Sorry, Jon Stewart, there are opinions, and there are facts

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Jon Stewart had a rather amusing bit on his program last night. Each time he would mention the word “Israel” all of the “correspondents” on his show would pop up and begin yelling at him. When the yelling calmed down all but one of the commentators disappeared. After a pregnant pause the man looked at Stewart, scowled and, with disgust said “a self-hating Jew.” Then he too disappeared.

“Look,” Stewart opined after the bit had run its course, “obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”

I could not agree more.

At the same time, while there are indeed, “many strong opinions,” not all opinions are equally valid. And while I know it is not politically correct to say so, some opinions …

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As sirens sound, NJ visitors share resilient Israel’s anxiety

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July 16, 2014
Visiting Israel on a national Jewish federations mission, Maxine Murnick said she was disappointed when her group was discouraged from visiting Ofakim, in Israel’s beleaguered South.

“Can you imagine if somebody advised you against going to Millburn or Morris Plains?” she asked.

New Jersey residents visiting Israel during its current clash with Hamas got a close look at what it means to be in Israel when Hamas missiles pour in from Gaza, as air raid sirens sound frequently, and dashes to missile shelters interrupt the mundane activities of daily life.


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Murnick, campaign chair for the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, said the overwhelming impression she was left with was “the resiliency of the Israeli people, which is just something to behold.”


Murnick was one of several local leaders — including federation president Leslie Dannin Rosenthal and assistant executive vice president Jeffrey Korbman …

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The year was 1984 and I was a student at Duke University. During the fall semester I spent time working on Jim Hunt’s senatorial campaign. It was not so much that I was working on behalf of Jim Hunt but rather, I was working to unseat incumbent Jesse Helms, one of the most anti-Israel senators at the time. His record on Israel was, as one article put it, “the most negative of any member of the Senate.” Among other things, Helms was the sole senator to vote against prohibiting American companies from joining the Arab League boycott of Israel. During the 1982 Lebanon War, he called for the United States to break all diplomatic relations with Israel. While Hunt won our district, Helms kept his seat and remained in the Senate.

The next year, I was living and studying at the Rothberg School for Overseas Students …

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Have we Zionists forgotten how to listen?

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Here are just a few snippets from recent conversations regarding American Jewish support for Israel:

“Rabbi, I’m very upset and want to talk to you. How dare you allow a group like J Street to speak at Temple?”

“Rabbi, I simply do not understand how a social and religious progressive like you can be part of such a right-wing conservative organization as AIPAC.”

Two apparently opposite statements that are, I would argue, two sides of the same coin. To me, both reflect what is wrong with the current discourse with regard to the American Jewish community’s involvement in pro-Israel activity. We seem to be living in an era where Jewish issues have gone the way of Fox News and MSNBC: We simply listen to ourselves and those with whom we agree, and we demonize those who have a different perspective.

Read more…

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I’m left of the Left, and I support AIPAC

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I grew up in a liberal home in which politics, social issues and, most importantly, social responsibility were often discussed. I recall organizational meetings to support various Democratic candidates taking place in my den and vividly remember hours spent putting political placards on doors throughout my town.

My parents’ lessons on social values of inclusion, equality, and fairness have stuck with me. They shaped the adult I have become, guide my vote each November, and influenced the type of community I wanted to serve. It was the open, liberal, progressive approach long taken by my congregation that initially drew me to it. Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel is a congregation that looks for every opportunity to say “yes” and be inclusive. It is why we gutted our main worship space a few years ago and made sure it was accessible through ramps and movable chairs. It is why, as …

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Israel still inspires

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AUGUST 14, 2014, 9:45 PM

One of the great privileges of the rabbinate is the opportunity to teach the Jewish leaders of tomorrow and play some small role in their learning and growth.

One of the great gifts of the rabbinate is seeing those young people grow into amazing young adults whose understanding, commitment and passion is boundless.

Numerous young people from my congregation were in Israel this summer when the missiles began flying. One of them shared her experience with me yesterday. Her words inspired me. She expressed the impact of her time in Israel beautifully. And as I read her piece I was struck that this summer’s conflict was only a small part of the overall experience she had. By relating her time in Israel this summer in this manner she helped remind me that we need to look past the missiles and the conflict. By so doing …

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Responding to a friend about Israel

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AUGUST 13, 2014, 5:41 PM

One of my former students shared a post on Facebook the other day that reflected his feelings of intense sadness about what is going on between Israel and Iranian-backed Hamas, and especially about the suffering of the civilians in Gaza. In the post, I was struck by the tension he struggles with between his Jewish identity and his sense of compassion and humanity (which are at the core of Judaism).

Many of the reports of the current conflict have been distorted, and I believe they have impacted how many people view the situation. I want to share a few thoughts in response to some of the questions my student raised and the statements he made.

In his post my student refers to “The Occupation of Gaza.”

There is no Israeli occupation of Gaza, because Israel pulled out of Gaza nine years ago. They did so …

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Guns and Social Media; Two Things That Some People Shouldn’t Touch

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AUGUST 11, 2014, 8:09 AM

What does it say about you, your perspective, and your cause when you use lies, falsehoods, threats and slander to make your point?

That is the question I have been asking about social media images of Syrian wounded being use as “evidence of Israeli atrocities” in Gaza. One particularly disgraceful image showed an Israeli family of 5 that had been murdered in a terrorist attack, claiming they were Gaza residents slaughtered by Israel.

It is the question I have been asking myself when it finally came to light that the reason we were not seeing images of Hamas terrorists or the locations of missile sites in school, hospitals, and civilian population centers was because Hamas has been threatening and intimidating reporters.

Read more: Guns and Social Media; Two Things That Some People Shouldn’t Touch | Daniel M. Cohen | The Blogs | The Times of

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Real Time… False Claims…

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AUGUST 6, 2014, 5:20 AM

In recent weeks, comedian Bill Maher has emerged as far more supportive of Israel than I would have expected. Jon Stewart, on the other hand, has revealed himself to be a consistent detractor of the Jewish State.

Last week’s Real Time with Bill Maher however, had some difficult moments for someone like me, who is both a fan of Bill Maher and a proud Zionist. During the show, Maher made clear that while he supports Israel’s right to defend herself, he does not support US aid to Israel; one of his statements was, “Israel can take off its training wheels.”

I found his comments particularly stinging, as they came shortly after Congress had approved additional funding for Iron Dome.

One of Maher’s guests, Reza Aslan the author of the book Zealot, utilized even more extreme anti-Israel rhetoric. His opening comment was, “It’s not like we …

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Remembrance Is Just the First Step

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AUGUST 3, 2014, 5:40 AM


We are a people of memory and remembrance. Our celebratory holidays help make sure we know from whence we came. Our memorial observances insure we understand grief and allow ourselves to touch the pain of loss. That psychological and spiritual excursive is, however, just the first step. For memory and loss by themselves are, at best static and, at worst, internal forms of idolatry. Remembrance that allows us to sit in our anguish serves to simply lock us in the past. It does little to honor the memory of what we, our loved ones and our community endured. Remembrance that calls us to action however opens the door to a future of action.

This is, perhaps, best seen in our communal commemoration of Tisha B’av and its aftermath.

Read more: Remembrance Is Just the First Step | Daniel M. Cohen | The Blogs | The

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