Talking about Israel… in a way that helps
An essay by Rabbi Joshua Gutoff
Many rabbis face a dilemma around the High Holidays when it comes to Israel. On the one hand, Israel and its welfare is a vital concern to them and their congregants. It is important for Jews to hear about what is going on, both so that they can feel more deeply connected and so that they can help where help is needed. And help is needed. Israel faces a variety of social problems, including growing class and economic divisions, religious and ethnic tensions, and the religious control of “personal status” laws. Of course, every country faces problems and many face more, but for Jews all over the world Israel is a special concern that requires knowledge, insight and understanding.
On the other hand, there can be dangers in speaking about Israel’s challenges, especially on the Days of Awe. There are still many Jews who hear any criticism of Israel as an attack on its very legitimacy. Rabbinic supporters of the New Israel Fund frequently spend a great deal of time during the year talking about their love for Israel, but frankly many of the Jews they’ll be speaking to over the holidays have not been around during the year to hear that, and while rabbis want and need to speak the truth from the bimah, they don’t want to needlessly alienate people with whom they have little enough opportunity to communicate during the year.