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A Commentary Magazine Exchange on “Are Young Rabbis Turning on Israel?”

September 11, 2011

From the June issue of our publication, Daniel Gordis’s article ‘Are Young Rabbis Turning on Israel?’ has occasioned impassioned debate around the world, with a flood of responses coming into our offices by e-mail, through our website, and, yes, even in envelopes with stamps on them. This special letters section features comments from 15 of those who wrote in, with a significant response from Gordis. ….

An important conversation is unfolding. Presidents, deans of rabbinical schools, and their students have written to me saying that there is now more discussion of Israel on their campuses than there has been in years. That is a positive development. So, too, is the Jewish Theological Seminary’s recent decision to have Dr. Steven Cohen undertake the first ever study of “the Israel-related views of JTS-ordained rabbis and students.” Despite public protestations to the contrary, there is an emerging recognition of a real problem in the field, and we should be gratified that some institutions are now taking steps to think about it seriously.

Space here permits a specific response to only a few of the many letters I’ve received. John Wilmerding writes, “What peacemakers believe is that it is always possible to love all of humanity (and some of us, even all of creation) equitably.” Wilmerding, a well-known Quaker leader, comes from the tradition of Christian pacifism. There is much to admire about that tradition. But in this particular instance, the “peacemakers” are wrong. It is not possible, nor is it noble, to love the people who are trying to kill your children. Wilmerding’s poetic rhetorical flourish notwithstanding, the love he asks us to feel is not only unrealistic; it would be—in our situation—suicidal, and therefore immoral. But his request should not surprise us. For centuries, people have been holding the Jews to standards of behavior that they, themselves, would never have adopted if they were in the Jews’ shoes.


Commentary Magazine‘s policy is that articles must be read on the Commentary web site and cannot be posted in full here.  But Commentary has graciously agreed to make this article available even to those who are not yet subscribers.  You can read the remainder of the exchange here:

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