Words of the Week

“‘Israel-themed sermons this year should help people understand what Israel is up against in its confrontation with Hamas — which is not about borders or settlements or who’s at fault for peace talk going nowhere, but about Israel’s very existence, which Hamas seeks to eradicate, and Jews everywhere, whom Hamas aspires to exterminate,’ Rabbi Block told The Jewish Week in an email. ‘Rabbis have a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to sermonize about the “other Israel,” the vibrant democracy whose culture of compassion and innovation is contributing so much to the world.’

But underscoring the complexity of the issue, Rabbi Block, in a sermon this spring to his Central Conference colleagues, said: ‘Israel needs many things, but one thing it does not need is more public criticism, which is ubiquitous. Some of it is legitimate, but it lacks context. Much of it is exaggerated, unfair, uninformed or plainly wrong.

‘I am not suggesting that we pretend Israel is perfect, ignore the complex moral challenges it faces, disregard its occasional failures or excesses in the exercise of power or encourage unquestioning approval of whatever its government does,’ the rabbi continued. ‘We have precious few opportunities to address our entire congregation or community on matters of paramount concern. To me, it feels unconsciously self-indulgent to squander them criticizing Israel, even when it may be deserved.'”

–Rabbi Richard Block, quoted in “Gaza War Pushes Israel, Reluctantly, Onto Holiday Bima” (The Jewish Week)