Saturday, August 2, 2014

Summer Reflections on the Spiritual Moment in our lives

Truthfully I felt I needed to take a break from the heartbreak and tension of the war in
Gaza and any number of other traumas that afflict our world at this hour. I simply wanted to experience a bit of solitude and thoughtful mediation. Summertime is an excellent time to reflect about the big picture and especially about where does God fit into our lives. Thanks for taking the time to read my newspaper column today and as always I love to read your comments regardless of whether or not you agree or resonate with the ideas inside the column.
All the best and enjoy August.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Reflections on the War in Gaza

This is a tough time of the year for the Jewish people because shortly we will observe the fast day on the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av which commemorates our demise as a nation and a free people. Tisha B’Av reminds us of the Babylonian Expulsion in 586 BCE and the Roman war against the Jews in 70CE. We read from the biblical Book of Lamentations about God’s sorrow and pain to watch our exile.
Is it not equally painful for us today, thousands of miles away, to watch not only  Hamas’ war against the Jews in Israel but also frustrating to witness the propaganda war in the news media outlets, social media let alone what email someone sends us that points to Israel as the sole culprit in this conflict. The typical trajectory begins with criticizing Hamas for sending missiles to Israel and then the rest of the diatribes end up piling up on Israel for exercising its moral duty to protect itself. Yes there are injuries and deaths injuries on both sides. Yet what infuriates Jews and pro-Israelis is hearing the word proportionality in every news report referring to Israel’s actions in Gaza. Yet that same word does not seem to apply to hundreds of Hamas’ missiles that streak over the skies of Israel. Same old story.
History demands we are stand by Israel at this hour, even if we are feeling uneasy at the lopsided injured and death tolls on the Palestinian side. As always it is about survival for Israel. It has always been that issue and it continues to be about survival. That is part of the paradox for Israel, a nation which has accomplished miraculous achievements in its 66 years, yet, it still is vulnerable on a different level to the ravages of Arab and Islamic terrorism. Israelis have come to learn how to live with it and go on in their lives but do not be mistaken to imagine that it does not take a toll on the psyche and spirit of the people.
The question is; “What is required of us in America at this hour?” Going back to the old Siddur Gates of Prayer there is a petition to God to make it clear to us why we suffer and that if we must it should be for a high purpose. In other words, despite the doubt we feel about the future and especially the sufferings of our brethren in Israel there must still be hope to move forward regardless of our religious or secular perspectives.
“I do not know how to ask you, Eternal One, Sovereign of the world, and even if I did know, I could not bear to do it. How could I venture to ask You why everything happens as it does, why we are driven from one exile to another, why are foes are allowed to torment us so!  But in the Haggadah the father of the child who asked at the Passover Seder, the one ‘who does not know how to ask’ is told: “It is for you (the parent) to disclose it for him.”  And, Eternal of the world, am I not your son?  I do not ask you to reveal to me the secret of your ways-I could not bear it!  But show me one thing: show me what this very moment means to me, what it demands of me, what You, Eternal One, are telling me through my life at this moment. O I do not ask You to tell me why I suffer, but, only whether I suffer for your sake.”
Israelis know what this hour demands of them and they prove it every day and especially now not only in war but in peace as well. As for us, we watch it all happen through the prisms of print, television and social media. Despite opposing views, shall we not proclaim our unity with Israel as well. As the Psalmist said,
“Those who trust in the Eternal One are like Mt. Zion, which cannot be moved, but stands fast forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Eternal is round about the people Israel, now and always” (125:1-2).
This is our time to be the mountains that surround Israel in its time of need. At least in the war on words raging on in the public view, we too must speak out to our neighbors and friends to defend Israel. Putting not only domestic partisan politics aside but also holding off on Israeli partisan politics shall we do our part whether it is to send money or supplies to the people or to the soldiers? Do we need to plan another trip to Israel to bolster support for its people in any way we can?
We know better than most nations what it feels like to live on the verge of extinction. We understand what exile means and what history has taught us about being and feeling vulnerable. I imagine what it might have felt like to be Theodore Herzl covering the French protests in Paris against the French Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus accused of espionage. The crowds yelled out, “Death to the Jews!” It was at that moment when Herzl was transformed the birth of modern Zionism came to be. History has a funny way of replaying itself.
We understand what it means to feel isolated by and from the world particularly when people jump on the bandwagon to condemn us. We have been here before and will, sadly, experience war again. Yet, is it not incumbent upon us to be the mountains that protect Israel in the way we can here in America? Part of our role is to be defenders of the people and the faith even when we are not sure nor can we answer the question of why so much hate is channeled towards us?
The huge protests against us in Europe mark an end to a 50 year period when Europe forbade anti-Israel and Jewish rhetoric. Much of that emanated from guilt from the Holocaust. The thousands that march in European streets are blatantly anti-Semtic even though they use the veil of Zionism to cloak their froth full bigotry against all Jews.  What is required of us at this hour is to educate not because we can change the hearts and minds of our adversaries who would just as well see our destruction. Our purpose is to educate so that those who know no better do not fall prey to the onslaught of propaganda against Israel around the world. Our job is also to educate our elected officials about how we feel about Israel and it case to defend itself. Remember the consequence of silence. It is often understood as assent to the opposing position.
There is a certain irony with the forthcoming fast day of T’isha b’Av when we acknowledge the memory of the annihilation of our ancient Jewish homeland while at the same time we watch Hamas shower the skies of Israel with their missiles.   We have learned the lessons from the past. The question is whether we can stand up and tell Israel’s story knowing that others would shout us down? If we are the mountains that surround Israel then each of us, I pray, should remember that all of us has a role to play to defend Israel in the war of words. Words might be all we have right now.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What is the Islamic Caliphate?

Here is my most recent newspaper column on the history of the Islamic caliphate. Given the situation in Iraq, it is important to get a better hold on the history of the caliphate as it was understood by the Sunnis and Shia Muslims. It definitely plays into the recently proclaimed caliphate by the ISIL in Iraq. I thank you for taking the time to read it and appreciate your comments.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The vote of the Presbyterian Assembly to boycott, divest and sanction American Companies doing business on the West Bank in Israel

Once again the  propaganda war continues. This column I wrote for the newspaper only touches the surface regarding the depth of feeling amongst American Jews let alone Israelis.towards the Presbyterian leadership at their recent general assembly in Detroit. The strategy of Boycott Divest and Sanction American companies and ultimately Israel itself is more than an economic weapon, rather, it is a a weapon to discredit Israel as a Jewish state. They will counter but those who choose this strategy play into the long term struggle to take Israel apart and discredit Israel as a Jewish state.
This BDS movment represents a  paradigm shift and Israel's friends need to challenge it and work towards greater education.
Thanks for taking the time to read the column. Your opinion is most welcome.
Rabbi Bloom

Monday, June 30, 2014

On the Murder of three Israeli Teenagers

“Baruch Dayan HaEmet. Blessed be the judge of truth. We recite these words from our tradition upon hearing of the death of an individual. I intone these sacred words to express our grief at the news yesterday that the Israeli authorities found the three teenagers murdered and laying in a field in the vicinity of the city of Hebron. We hoped and prayed that these boys would be able to return to their families and we watched as the Israeli army gave their frantic and best efforts to rescue them from their Palestinian captors. Does it take this kind of brutality to demonstrate to the world that Israel continues to be a victim of terrorism? Leaders will signal their outrage and others their sympathies while other leaders will remain silent. Still some of Israel’s adversaries will celebrate this brazen and despicable crime.
I know we as a congregation share in the mourning and in what must be the unbearable pain that the families are experiencing at this moment. For this reason I invite everyone to join me at services this coming Shabbat to recite the mourner’s Kaddish as we add their names to the Kaddish list for the next four weeks.
Naftali Frankel 19, Gilad Shaar 16, Eyal Efrach 19, will be laid to rest. We pray to god “hastrireyhu b’seter c’nafechah l’olamim shield them forever in your sheltering presence. And may their souls be bound up in bonds of eternal life. The Eternal is their Portion and may they rest in peace.”
Once again this tragedy calls upon us to express our support and solidarity with the people of Israel and its government. May the government of Israel use its wisdom in response to those responsible for this act. Let us pray for the parents who are grieving at this hour and that their prayers and the support they are no doubt receiving from friends, family and those around the world who reach out to them will in time to come ease their burden. “May God comfort them amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Rabbi Brad L. Bloom

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Presbyterian Assembly's Vote to support Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel and American Companies

The Vote for Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel
The vote is in and the Presbyterian Assembly has spoken. Even though it was a close vote 310-303, the Assembly made its choice. I woman who was guest at Shabbat Services on Friday came over to me and said,” never mind what the national vote was it did not reflect how we feel about Israel in our church.” I was comforted by her comments but the truth of the matter is that the vote to support BDS sends a clarion call to Presbyterians and liberal Christians around the country and the world that the tide is shifting and the center of gravity is shifting away from Israel. It leaves us with more questions than before such as, ‘When we analyze their vote and their congregational study guide Zionism Unsettled should accept the fact that at the root of this movement there is a powerful and dominant core which is blatantly anti-Semitic? Do we engage our Presbyterian neighbors and try to change their minds? Should we reach out to the more conservative church movements who do offer complete support to Israel? Must we become more proactive in making the case for Israel than before with all our Christian neighbors?  These are just a few of the questions that call upon us for a response.
Another issue has arisen which is the speech and letter by Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the URJ who accepted an invitation to speak to the Assembly during its debate on this matter. First we should say that Rabbi Jacobs did the right thing by showing leadership and delivering his speech as well as composing a letter earlier on that was distributed to every member of the Assembly. What is troubling are some newspaper accounts such as the New York Times article that appeared on Saturday reviewing the vote and his speech. The Times reporter said, “In a last-ditch tactic on Thursday, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, leader of the Reform movement (the largest branch in American Judaism), addressed the assembly and offered to broker a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and the church’s two top leaders so they could convey their church’s concerns about the occupation — on the condition that the divestment measure was defeated. That offer appears to have backfired, with some saying afterward that it felt both manipulative and ineffectual, given what they perceive as Mr. Netanyahu’s approval of more settlements in disputed areas and lack of enthusiasm for peace negotiations.“I’m not sure it was the strategy I would have chosen,” the Rev. Gradye Parsons, the church’s stated clerk and one of the two leaders invited to meet Mr. Netanyahu, said in an interview. “I’m sure it was a sincere and generous invitation. I’m not sure it was helpful in our debate.”
Read between the lines at how the clergy reacted to his remarks.  Having read the speech I could see how they would react that way.  Aside from the fact that I am deeply saddened by their decision, I have questions about Rabbi Jacobs remarks. I call upon him to provide us in the movement further clarification about what he was trying to achieve and why he thought that offering the Presbyterians a seat with him when he meets with Mr. Netanyahu was an effective strategy in his speech?’
It is quite possible that no matter what he said the vote would have turned out to be the same result. I wonder, however, whether staying on message regarding the values of Israel and its connection to prophetic values would have been a stronger pathway for this speech.
For this reason I have included a variety of links consisting of his letter and speech as well as my letter to the congregation about this matter. Judge for yourself and let me know what you think.
Shavua Tov
Rabbi Brad Bloom  Reverend Chris Leighton who is a Presbyterian Ordained Minister wrote this article regarding the vote and the book Zionism Unsettled.
JTA Jacobs invites Presbyterian leaders to join him in Netanyahu meeting
June 19, 2014 5:00pm
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The leader of the Reform movement asked his Presbyterian counterparts to join him in a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make their case against Israeli practices in the West Bank.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, spoke Thursday in Detroit at the biennial general assembly of the Presbyterian Church-USA, which is considering a proposal to divest from companies that deal with Israeli security services in the West Bank.
Jacobs said passage of the proposal, which has already been approved by a key committee, would occasion a rupture between Presbyterians and Jews.
“A vote for divestment will cause a painful rift with the great majority of the Jewish community,” he said.
“If we are truly partners and you disapprove this divestment overture, I look forward to sitting with your leadership in the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem,” Jacobs said. “You can choose partnership and engagement or you can choose separation and divestment.”
The vote on the divestment proposal is due to take place on Friday.
Named in Jacobs’ invitation, which earned applause from the assembly, were Heath Rada and Gradye Parsons, respectively lay and religious leaders of the church.
Jacobs said he shared the Presbyterians’ concerned about settlement policy.
“We are against settlements,” he said. “We are for a two-state solution, but we can’t fight alone. We need each other, and if you choose partnership over divestment and BDS, together we can change the world.”
The proposed divestment resolution had been modified to explicitly distance itself from BDS, or the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which many in the Jewish community see as advocating for the dismantling of Israel. However, Jacobs said this was not enough, especially in light of an anti-Zionist tract published this year by a church committee.
“The document, which is being sold through your online church store, is a vicious attack on Judaism, the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” he said. Jacobs, who is scheduled to meet next week with Netanyahu, has not yet received a response from the church leaders.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Here is the newspaper article on our commemoration.

This is the correct article on our congregation's commemoration as reported in the newspaper article.
Sorry for the confusion.