Words of the Week: Defending Israel’s Right to Exist (and in Peace)

Normally, my Friday posts on this blog provide a slew of literary links from around the web just in time for Shabbat. But I’m still going through all the links associated with Wednesday’s Jewish Book Carnival, and I suspect that you may be, too.

Moreover, we are nearing Yom Kippur, and I am still thinking about my rabbi’s extraordinary Rosh Hashanah sermon last week. Our rabbi voices disagreement with Israeli policies when he feels that it’s warranted, and I’d say he has a rock-solid reputation for “progressive” attitudes and a focus on social justice. But on Rosh Hashanah, his sermon reminded us that whatever Israel’s flaws may be, there is no excuse for the constant, one-sided, and hypocritical attacks and assaults on its integrity and legitimacy. And he urged us to speak and act on Israel’s behalf. (I am oversimplifying his remarks, which I very much hope will soon be published and accessible to everyone.)

So I am speaking and acting. Here. Or, more precisely, I’m pointing you to others who are doing a good, honest, job of it.

  • You may have heard that “Israel doesn’t care about peace.” (TIME magazine has said so!) But that’s not quite accurate.
  • In fact, if you want to see and hear some people who really don’t want peace for and between Israel and its neighbors, the stars of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement are excellent exemplars.
  • Coincidentally, Jeffrey Goldberg wrote a post this week about the efforts to delegitimize Israel. The post was occasioned by Goldberg’s attendance at an event on behalf of a new organization, one that is dedicated, in his words “to the proposition that Israel has a right to exist.” Which is itself enough to have made Goldberg find the event “so depressing. What other country, sixty-two years after its birth (rebirth, actually) requires advocates to argue that it should continue to exist? Why is it that the world’s only Jewish country is the only country to persistently face questions about its own legitimacy? ” In those lines, he was echoing some of my rabbi’s sermon.

Yes, the sermon, too, was in some ways depressing. As is the necessity to expose the true motives of the BDS activists. As is the need to monitor and counter pernicious stories in the mainstream media.

But we can’t be paralyzed by the depression. We must continue to read, think, write, and speak. We must continue to defend Israel.

Wishing everyone a peaceful holiday, and an easy fast.

L’shanah Tovah!

Happy New Year to all of My Machberet’s friends. We’re going to take a brief break for the holiday, and skip Friday’s Shabbat lit links this week. We’ll be sure to post again before Yom Kippur. L’shanah tovah!

Notes from Around the Web

It’s good to be back presenting Friday Lit Links for you! I have to confess that a shocking number of links this week will take you elsewhere within erikadreifus.com, but thankfully, I have managed to find several items worth your time elsewhere, too!

Let’s get going:

  • A conference presentation podcast I hope to listen to myself this weekend, on “what’s hot in Israeli fiction.”
  • This profile will help American readers get to known British author Howard Jacobson
  • A review of Jon Papernick’s new short story collection, There Is No Other (a book that I’m hoping to read soon).
  • A teaching job for an English-language fiction writer in the creative writing program at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
  • An interview with author Allison Amend
  • And, given the rapid approach of the High Holy Days, an essay from my own archive: “Reflections During the Days of Awe.”

Shabbat shalom!

High Holiday Poetry Contest 2010

MyJewishLearning is running a High Holiday Poetry Contest–and you’re invited to participate.

Submitted poems “can be funny, or serious, or both. They can rhyme. They can be long (though we are from the Internet short-attention-span-generation). We want to be entertained, and we want to be inspired.”

Submit by August 25. Winning entries will be published online in time for Rosh Hashanah.

There will be prizes!

For more info, check MyJewishLearning.

(via the Jewish Book Council)

One Week After Memorial Day: Remembering Jewish Military Chaplains

As I mentioned last week, on Memorial Day, I attended a very moving ceremony at a local synagogue. And among the participants were several Jewish military chaplains.

I have to admit that this was hard for me. The last time I’d been in a temple to honor a Jewish military chaplain, I was attending the funeral of my family’s beloved Rabbi Barry H. Greene. Military chaplaincy was among Rabbi Greene’s many causes. He was himself a proud military chaplain; his coffin (it still feels terrible to write those two words) was flag-draped, and the director of the Jewish Chaplains Council spoke at the funeral.

It was in Rabbi Greene’s memory that I began contributing to the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) Jewish Chaplains Council. Last Chanukah, instead of buying gifts for all of my adult family members (the kids still got their packages to tear open), I wrote a check to support the Council’s Torahs for the Troops project, which, happily, is now very much under way, with a first Torah recently completed and brought to the Persian Gulf.

Now there’s another project I want to support. When I returned home from the Memorial Day ceremony, I picked up the summer edition of Reform Judaism magazine. A letter to the editor described an effort to raise funds for a memorial to Jewish chaplains in Arlington Cemetery. That letter is not available online, but I’ve found some articles that describe it further.

For instance, the Jewish Journal reported earlier this spring:

“Of the 311 Jewish chaplains who served during World War II, eight rabbis died. Two rabbis lost their lives in the Vietnam War. No Jewish chaplains are known to have died while serving during the World War I or the Korean War, although research is still being done to confirm that.

Sol Moglen, an activist in New York who is leading the effort….has already raised $17,000 of the $30,000 needed to build the memorial, a granite slab that will be erected on Chaplains Hill at Arlington, where memorials for Protestant and Catholic clergy already stand.”

I’m going to contact the JWB and contribute to this very worthy project. Perhaps you will, too?

Hebrew Lessons Online

Via H-Net.org

“Hebrew Lessons Online is a recently launched website with resources for learning Hebrew. The Web site is at http://hebrewlessonsonline.com. The site has an on-line Hebrew Level test to determine your level and get personalized self-study recommendations.

The site has links to on-line dictionaries and recommendations, a newsletter focused on Jewish holidays, and coming soon an online HebrewPedia — a visual dictionary.

This new website is a great resource for anyone interested in learning or teaching Hebrew. Please forward this announcement to anyone who might be interested.

Haven’t tried it yet myself, but it looks interesting.