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Posts Tagged ‘Jewish-people’

Philanthropist Edgar M. Bronfman, in the final part of a five-part series of articles on Huffington Post, talks about the need to rethink and update the relationship between Israel and the world’s Jews, and quotes Hartman Institute Founding President David Hartman on the subject:

As my dear friend, the philosopher David Hartman once said to me, “Israel is a return to the particular, but not a ghetto…. It’s not meant to be insulated from the world. It lives in discussion with the world.” Yes, Israel has very real problems being accepted in its immediate neighborhood and by some in the international arena. And yes, these problems on the whole are not of its own making. But Israel should always be engaged in this wider “discussion with the world,” and turn away from the “ghetto” mentality.”

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Donniel Hartman’s commentary on the “Rotem Conversion Bill” controversy, “Relationship of Israel and World Jewry Depends on Meaning, Not Claims of Necessity,” is receiving widespread attention in Israel and North America, including citations and reprints by The New York Times, Forward, and Ynet, among others:

Israel Puts Off Crisis Over Conversion Law (The New York Times, 23/07/2010)

Donniel was quoted in an article by The New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner on the subject:

“There is increasing discomfort among American Jews with Israel,” commented Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, which is devoted to exploring Jewish issues. “This issue is a place where they can express the displeasure that they might not be willing to state on the flotilla and other political matters.”

For that reason, some here, even among those sympathetic to the Reform and Conservative movements, like Rabbi Hartman, feel that the American reaction to the Rotem bill was overly aggressive.

“They overstated this one,” he said.

Jewish Legitimacy (Forward, 21/07/2010)

In an editorial taking a contrarian view of the conversion bill uproar, the Forward excerpted Donniel’s most recent commentary: “Rabbi Donniel Hartman of the Shalom Hartman Institute, one of the saner voices during this emotional dispute, put it best: ‘It requires a commitment to Israel not as it is, but as it ought to be, and a willingness to invest in creating such an Israel.’ And, he wrote recently, ‘it requires a deep caring.’”

The Forward then went on to say: “To care deeply doesn’t obligate us to swear blind loyalty and suppress disagreement. But it doesn’t allow us to turn our backs, either. With all the worried talk about the demise of “liberal Zionism,” here is a chance for Jews in Israel and the Diaspora to resurrect its future.”

The Forward’s editorial was also reprinted on the influential blog, EJewishPhilanthropy.com

United or divided? (Jerusalem Post, 24/07/10)

The Jerusalem Post reprinted the original commentary by Donniel Hartman, which ran first on the Institute’s website.

A version in Hebrew was published on Ynet, the leading news website in Israel, on 25/07/2010. Click here for the Hebrew version.

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The question of how to sustain and maintain Jewish identity in a democratic State of Israel will be the subject of a daylong conference at the Knesset, May 27, 2010, expected to draw more than 400 participants and leading rabbis from all streams of religious thought in Israel.

The conference was set up by Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni, who told the Jerusalem Post:

The attention of the leaders and the public naturally is devoted first and foremost to security and diplomatic issues, but the challenges related to the character of internal Israeli society are no less important. We must work on developing the Zionist vision of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Success dealing with the challenges of civil and social issues will make the state better able to deal with its challenges on diplomatic and security issues.

Hartman Institute participants include Ron Margolin, Ariel Picard, Gili Zivan, and Shraga Bar-on are scheduled to be the chairs of four sessions, at which lecturers will talk on various aspects of the subject. Margolin helped organize the panels. Hartman Institute’s Micah Goodman is among the participants.

“This is an attempt to have a serious conversation in the Knesset and discuss issues of Jewish identity and democracy in a rational manner,” said Ariel Picard.

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A controversial new book, The Invention of the Jewish People, by Tel Aviv University historian Shlomo Sand, is now in English, after kicking up a dust storm of controversy in its original Hebrew incarnation. This is a summary of the book’s thesis, as explained in a recent review on Tablet, an online Jewish cultural magazine:

Sand… argues that the Jews were not in fact exiled from Israel, and that the bulk of modern Jewry does not descend from the ancient Israelites Rather, he claims, they are the children of converts—North African Berbers and Turkic Khazars—and have no ancestral ties to the land of Israel. Zionism is not a return home, Sand writes, it is the tragic theft of another people’s land. As such, Israel is not the political rebirth of the Jewish nation—it’s a complete fabrication.

The first issue of Shalom Hartman Institute’s Havruta magazine touched on many aspects of the matter of Jewish peoplehood – from a different perspective that accepts and aims at strengthening the concept of Jewish peoplehood. Read the articles here.

Shalom Hartman Institute’s coverage of Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, also addresses these issues from a perspective that embraces Jewish peoplehood.

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Two articles from the third issue of Havruta, “The Spiritual Quest,” are now available online:

Beyond Maimonides: The search for God in postmodern America, by Alfredo Borodowski

A song for many voices: The soul of secular Israel, by Rani Jaeger

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Israel – parts of it at least – promotes itself as the most tolerant country in the Middle East. Gays and lesbians have a freedom to live openly unheard of in the Arab world. Transsexual singer Dana International is a popular entertainer and TV personality. Yet… Yet… Late Saturday an unidentified shooter opened fire in a Tel Aviv club that provides a haven for gay teens and youth. Two are dead. Another 10 are wounded, some critically.

Mainstream and ultra-Orthodox politicians have risen to condemn the shooting. The Mayor of Tel Aviv pledged his city will remain friendly to and supportive of gays. Yet…there is often open talk in this country about how homosexuality is the root of many problems – even earthquakes!

Shalom Hartman Institute has made a point of being an open, pluralistic center that is a place where gay and Orthodox rabbis study together. Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman has several times on our website condemned the hateful speech of anti-gay political and religious leaders.

Read his recent posts:

This summer in Jerusalem – heat and holiness
The ultra-Orthodox, gays and the future of Jerusalem
and one from last year: When an earthquake is not just an earthquake

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Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic Monthly interviewed Michael Oren, a New York state native who is now Israel’s ambassador to the United States in Aspen, CO, recently. In the interview (click here to see the entire interview on video; click here to read the Israel-Diaspora relations segment edited down for you), Oren discusses the need Israelis have for American Jews and vice versa:

Israel needs the political and economic support of American Jewry, and American Jewry increasingly needs the spiritual infusion of the Jewish state.… In recent years, we have found that a 10-day visit to the state of Israel by American Jewish youth does more for Jewish identity than seven years in Hebrew school. In fact, seven years in Hebrew school, as one poll shows, does some damage to Jewish identity.

Oren also cleverly dissects the “problem” of American Jewry for Herzl and the early Zionists: America wasn’t supposed to happen for the Jews. Nowhere was supposed to be safe for them! Oy. What a problem!

This issue comes up over and over again. North American rabbis here at Hartman Institute in recent weeks heard lectures on the subject and worried over it time and again. Here’s a link to a downloadable PDF document featuring Donniel Hartman’s in-depth take on the matter: “Rethinking the Partnership Between Israel and World Jewry.”

(Hat tip to Hadassah Levy for bringing it to my attention.)

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This is a new program designed to draw 15-16 North American scholars out of their universities and into larger, deeper projects on top-level Jewish, Israeli, and continuity issues, among others. Invites are going out soon to potential participants. Details of the program here.

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President Obama’s speech in Cairo occurred more than a week ago, and Donniel Hartman’s commentary on the speech (“Are Jews Ready for Obama?“) also has been online for more than a week, but the debate – about the speech, and about Donniel’s commentary has yet to die down.

Several dozen comments have been published (and a few better left unpublished) taking all sides in the matter – from fervent support, to wishful commentary, to outright opposition. For example, one critic of Donniel’s wrote:

Donniel Hartman has posed a serious question. However, the answer in his article leads into the wrong direction. To begin with, the headline of the article should be phrased differently. It ought to be ” Is Israel ready for Obama?” – which is not the same.

However, many correspondents praised Donniel’s call for a new vision:

Great article. If embattled Israel can extend the hand of peace perhaps there is hope for all humanity!!! No it won`t be easy and there will be setbacks but it is our duty to keep working…

And then there was this one:

As a Jew and as an American I am ready for Barack Obama to lead not only our nation but the world in achieving peace. We need to look at ourselves not as separate entities but as a global community. I for one love life. It is disturbing to read some of the blog entries which continue to breed hate and disdain for one another.

Go the article, scroll down to the bottom – or, better yet, read it again – and then find all the comments. And add your own!

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UPDATE: Yes, Donniel’s post is already online, and has been so for several days. Sorry it took a while to get back to this post. See Donniel’s post here: “Are Jews Ready for Obama?:

While President Obama’s speech in Cairo was also about settlements, and about the Road Map, in essence it was about neither. It was about putting forth to us all the potential for a new future. President Obama’s speech was not about policy. It was about hope and the need to place a vision of a kinder and a better world, a world in which Jews, Muslims, and Christians – and the United States and the more than 1 billion Muslims of the world – will begin to see each other as partners who inhabit this world and not as enemies engaged in Armageddon. It was about remembering what we want for ourselves and our children and then thinking about what we need to do to fulfill these aspirations.

Here’s what President Obama said on Jews, Israel, Palestinians, two states and peace:

America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel’s founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel’s interest, Palestine’s interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them – and all of us – to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel’s right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine’s. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel’s security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel’s legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

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