Monday, June 08, 2009
Rabbi: NY Zionists desecrate God's name, mock Judaism.
It had been at least 20 years since I was in New York for a Salute to Israel Parade. But it was a happy coincidence. I was scheduled to be in New York on Monday for a meeting of the board of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America. I came into the city a day early with my wife and 20 year old daughter to enjoy the parade. My daughter marched with a delegation from the University of Maryland Hillel. My wife and I enjoyed being part of the crowd, hearing the Israeli music and watching the floats and delegations of students from synagogues and schools from all around the area.
After the parade we heard that there was going to be an Israel-themed concert in Central Park so we decided to attend. It was a shock to the system.
...one speaker launched into a tirade about how every American president since Jimmy Carter had betrayed Israel by courting the favor of Arab nations. Applause. Another speaker announced that Hillary Clinton cared more about Palestinian national aspirations than about Israel’s survival. Applause. Candidate for Congress, Elizabeth Berney, slammed Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), chairman of the House Sub-committee on the Middle East for his characterization of Israeli settlement activity in the territories as part of a “destructive dynamic” in the region. More applause.
Then a band launched into a rousing rendition of "Am Yisrael Chai." [This phrase is also my middle name -- s.c.] I spent more than 25 years as an activist for Soviet Jewry. This was our theme song signaling solidarity both with the history of our people and with all those oppressed Jews in the world whose cause we championed. A group of young men in their 20’s with kippot and tziztzit were right in front of me dancing in a frenzy. But they alternated the verse that meant “the people of Israel lives” with “all the Arabs must die.” It rhymed with the Hebrew. Given the way all joined in, it was clear that this was not the first time it was sung.
I leaned over to a young man who was next to me, also wearing a kippah and tzitzit. I nodded at the dancers and asked: “Does this song bother you?” He looked at me with a suspicious look and replied: “This is Zionism.”
...The joy of the earlier part of the day changed to outrage and then to deep sadness. I have devoted my entire life to Zionism, Israel and the Jewish people. I ran a Zionist think tank for academics in both Philadelphia and Washington D.C. I brought public officials to Israel as the executive director of the JCRC of Washington D.C. I led Solidarity Missions to Israel during Intifadah II under the auspices of UJC. All three of my children spent a gap year in Israel with Young Judaea Year Course. My organization trains thousands of young people to be proud of their Jewish identity and to be effective advocates for Israel in the public square.
But the Zionism that compels me includes the proposition that a Jewish state will honor the rights of all of its citizens and be true to the prophetic ideals of peace and justice that are elaborated on in the Torah...
Jewish leaders are quick to demand that Muslim clergy condemn the extremism that has hijacked Islam into a religion of terrorism and death. We need to make the same demands of the rabbis of institutions whose students make a "chillul hashem" (a desecration of God’s name) by singing “all the Arabs must die”.