Rabbis Chide South African Jewish Leaders, Wish Goldstone Mazel Tov on Grandson’s Bar Mitzvah
When I first read that the leadership of the South African Jewish community including its chief rabbi had made Judge Richard Goldstone feel unwanted among his own people on the occasion of his grandson’s bar mitzvah, I felt incensed. It seemed as if a group of mean-spirited fellow Jews were hijacking our religion for purely partisan political purposes. My first thought was to ask a group of religious leaders to issue a call for support for Judge Goldstone and rebuke the uncharitable, and I believe un-Jewish behavior of South African Jewry. One of the most important values of our tradition is hachnasat orchim “welcoming guests.” By their churlish behavior, South African Jewry’s leadership has betrayed this special Jewish precept.
Tractate Brachot contains the memorable saying: “In a place where there is no [hu]man, be one.” In other words, where common decency and humanity (menschlichkeit) does not exist, model it for those so impoverished that they’ve forgotten how to be human. That’s what I’m proud to say the rabbis below have done. I’m pleased to have helped initiate this project and that Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb crafted the letter and secured signatures for it. Yashar koach to everyone involved, signers included.
Dear Judge Goldstone,
As rabbis from diverse traditions and locations, we want to extend our warmest mazel tov to you as an elder in our community upon the Bar Mitzvah of your grandson. Bar and Bat Mitzvah is a call to conscience, a call to be responsible for the welfare of others, a call to fulfill the covenant of peace and justice articulated in our tradition.
As rabbis, we note the religious implications of the Report you authored. We are reminded of Shimon Ben Gamliel’s quote, “The world stands on three things: justice, truth, and peace as it says ‘Execute the judgment of truth, and justice and peace will be established in your gates’ (Zaccariah 8:16).” We affirm the truth of the report that bears your name.
We are deeply saddened by the controversy around the report. We affirm your findings and believe you set up an impeccable standard that presents strong evidence that during the war in Gaza Israel engaged in war crimes that revealed a pattern of continuous and systematic assault against Palestinian people and land that has very little to do with Israel’s claim of security. Your report made clear the intentional targeting of civilian infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, agricultural properties, water and sewage treatment centers and civilians themselves with deadly weapons that are illegal when used in civilian centers.
This is the ugly truth that is so hard for many Jewish people to face. Anyone who spends a day in Palestinian territories sees this truth immediately.
Judge Goldstone, we want to offer you our deepest thanks for upholding the principles of justice, compassion and truth that are the heart of Jewish religion and without which our claims to Jewishness are empty of meaning. We regret that your findings have led to controversy and caused you not to feel welcome at your own grandson’s Bar Mitzvah. We believe your report is a clarion call to Israel and the Jewish people to awaken from the slumber of denial and return to the path of peace.
This letter is endorsed by Taanit Tzedek- Jewish Fast for Gaza , Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, Tikkun and the Shalom Center.
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Taanit Tzedek –Jewish Fast for Gaza
Rabbi Brian Walt, Taanit Tzedek –Jewish Fast for Gaza
Rabbi Haim Beliak
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun Community
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert
Rabbi Phyllis Berman
Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer
Rabbi Margaret Holub
Rabbi Shai Gluskin
Rabbi Douglas Krantz
Rabbi Eyal Levinson
Rabbi Mordecai Liebling
Rabbi David Mivasair
Rabbi David Shneyer
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman
Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill
Rabbi Erin Hirsh
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum
Rabbi Benjamin Barnett
Rabbi Julie Greenberg
Rabbi Linda Holtzman
Rabbi Ayelet S.Cohen
Rabbi Jeffrey Marker
Rabbi Nina H.Mandel
Rabbi Victor Reinstein
Rabbi Everett Gendler
Rabbi Meryl M. Crean
Rabbi Sheila Weinberg
Rabbi Pamela Frydman Baugh
Rabbi Lewis Weiss
Rabbi Shaul Magid
Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav
Rabbi Phillip Bentley
Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy
Rabbi Chava Bahle
This letter is supported by Taanit Tzedek- Jewish Fast for Gaza , Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, Tikkun and the Shalom Center.
If you are a rabbi and would like to add your name to this statement, send an e-mail to Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb (rabbilynn at earthlink dot net).
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10 thoughts on “Rabbis Chide South African Jewish Leaders, Wish Goldstone Mazel Tov on Grandson’s Bar Mitzvah – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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It seems to me you are defeating your purpose with this letter. Your intentions are excellent, but you are taking part in politicizing what should have been a private event.
Instead of affirming that people shouldn’t be ostracised for their opinion, regardless of what these opinions are, you are asking people to support the Goldstone report, not Goldstone the man.
Previously, when you reported the “disinvitation” you criticised the SA rabbis for not adhering to the common values of Judaism and being intolerant. This letter does not support these values, and shows no more tolerance to other opinions.
By expressing support for the report and not common decency you are alienating people with other opinions and strengthn the position of those who think that the mere presence of Judge Goldstone is a political statement.
What a load of malarkey. The statement very specifically points to the Jewish values it affirms which you appear to have ignored or missed. What opinions is it intolerant of? As far as I can see, it criticizes no other opinions, but rather sets forth its own judgments & values.
The rabbis find value in Judge Goldstone’s report. They have a right to express that. The killing of innocent civilians, even if they are not Jewish, is firmly within the sphere of Jewish moral values & as such appropriate for rabbis to discuss. If I’d written the ltr. I probably would’ve articulated the issues a bit differently & focussed more on the slight shown to Goldstone & less on the rpt. But I’m neither a rabbi, nor for that reason a signatory. I have absolutely no problem, however, w. anything in this ltr. nor should anyone who actually understands the reasons behind the slight shown to Goldstone.
Thank you for a tolerant and understanding response. I’m actually on your side, and this is why the letter saddened me.
Here are some quotes from the letter:
“This is the ugly truth that is so hard for many Jewish people to face. ”
“the principles of justice, compassion and truth that are the heart of Jewish religion and without which our claims to Jewishness are empty of meaning.”
“a clarion call to Israel and the Jewish people to awaken from the slumber of denial and return to the path of peace.”
These quote are quite condescending and attempt to delegitimize other opinions. Nobody has a monopoly over the values of Judaism, neither the rabbis who try to ban Goldstone, nor the rabbis who support them. Such an approach seems to me to merit the name “intolerant”, though it seems that you think differently.
As you say, it would have been better if they focused on the slight shown to a member of the Jewish community, but this is simply a political statement in favour of the report. The reason for writing it may have been different, but you can’t disregard the result.
If these people really are so fond of Goldstone why don’t any of them volunteer to officiate?
Do you understand how synagogues operate? A rabbi doesn’t just volunteer to officiate in the synagogue of another rabbi. You have to be invited. Michael Lerner has offered to host the bar mitzvah at his own synagogue in the Bay Area, but I think that’s more PR than an offer the Goldstone family would take seriously.
Obviously I meant away from that particularsynagague.
If Lerner or others were serious they could go to SA itself to officate (synagogue or no synagogue).
But they would have to do more than sign a petition to do so.
PS I noticed you corrected their misspelling of Zacchariah. Good for you.
Will you pay for the plane tickets? How will he get there? Besides, rabbis are not in the habit of invading the territory of other Jewish communities & holding rump religious ceremonies. It’s just not done. And you have the issue of Goldstone’s family being a member of a particular synagogue & apparently wanting their son’s bar mitzvah to happen there (& not elsewhere). They could’ve moved the ceremony themselves within S.A. if they were so inclined, but they didn’t.
Lerner and others are not poor and they could get a good sightseeing vacation in the process (while being able to write off the expenses) plus lots of publicity which many of them (Waskow, Lerner) hardly despise (go to Wikipedia if you doubt that).
Chabad Rabbis have a habit of ‘invading’ other people’s areas-they’d just be in Brooklyn alone if they didn’t
With the new news we will never know.
Richard Goldstone would have been excommunicated if such an option were available today and thus would not have been able to attend the Bar Mitzvah. His evil report has provided the enemies of Israel with ammunition to bring her to international courts which have automatic majorities against her and is thus seriously weakening the State and putting Israelis in greater danger. Critical analysis of the Report and the Israeli and Hamas evidence with an open mind, easily arrives at these conclusions.
Such an option IS available today. I suggest you get a group of settler rabbis together & set about it. You could also hold a pulsa d’nura and order his assassination as they did before Rabin was assassinated.
Goldstone didn’t weaken Israel. Israel weakened Israel. Goldstone didn’t kill 1,400 Gazans, Israel did.