To the Editor:
We are current and former congregants of Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater who feel compelled to disagree with his recent comments on Israel (Jews must stay on visionary Obama’s side"). Rabbi Grater claims to speak for the Jewish community when he says that "The Jewish community knows that President Obama is this kind of leader." The rabbi is entitled to his views on American politics, but he is not entitled to speak for American Jewry at a time of fraught U.S.-Israel relations brought on by the White House's ineffective Middle East diplomacy.
When the White House pushed Israel over a zoning issue in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, the Arab side felt compelled to be no less demanding than the White House. The president's position was unpopular with many Americans. Almost immediately, three-quarters of our elected representatives, including 76 senators and more than three-quarters of the House, both Republicans and Democrats, signed bipartisan letters in response demanding that the president reaffirm the U.S.-Israel relationship.
In support of his political position, Rabbi Grater quotes an ancient text, the Pirkei Avot: "While we are not called up to finish the job, we are certainly called upon to never cease from trying." Unfortunately, the nature of "the job" is left undefined. If the task is to ensure the survival of the only Jewish state in the world and the millions who live there, then Jews and other supporters of Israel may demand that President Obama not just say that he is a friend of Israel but act like one.
La Canada Flintridge, Calif.
The rabbi's column CLICK HERE stated:
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American Jews overwhelmingly supported Obama in the 2008 election, and the majority continues to support him because his vision for our country -- a vision of inclusion, strength through diplomacy, peace and providing for the neediest among us -- resonates deeply with Jews. The battle for reform and improvement, especially in the face of fear and misinformation, is a long one that requires perseverance. We would be wise to embrace perseverance when considering whether we should abandon the president after only one year.
Ancient Jewish tradition in Pirke Avot, the Ethics of our Ancestors, teaches that “while we are not called upon to finish the job, we are certainly called upon to never cease from trying.” For Jews, this applies to the task of building a nation that lives up to the ideals of both our Jewish sages and our American founders.