace treaty was in fact fair and provided for Israel’s security, it would seem that that would be enough. Of course, with an issue this serious and irrevocable, it might be argued that everyone should have their say but it seems to me that this decision should be made by those with the knowledge and expertise who have been granted the responsibility for decision making.

And the second aspect of this decision that interests me is: now that the decision has been made to have such a referendum,  should only Israeli citizens have a vote? Should I have a vote as well?

Now, the easiest answer to this is no and that may, in fact, be the best answer. But, let’s not be hasty.

I am not a citizen of Israel. I did not serve in the Army, I will not have to face the ramifications of the decision in terms of my daily life. All of this is absolutely and undeniably true.

However, I still believe that my voice should be heard.

As a lover and supporter of Israel and as one who has dedicated my professional (and personal life) to serving the Jewish community and the Jewish people, I believe that my voice should be heard. I would humbly suggest to the government of Israel that, even if my “vote” is not solicited or counted in the same way that an Israeli citizen’s should- and I would understand that completely-there should be some mechanism by which the voices of the leadership of Diaspora Jewry, if not all Jews, should be heard and respected and listened to should, God willing, a peace treaty actually be written.

The connection of American Jews to  Israel is not easy to characterize. But, if Israel is to truly be a “Jewish State” and if Israel expects, and rightly so, that we should continue to encourage our young people to feel a connection with the country, then somehow our voices should count for something as the most basic and fundamental decisions for the future are made.

I have no idea how the majority of Diaspora Jews will feel about a peace treaty so this opinion is not intended to make a particular outcome more likely. It is also not meant  in any way to trivialize the difference between the impact such a decision will have on Israelis as opposed to Diaspora Jews. But, I would like to know that Israel is listening to the voices of all Jews throughout the world as it makes the most important decisions concerning its future.


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Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue

It has been, most certainly, an emotional 24 hours since the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman was handed down. So much has already been written and said about the verdict and what it says about our court system and what it says about our nation. As I always try to do, I have taken time to think about what to post before I write anything and I feel that I have a lot more thinking to do. But, I want to share some of my thoughts here.

It bears remembering that this jury was not asked to rule on the presence or absence of racist attitudes in this country. They were not asked to rule on whether African Americans  get fair deals in the court system. They were not asked to judge gun laws in light of  the tragic numbers of Americans killed each year  nor were they asked to judge the laws of the state of Florida regarding self-defense or any other matter.

They were asked to judge whether, according to the laws of the state of Florida, the state had proved its assertion that George Zimmerman was guilty of 2nd degree murder or manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. They performed their duty and I would like to believe that they did so honorably: that they truly and sincerely felt that, at the very least, the prosecution’s case left reasonable doubt.

While I, like many of us, followed the trial carefully and have our own perspectives on the tragedy,  I was not there on the night in question and I was not in the courtroom to hear the testimony in its entirety. And therefore, I  can not say without question that justice was not done last night.

But, I can certainly say that, regardless of the verdict, our country needs to confront the racist attitudes which persist and the inequalities in the court system. The statistics show over and over again that African Americans are more likely to be convicted of crimes than whites and that is a tragedy in this country. Whatever happened on that night last year in Sanford, Florida, racial profiling does take place among law enforcement and security officials in this country. Our gun laws need to be addressed  and the “stand your ground” law and others like it need to be re-evaluated.

Each of these would have been just as serious an issue had the jury found George Zimmerman guilty.  We must seek justice in this country for all.

The family of Trayvon Martin, should be in our minds tonight. They have suffered a horrendous tragedy, losing a son, who set out to buy candy at a store and was killed on the street. The tragedy of his death and the death of so many young people like him is a national shame. Whatever happened that evening, the fact that the tragedy that the Martin family has felt has been felt by so many other families in this country is a national disgrace.

In the book of Lamentations, which we will read tomorrow evening on Tisha B’av, we read: ‘bacho tevkeh balyalyah” “She, (the city of Jerusalem), cries out in the night” with no one to comfort her.

The family of Trayvon Martin and all of the others who cry need not just our comfort and our prayers but our dedication and determination to fight racism in this country and to work to perfect our system of justice. More than they need words of comfort, they need our sincere efforts to insure that all of us can walk the streets free of fear in a nation which truly seeks justice and equality for all.

I do want to share one other thought in the face of this issue. Our son, Avi, who is a student at Emory University in Atlanta, shared some important words on facebook today. I think his eloquent words deserve to be shared:

“In all probability, justice was not done last night. However, we cannot equate this to a failure of our judicial system- last night it worked. It worked because a man convicted in the court of public opinion was acquitted by a court of law. It worked because the state could not prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a man was guilty. Before you talk about how ashamed you are to be an American, consider how lucky you are to live in a country where you really are “innocent until proven guilty.” How many people on earth only dream of living in such a country? America still has a lot of work to do on many fronts, but we cannot forget how much progress we have made.”
I agree with Avi. Many throughout the world would dream of such a system of justice. But, he is also correct about the future. We certainly have a lot of work to do.
As we observe the fast of Tisha B’av tomorrow evening, we remember and consider the forces which destroyed Jerusalem in Temple times. May we dedicate ourselves to recognize that one of those forces: baseless hatred and division, threatens our nation today. We need to heal ourselves and our nation.
May the memory of Trayvon Martin bring us together as a nation and may he be kept in the “bond of life” inspiring us to work for the improvement of our nation and our world. May we truly seek justice for all.


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