Blessed are You God and may we have a good and sweet New Year!
I hope you’re able to enjoy my favorite apple variety, Honeycrisp, and dip them in some local honey and enjoy that indescribable mix of sweet and sour that comes from a bite of apple dipped in honey.
May we have a year of hope, justice and peace. And may all of my pessimistic prognostications be proven wrong. And may Bibi Netanyahu realize the error of his moral blindness, break free of the yoke of his racist father, do teshuvah, and make peace. I don’t know if stranger things have happened. But peace is possible. Whatever it takes.
The season of the New Year in Jewish tradition is a time of cheshbon nefesh, of spiritual stock-taking. It is a time to examine our values and commitments and either change them or reaffirm them. In the Jewish tradition, tzedekah is one of the key ways we express our values. In my case, tzedakah reaffirms my commitment to tikun olam and social justice.
That’s why I want to reach out and ask all of you to open yours hearts and wallets to some worthy causes. Two of them that have come under attack from the far-right, and which I’ve written about here are Cordoba House (Park51 Mosque) and New Israel Fund.
I’ve written about the millions which Aubrey Chernick has invested in portraying Islam to the world as a religion of hate and violence. I’ve written about his funding of the efforts by Robert Spencer and Pam Geller to destroy the Cordoba Initiative, a project designed to bring Islam into dialogue with other religions like Judaism and Christianity. One of the ways they smear the project is to predict the Arab terror money from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere that will be needed to finance the $100-million pricetag. Well, let’s say to these asses that WE will give our money. We who are neither terrorists nor ideologues in the Spencer-Geller mode, will open our hearts and wallets to the mission of Cordoba. I’ve made my gift and I ask you to make yours.
My vision of Judaism is one of tolerance. There were times in Jewish history when anti-Semitism prevented Jews from building houses of worship in communities where they lived. Jews faced many of the same restrictions and prejudice that Muslims now face here. Why do we want to inflict on them what we ourselves suffered? Why do we want to view them with the same mistrust and ignorance we ourselves experienced? The High Holy Days should be a time for us to reaffirm our vision of a tolerant religious tradition open to engaging with other religions. Not a time for us to retreat into suspicion and recrimination.
I can only hope that rabbis will have the courage of their convictions (that is, those who have any) and seriously address this issue in their High Holiday sermons. And when they do or if they do, I hope not to hear jingoism, but profound spiritual introspection on the subject of religious tolerance.
For the past few months, I’ve written extensively on the attacks against Naomi Hazan and New Israel Fund by the Israeli far-right under the banner of Im Tirzu. While I don’t always agree with all the views and decisions of the Fund, by God the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And NIF is one of the few NGOs that is fighting on behalf of social justice in both the Israeli Jewish and Israeli Palestinian communities. I will not let the demagogues and petty dictators of Im Tirzu tell me who is a kosher Zionist and who isn’t. I won’t let them dictate the death of Israeli democracy. I ask you to reaffirm your commitment to an Israel that is a state for all its citizens whether Jewish or Muslim by making a New Year gift.
Finally, I want you to do a little stock-taking regarding the value of this blog to you. If what I write is important to you, if it reflects your values, if you think I’m fighting the good fight–I ask you to open your heart and wallet to support the work I do here. When I first started the blog in 2003 and hardly anyone seemed to be reading or caring, I kept going because writing this blog meant something to me regardless of what it meant to anyone else. Now, I know that it means a great deal to many of you and I’m deeply grateful for that. But think about the commitment of time and energy that writing this blog involves. Think about the research, the writing, the thinking that goes into it. If that means something to you, if you value it, reach into your pocket and show your support. And a sheynem dank. Gut yontof and Eid Mubarak.