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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wednesday, the rabbi's congregants revolted

Two weeks ago, I reported on a synagogue rabbi named Eric Solomon in Raleigh, North Carolina, who is leading a tour to Israel that will feature 'tour guides' from Breaking the Silence, the vehemently anti-Israel European-funded NGO that attempts to induce IDF soldiers to lie.

There have been a few developments.... 

On Tuesday, Susie Dym published a letter from one of Rabbi Solomon's congregants on her Arutz Sheva blog.
Dear Rabbi Solomon:
My recent emails concerning your activities, including planning a trip to Yasser Arafat’s tomb, have started a conversation that I hope will produce good results for the community.
As a Rabbi in Raleigh, you are in a position of great influence to both the local Jewish community and our non-Jewish neighbors. After the responses I have received, I know that I am one of many people in the community that have concerns about your activities that unfairly criticize the state of Israel.
You ask the Jewish National Fund to adhere to the “Moses Standard” of transparency. You write, “If Moses could ensure that all his financial records were fully transparent, then we should expect nothing less from a Jewish organization like the JNF which has held our people’s sacred trust for over 100 years. Why should the JNF be afraid to share where our money goes after it leaves the little blue box?” (Documents, page 59)
Can we hold you to the same standard and ask for your response to the following questions?
  • What purpose does your visit of Arafat’s tomb serve? What is Arafat’s legacy? Why can’t you find time in a 10 day trip to visit Yad Vashem or Har Herzl in Jerusalem when you plan on going to the Mahmoud Darwish Museum? (Documents, page 16) A bonus question, who is Mahmoud Darwish and why does he have a museum that you want to visit?

  • In a related question on your itinerary, you write “Ascend the Temple Mount for a tour of the precinct and have a question and answer session with a local Muslim imam.” I see no mention of the Western Wall (Kotel), the holiest site in the world for Jews. Do you plan to let your trip participants pray at the Western Wall and possibly meet a local rabbi? If not, why not? 

  • How do you answer your own question to the JNF, “Will my money strengthen Israel’s democracy and civil society? Will it move us closer to peace?” 

  • Are you aware of the relationship between your tour operator, Mejdi, and its links to pro-Hamas support groups such as Holy Land Trust? Reverend Dr. Mae Elise Cannon, currently with Mejdi Tours, was a senior member of the World Vision NGO. World Vision was just accused of funneling millions of dollars to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Coincidence?  (page 57)

  • My good friend Ronit Bart lives next to the border of Gaza. (see video) Over the last 12 years their community has had to live with daily rocket attacks and terror tunnels from terrorists that are trying to hurt her and her family. What can the State of Israel do to these terrorists so there will be peace? How have your actions helped with this effort?
As someone who has lived in the Raleigh community for 32 years, I would like nothing more than a cohesive Jewish community that works together to guarantee a safe Israel and a good future for our children and grandchildren in Israel, in the United States and ideally, everywhere in the world.
I ask the community to review the information I have assembled and come to their own conclusions. I also ask that the community forward this email to friends and family who share my concern. I updated the file with an article from The Washington Post (page 57) and your request to the Jewish National Fund (page 59).   In addition, the previous two emails are included at the end.
Rabbi Solomon, I look forward to hearing from you directly and sharing your responses. I can be reached at raleighjew@gmail.com.
Steven Rosenberg
Through all of this, Steven is now a friend of a friend of a friend (someone I know who is from that area introduced me to someone on Facebook who knows him).

On Wednesday, Steven sent someone in New York, who has me on his mailing list, an email that he describes as "the most incredible letter of support yet!!"

And indeed it may well be. The writer of the letter below is RB, who "was born & raised in Raleigh. In fact, Beth Meyer Synagogue [Rabbi Solomon's synagogue] is named after her grandfather, Meyer Dworsky!" (I have redacted all email addresses from this email, but I have them all).
Dear Friends,

Please forgive the group email. 

I am forwarding to you an email that I sent to the BMS Board and to Rabbi Solomon.  I want you to be aware of my decision to suspend my affiliation with Beth Meyer.  I regret that this decision will probably affect how often we see each other, but it need not mean that we'll stop being involved in each other's lives.

I love each of you. 


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: RB
Date: Wed, Aug 10, 2016 at 12:21 AM
Subject: Suspension of Affiliation with Beth Meyer Synagogue
To: Eric Lamb
Cc: Rabbi Eric Solomon

Dear Members of the Board of Trustees:

With deep sadness, I am notifying the BMS Board of Trustees of my decision to suspend my affiliation with Beth Meyer Synagogue.  I hope that this decision will not be construed as an attack leveled against the Board or any of Beth Meyer's rabbis because I am truly grateful for the spiritual, educational, and social experiences that were the consequence of membership in a thriving congregation led by insightful, empathetic, energetic rabbis; gifted and giving lay leaders, and an effective governing board.
So whence comes my decision to give up -- at this time -- my BMS membership? 
Although I respect and admire Rabbi Solomon and although, until recently, I have not been troubled by the gulf between some of his viewpoints and mine, Rabbi Solomon's decision to encourage Jews to sign up for a trip that includes a visit to Yasser Arafat's grave altered my view of our differences. 
Responding to problematic situations, I typically engage in on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand inner dialogues and exchanges.  There are, however, times when I realize that, for me, there is only one hand.  My feelings about any Jew's visit to Arafat's grave are such that I can say, without hesitation, "I object to this choice, and there is no other hand."

Some connections survive upsetting circumstances; and without being a member, I still expect to feel connected to the Beth Meyer congregation.    

With hopes for peace and understanding,
In the meantime, JTA, the voice of knee-jerk American 'Jewish' liberalism, reports that Truah, the organization to which Rabbi Solomon belongs, is making a habit of tours to Judea and Samaria led by Breaking the Silence.
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, which represents 1,800 North American rabbis and their constituents, and Breaking the Silence, IDF veterans who speak out about their service in the West Bank and Gaza and advocate against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, are sponsoring “Go and See” trips for Jewish groups as part of their Israel itineraries.
The aim is to “empower more American Jews to meet both Palestinians and IDF veterans who have served in the territories, to listen deeply to their narratives, and to bring these perspectives into working toward a better future for Israelis and Palestinians,” according to a news release Wednesday.
Breaking the Silence has often come under fire in Israel from the political right and center for testimonies, some published anonymously, that accuse the Israeli military of excessive force and corruption.
T’ruah will facilitate the groups during and after the program with the aim of engaging participants in Jewish learning related to the issues, according to the release. Breaking the Silence staff will share their perspectives on how the occupation affects Israelis and Palestinians.
“Of the thousands of American Jews who travel to Israel each year, only a tiny number visit Palestinian areas of the West Bank or hear from Palestinians,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah.
“Go and See” will help those who take part to see the “effects of the ongoing occupation and understanding that it is damaging the lives and souls of both Palestinians and Israelis,” said Yuli Novak, executive director of Breaking the Silence.
The groups have already partnered on a trip to Hebron.
It is time - indeed it is long past time - for the Jewish community abroad to stop beating their breasts with guilt over the fact that we cannot reach a denouement with the 'Palestinians,' to awaken to the reality that we face here in Israel every day, and to take action to ensure the survival of the State of Israel rather than joining our enemies. Truah and its ilk will not ensure Jewish survival. We must take responsibility for doing so.

As to Rabbi Solomon, here's hoping that more of his congregants see the light.

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At 4:07 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

reform rabbi

At 4:22 PM, Blogger InMemoryOf Yossi said...

Very easy for these American "rabbis" to be a backseat quarterback. I'd like to see this "brave" guy enter an Arab village alone. With no tour guide, he'll geta real welcome. Better yet, I'd like to see this guy move to Israel, and live among his beloved Arab friends. I don't give him one day! How easy for him to sit in judgement from the comforts of his safe house thousands of miles away. The fact that he can enter these areas is only because it's prearranged. Let him visit them on his own, not prearranged, no tour guide, no body guard. Otherwise, SHUT UP! Until he sees a realistic view, he's viewing a Pallywood Production.

At 11:28 PM, Blogger Empress Trudy said...

Yes, Eric Solomon and his wife Jennifer, are both Reform rabbis but it is a conservative synagogue, or as conservative as conservative IS nowadays. Women up on the bima, women reading from the Torah, women wearing Tefillin, women in charge of essentially every role there. Like most conservative shuls in America if not world wide they struggle with being neither fish nor fowl. They're not ready to adopt full on secular liberal no Hebrew no Jewish education Reform yet and they're certainly never go to head toward Orthodox. The Chabadniks down the street have that covered. So they exist is this existential netherworld of sort of being holier than thou, generally. "More" concerned with social justice than the Orthodox and "More" fervent about their Judaism than the Reform. Or least that what they tell themselves. Little of that is actually true but it is the brand they're seeking. I think the real story of this is that it's not happening in your run of the mill Reform congregation as one would expect. If it were, no one would notice. What it is is though is an early skirmish in the battle over whether Conservative Judaism exists in America. The smart money might give you 10 years, at most.


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