Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Boosterism Inside Out

Jay Michaelson has been an outspoken critic of the Israeli government and its attitude toward the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  At the same time, he has cited his own growing alienation from Israel itself.  As an American Jew, he wonders what, exactly, is his connection to this place.  After sixty years of boosterism in American Synagogues and Community centers for Israel, American Jews on the left are losing their love affair with Israel.

There is also an opposite phenomenon.  For this High Holiday season, I attended a synagogue away from home (that is, far from Ithaca).  The rabbi was a well-known activist for the cause of peace in the Middle East, reconciliation with the Palestinians, the end blockade of Gaza, and so forth.  Most of her sermon involved these issues.  Who can say this is not important?  People living under oppression must be helped, when possible.

One the other hand, as I sat there and listened, I wondered what this had to do with me.  Does an American Jew, born in America, reared as an American,  owe special allegiance to Israel, either on the side of boosterism, or its opposite.  Do Italian-Americans lament Italy's internal affairs?  The answer: no;  most are unaware exactly how Italians govern themselves.  As I sat there listening to politics, I wondered, where is God?  Where is the attempt to reinvigorate a synagogue scene that is often stale and muted?

People should be doing back flips for joy of HaShem.  Well, ideally.  We should integrate more halakah into our lives and always try to see ourselves as projections of HaShem.  There should be more to this enterprise known as Judaism than support or condemnation of another nation's internal policies.

Such issues are important.  Don't get me wrong.  But  boosting the souls of American Jews, in my opinion, ranks a bit higher.

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