Tonight is Kol Nidre, one of the holiest nights of the Jewish year, and beginning of the Yom Kippur holy day. Jews congregate in shuls and synagogues to hear the cantor sing the resonant prayer in which God relieves us of our sins of the past year. Though I belong to a synagogue, I will not be there.
I once was an observant Jew. I kept kosher, davened every Shabbat in shul. Celebrated all the holidays. I studied Judaica for two years at the Hebrew University and earned a Bachelor of Hebrew Literature.
Then I was a radical Jew who still retained hope and allegiance to the mainstream Jewish community and its institutions. I even was a fundraser for several Jewish federations. Now I am an alienated Jew.
I will not be in shul tonight. Or likely any other night, though I would return for family events such as weddings, bar mitzvah or funerals. I love the Jewish family. I do not love Jewish communal institutions. I do not love what Israel has become–or what it has always been.
To be clear, I am not alienated from Judaism or its values. Those I hold close to my heart–always. I respect those who do worship on Yom Kippur and hope their prayers are heard in heaven.
The following Biblical passage resonates with me. Here, Isaiah rails aganist the hypocrisy of a fast shorn of moral commitment: (58:5):
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
“Is not rather the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
As Israel has betrayed these values, becoming an apartheid, Judeo-supremacist terror state, the organized Jewish community has stood back and murmured dissent only in the few instances when it was directly insulted or attacked by Israeli officials. Otherwise, it maintains ominous silence in the face of Israeli terror and genocide. It has been captured by the siren song of Israeli hyper-nationalism. It is powerless to act. Or lack any will to do so.
I cannot associate myself with a community which maintains a bankrupt moral position in the face of this betrayal of the Jewish values I know 80% of American Jews profess. As Israel descends into a moral maelstrom, we have become accomplices in its crimes against humanity. We have lost our Jewish souls.
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