I am currently writing from Israel, where we spent Shavuos and will be remaining for another week as we celebrate our grandson Gavriel Zahler’s bar mitzvah.
I will need to be very brief, as I am on a borrowed computer, facing a busy day ahead. The celebration with family and friends in the Old City was beautiful, as you may imagine. I will add that we walked to the Kosel on Shavuos morning to take part in the “chavayah,” or experience of davening with thousands of other Jews at sunrise. I highly recommend the experience… at least for one time.
While it is very moving and meaningful to be together with a multitude of Jews, it is also not the place to be if you are looking for an organized davening. The many minyanim are very hard to hear, no matter how close you are to the sh’liach tzibur. And each minyan had to break to find a sefer Torah. Much less organized than I thought. But it was quite a sight to behold.
Baruch Hashem, things are politically quiet in Israel. Even the cabbies are tired of all the political haggling.
But I do see that in the States things are hopping. It seems the White House is grappling with how to stem anti-Semitism. They embraced two contradictory documents that define anti-Semitism. One is the IHRA definition, which states that any criticism of Israel that is out of proportion to that leveled at any other country and which is based on untruths is anti-Semitism. That seems to be fine.
But then, just before Shavuos, the Biden administration also announced that it is also adopting the NEXUS document, which lumps all hatred together (including non-existent Islamophobia and other politically protected groups). It only refers to White Supremist groups, while saying nothing of the much more common form of hatred coming from Islamic and minority groups.
The NEXUS document also states that criticism of Israel and Israeli policies is all fair, as long as it does not lead to violence. I am sure you heard the commencement speaker at the CUNY Law School graduation: filled with every radical leftist idea, including the condemnation of Israel for the “genocidal and ethnic-cleansing policies” of the Israelis. She was also proud of CUNY’s vote by both students and faculty to support BDS. To that, she received very loud applause.
The only politician of note to speak up was Republican Councilwoman Inna Varnikov, as she did last year. Schumer? Nothing. Nadler? Nada. Organizations? Gornisht. Surprised?
According to NEXUS, this was permitted under the guidelines of not being anti-Semitic. All (yes, all) the usual Orthodox and non-Orthodox organizations gushed over the White House’s new adoption of the definition of anti-Semitism. The only organization that was quick to denounce it was the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). I told my colleagues at the Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), that if the ZOA takes a position in opposition to the other organizations, you can bet they are correct. Thankfully, our CJV followed and, for the same reason, condemned this new adoption of NEXUS. That means that we are the only rabbinic organization to do so. A number of news outlets did mention this.
Surprisingly, Netanyahu welcomed the Biden proposal; but then again, they don’t have to live with the anti-Semitism in galus.
I will leave you to your own thoughts, as I must be on my way. All the best from Eretz HaKodesh.
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.