The light still shines after 30 years – a story of a Black-Jewish friendship

Pastor Kenneth Flowers and I met one day in 1991 at a meeting of African American pastors and rabbis convened by my late colleague, Rabbi Harvey Fields of Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. Harvey called the meeting after several years of widening alienation between the religious leadership of the Los Angeles African American and Jewish communities that resulted in part after a disturbing appearance in Los Angeles by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan at the Los Angeles Forum where he spoke before 15,000 of his faithful. Farrakhan angrily made blatantly disparaging remarks about Jews, the Holocaust, and the State of Israel. Mayor Tom Bradley, the first African American Mayor of Los Angeles, called Farrakhan out and charged his remarks as antisemitic.

Despite the mayor’s close friendship with the leadership of the Los Angeles Jewish community, the former civil rights alliance during the years of Dr. King had diminished. This meeting was meant to help restore friendship amongst Black and Jewish clergy and, hopefully, between Los Angeles’ African American churches and synagogues.

Pastor Ken Flowers was by far the youngest person in the room at the time (about 32 years-old). I was ten years his senior, but also among the youngest clergy present. We gravitated towards each other after the meeting, felt an easy affinity, and agreed to bring our two congregations (Messiah Baptist Church on West Adams in South Los Angeles and Temple Israel of Hollywood on Hollywood Blvd.) together so our respective congregants could come to know one another. It was a wonderful shidduch (match) between Ken and me personally and between our two congregations.

Ken preached at Temple Israel on Martin Luther King’s birthday weekend and I preached annually at Messiah Baptist Church. Ken lit one of six candles each year on Yom HaShoah representing righteous non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust alongside our synagogue’s survivors and children of survivors. Following the 1994 Los Angeles Earthquake, I opened our synagogue chapel to his congregation for Sunday worship when his church building was orange-tagged (i.e. unsafe until it could be retro-fitted according to city code). We shared cultural events, our respective musical traditions, and ethnic food as one but diverse community of culture and faith. Our respective congregants were inspired by Ken’s and my friendship and many made friendships of their own. It was a model of what could be, but it was cut short when Ken took a new position in Detroit, Michigan and the leaders of Messiah Baptist Church backed away from what Ken and I called our “covenant relationship.”

This past week, journalist Robin Washington, who wrote about our relationship in 1992 following the acquittal of four members of the LAPD who brutally beat black motorist Rodney King and the riots that spread throughout Los Angeles, contacted both Ken and me for a “follow-up” article – 30 years later!

As Robin notes, Ken’s and my memories of our time together are surprisingly similar despite the passage of time, and our enduring affection for one another and our affinity for what’s important in each other’s communities continues.

This blog appears also at the Times of Israel – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-light-still-shines-after-30-years-a-story-of-a-black-jewish-friendship/

Robin’s article appears in The Forward this week: https://forward.com/news/501109/john-rosove-kenneth-flowers-l-a-1992-rodney-king/

In Memorial – Howard Epstein – 30 Years Ago This Week

Historical Notes:

I wrote the following blog on the 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots that erupted subsequent to the jury verdict that dismissed the case against four LAPD officers who incessantly beat Rodney King (1965-2012) during his arrest, after a high-speed chase, for driving while intoxicated on the I-210 Freeway on March 3, 1991. George Holliday filmed the beating from his nearby balcony and sent the footage to a local news station (KTLA). The video showed an unarmed Rodney King on the ground being abused after initially evading arrest. The incident was covered by news media around the world and caused wide scale rioting throughout Los Angeles.

The rioting lasted six days, killed 63 people, and injured 2,383. It ended after the California Army National Guard and Marine Corps joined the LAPD to re-establish control. The federal government prosecuted a civil rights case and obtained grand jury indictments of the four officers for the violation of Rodney King’s civil rights. Their trial in a federal district court ended in April 1993 with two of the officers found guilty and sentenced to serve prison terms. The other two were acquitted of the charges. In a separate civil lawsuit in 1994, a jury found the City of Los Angeles liable and awarded Rodney King $3.8 million in damages.

Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley created an Independent Commission of inquiry, also known as the Christopher Commission, in April 1991. Led by attorney (and a former United States Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton), Warren Christopher, the Commission conducted “a full and fair examination of the structure and operation of the LAPD,” including its recruitment and training practices, internal disciplinary system, and citizen complaint system. (Source: Wikipedia)

When my community at Temple Israel of Hollywood in Los Angeles learned of Howard Epstein’s death (he grew up at Temple Israel – his parents were beloved members), the sense of loss for them, his wife, children, sister, and extended family was very great. Here is my blog reprinted and updated from the 20th anniversary of Howard’s death.

The day after the Rodney King verdict thirty years ago (April 29, 1992), I received a call from long-time Temple Israel of Hollywood members, Lillian and Marty Epstein, that their son Howard (who was about my age) was missing.

As soon as the rioting began, Howard flew from Oakland Airport near his family home in Orinda, CA to attend to his business located in South Los Angeles. He owned and operated a factory there for a number of years and employed 20 workers. These were people about whom he cared deeply. He knew all their families, and so, when the riots erupted Howard felt it his duty to be with them.

He landed at LAX in the late afternoon, rented a car, and commenced his fifteen-minute drive to his place of business. Along the way, somewhere, he vanished. By evening no one heard from him. Given the tumult in the city, his wife Stephanie and parents were worried.

The following day, exactly thirty years ago this weekend, the police contacted Lillian and Marty with the terrible news. At a stop-light Howard was approached by two men who murdered him at point blank range and took everything of value in his car. The police were able to identify Howard only by tracing the car to the rental agency.

Howard deliberately moved a couple of years earlier with Stephanie and their two small children out of Los Angeles because he felt the city was no longer safe and he did not want to raise his children in this environment.

When the rioting stopped, we honored Howard’s memory in a memorial service in our synagogue Sanctuary where he became bar mitzvah many years earlier. His family and friends described Howard as among the most kind, community conscious, and caring of men, a rachaman ben rachmanim, a compassionate son of compassionate parents.

I remember Howard every year at this time, and especially this week, thirty years after his tragic death.

Zichrono livracha. May Howard’s memory be a blessing.

Reflections on Evil and Genocide for this Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day

Every year at this time, the Jewish people prepares to commemorate on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) the murder of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their allies. Though the Holocaust was a unique crime in Jewish and human history, we Jews cannot ignore other crimes against other peoples in the last century including, but not limited to, in Armenia, Russia under Stalin, Cambodia, Serbia, Croatia, Congo, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Hutu, Bosnia, Darfur, Chechnya, Urhghurs, Syria, Ukraine, and more.

On the heels of Pesach that emphasizes the virtue of compassion (recall the Midrash describing God’s judgmental response to His ministering angels when they sang praises as the Egyptian army drowned: “My creatures are perishing, and you sing praises!”), it’s impossible not to ask how compassionate human beings can wrap their heads and hearts around tragedies of such scale? How ought superpowers to act in confronting such evil? What are we citizens of western democracies morally obliged to do to prevent such crimes before they happen and to respond when they do?

These are the questions that I presume plague President Biden, the vast majority of the American people, the people of Israel, and the NATO alliance today. My guts tell me to fight fire with fire, but my head recognizes that the President is justifiably worried that Putin will resort to using nuclear weapons if/when he feels cornered or defeated.

With Yom HaShoah and all genocidal tragedies in mind, I compiled a number of quotations written over the centuries addressing the phenomenon of evil.

First, in memory of those who perished in the Shoah, I offer this prayer:

May the memory of our people who perished in the Shoah remain for us, our children, and our children’s children a warning never to be naïve concerning the evil capacity of humankind, or to become ourselves hardhearted, indifferent, and passive in the face of evil political and governmental leaders and their nations that demonize and objectivize the “other.”

The Banality of Evil

“The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else. No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such… Except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement, he had no motives at all…he merely never realized what he was doing…he could see no one, no one at all, who actually was against the Final Solution…[what we have demanded in this trial] is that human beings be capable of telling right from wrong, even when all they have to guide them is their own judgment which, moreover, happens to be completely at odds with what they must regard as the unanimous opinion of all those around them.”

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975), a political philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor reflecting about Adolph Eichmann during his trial in Israel in 1961 for the crime of genocide

Dualism and the Problem of Evil

“Evil is an independent, active force, apart from and opposed to God. Dualism…explains evil as the work of a mythic counter-force: the devil, the demiurge, Satan, the anti-Christ, the Prince of Darkness, and the many other names for the embodiment of evil…. Dualism resolves cognitive dissonance by saying, in effect, ‘It wasn’t us, and it wasn’t God, so it must be Them,’ whoever ‘Them’ happen to be. It turns penitential cultures into blame cultures, externalizing evil and projecting it on a scapegoat, thereby redefining the faithful as victims…the children of Satan must be masters of disguise, practitioners of sorcery or more modern dark arts. From there it is a short step to seeing them as subhuman (for the Nazis, Jews were ‘vermin, lice’; for the Hutus of Rwanda, the Tutsi were inyenzi, ‘cockroaches.’ They can then be killed without compunction. There is a straight line from dualism to demonization to dehumanization to genocide…Dualism is the single most effective doctrine in persuading good people to do evil things….Those who commit mass murder see themselves as defending their people, avenging their humiliation, ridding the world of a pestilence and helping to establish the victory of truth, racial, political or religious.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (1948-2020), The Great Partnership, p. 247 – an English Orthodox rabbi, philosopher, theologian, author, public intellectual, and Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth

The Soul of the Murderer

“The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole, men [humankind] are more good than bad; that however, isn’t the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. The soul of the murderer is blind; and there can be no true goodness nor true love without the utmost clear-sightedness.”

Albert Camus (1913-1960), The Plague – a 20th century French philosopher, author, journalist, and French Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature

Evil Derives its Strength from Good People

“The force which makes for war does not derive its strength from the interested motives of evil men; it derives its strength from the disinterested motives of good men.”

Norman Angell (1872-1967), a lecturer, author, British MP, and English Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Condoning Evil

“One who condones evil is just as guilty as the one who perpetrates it.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) – a preeminent civil rights leader and American Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

The Problem and Sin of Silence

“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence. A great people which had created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality, and in the face of mass murder.”

–Rabbi Joachim Prinz (1902-1988), (the above is a portion of the speech he delivered at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C). – a German-American Rabbi, Zionist, and civil rights leader

Evil and Indifference

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph.”

Haile Selassie (1892-1975), a former Emperor of Ethiopia

The Triumph of Evil

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [women] to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), an Irish-born British statesman, economist, and philosopher

On Guilt and Moral Responsibility

“Morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings. Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, [and] in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

– Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), a 20th century Jewish theologian, philosopher, and social justice activist

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

I’ve been thinking much about the importance of memory since my retirement from the congregational rabbinate almost three years ago, my own and the role it plays in a nation’s, a people’s, and a family’s history and identity. William Faulkner put it well when he said: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Though we forget much as we age, what once happened, even if we’ve forgotten all about it, nevertheless continues to lie dormant in one’s unconscious until one day something provokes it and it re-emerges into the present.

This past year, my 36 year-old son Daniel asked me to transcribe 23 hour-long cassette tapes that I sent to my mother (z’l) from Israel between August 1973 and May 1974 when I studied in my first year of rabbinic school in Jerusalem. As I listened to my then 23 and 24 year-old self offer commentary about living in Israel before, during, and after the Yom Kippur War, I was struck by how much I had forgotten. Such is the benefit of keeping a journal, verbal or written.

The tapes reminded me that I greeted some of the first Soviet Refusniks coming to Israel. I described the blaring sirens that shook the silence of Yom Kippur afternoon on October 6, 1973 alerting Israelis that the country was, for the fourth time in 25 years, at war. I had forgotten that I took a bus to Hadassah Hospital a few days after the war began to give blood and stood outside the ER as helicopters from the Sinai front brought badly injured soldiers for treatment. I recalled specifics of my volunteering the night-shift at Berman Bakery, one of two large bakeries outside of Jerusalem, when on one night before the Festival of Sukkot our skeletal staff of Israelis and international volunteers baked 85,000 loaves of bread that were taken by truck to the Egyptian front and throughout Jerusalem. I described my early morning walk following my 8-hour night-shift from a central meeting point in Jerusalem to my university dorm in the blacked-out holy city, and looked up at a blanket of thousands of stars appearing like little lanterns suspended from a black velvet firmament sparkling in the quiet cold autumn Jerusalem sky despite the ferocious war on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. I spoke about how Israel was suffering a serious blow not only in the massive loss of thousands of young soldiers and the injury of many more, but to its self-image as an impenetrable regional power following the 1967 Six-Day War. I told my mother how I joined 250,000 Israelis standing in line for hours to walk by the casket of Israel’s founding patriarch, David Ben Gurion, as he lay in-state outside the Knesset doors. I had forgotten how many weekends I spent with my Petach Tikvah and Jerusalem families. And I spoke about my struggle and progress learning Hebrew, a life-long pursuit and love-affair with the language of the Jewish people that continues to this day.

Since I retired three years ago, I decided to do a deep dive not only into my own memory that transcribing these tapes assisted me in doing, but also into learning about my family’s history. In the process, I wrote a memoir and an imaginary conversation with my father who died when I was nine years-old. I translated the Hebrew biography of my great-granduncle Avraham Shapira of Petach Tikvah who I met when I was 6 years-old when he visited our family in Los Angeles in 1956, and a book of Hebrew poetry, letters, and writings of his grand-nephew Michael Shapira, (son of Yitzchak-Tzvi and Devorah Shapira who I knew well during that year in Israel), who was killed at the age of 19 by Arab Fedayeen in 1952 on a road in the northern Negev while on duty in his Nachal unit.

I read again the letters that my father, a physician in the US Navy during World War II serving in the South Pacific, wrote to his cousins in Philadelphia between 1942 and 1944, among his only written words that I have, in which he described in great detail the American soldiers and events of those years in Hawaii beginning a month after the attack on Pearl Harbor and on Midway Atoll after that critical battle in the war. I pulled out old boxes of family photographs going back more than 120 years and peered at the people preserved in those frozen moments in time, now all gone. I read the autobiography of my father’s favorite aunt, Fanny Sharlip, a refugee from Ukraine whose grandmother was raped in a Cossack pogrom and who fled with her family to America in the 1890s. Aunt Fanny worked as a seamstress in a Philadelphia sweatshop at the turn of the 20th century where she met my paternal grandmother and became the best of friends. Fanny contracted Tuberculosis and her doctor urged her and her husband, my grandmother’s brother, to move to a warmer climate. They moved west and settled in the Boyle Heights neighborhood east of downtown Los Angeles where most Jewish immigrants to LA initially lived.

In hearing about her successful recovery from TB, others from the east coast who also suffered from the disease sought her out once they moved to LA, and she and my great-uncle took them into their own home to help them heal. However, the burden became too great from so many taking up residence with them. They and my grandparents, two other couples, a few doctors, and wealthy Los Angeles Jews took matters into their own hands and purchased a small land parcel in an out-of-the-way area called Duarte outside Los Angeles’ city limits (the LA City Council refused to build a sanitarium because it feared the contagion inside the city limits). There in Duarte they pitched tents and created what came to be known as “The City of Hope,” now an internationally renowned medical center.

I’ve always been fascinated by history, and as a consequence of knowing more about my own family story, my sense of gratitude deepened for my forebears’ struggles and successes and how I stand upon their shoulders.

Memory defines us; and even if we do not personally experience an event, we can make it our own. The Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim remarked: “Knowledge creates memory” which suggests that when we learn history and listen to the stories of our parents and grandparents, we take in their memories and make them ours as essential elements of our family story. When we lose memory, we lose a sense of how we came to be who we are and, for our children’s and grandchildren’s sake, who they are too. Faulkner was right – “The Past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Note: A Seder discussion with my family around our table this year inspired this blog, and especially the line from Mishnah Pesachim 10:5 that constitutes a core theme of the Seder and Jewish life: “In every generation we are to regard ourselves as having personally been redeemed from Egypt.”

This blog also is posted at the Times of Israelhttps://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-past-is-never-dead-its-not-even-past-william-faulkner/

Title 42 – and the President’s Low Approval Numbers

Title 42 has been used more than one million times to expel people at the U.S.-Mexico border who were only seeking safety and a better life. The Biden Administration announced that it will finally end the use of the program on May 23.

I am printing below a letter that I signed along with many other Jewish clergy across the country to President Biden thanking him for taking a far more compassionate position vis a vis those refugees seeking asylum in the United States.

This letter was co-authored by HIAS and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.

President Biden deserves far more support for the progressive policies he has championed since coming into office despite an even split in the Senate and a few votes margin for Democrats in the House. Biden is not getting that support mostly due to high inflation, gas and grocery prices over which he has very little control. His numbers have not risen despite his strong diplomatic skills over the past 6 weeks in rallying military and financial support for Ukraine, bringing NATO back together, calling out Putin for what he is (a war criminal), and representing the best of American foreign policy.

His low numbers seem to be stuck because, it seems to me, the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party continues to harp against him despite his many progressive accomplishments in his first-fifteen months in office. It’s time that Democrats (and Independents too) recognize how much is at stake in the coming mid-terms and come together in support of the President and Democrats in swing-districts in the House and purple states in the Senate. We Democrats cannot be our own worst enemies.

Jewish support for the President has also dipped from 80% at the time of the election to 63% today. Perhaps around our Seder tables we Jewish liberals can discuss this and affirm that liberal Jewish American values are at stake in this election and that we ought to be doing everything we can to lift these poll numbers so that the damage done in the mid-terms will be far less than we now fear.

Forgive my diversion here, but I wanted to get this off my chest before the holidays.

Hag Pesach Sameach.

Here is the letter I signed:


Dear President Biden:

We, the X undersigned Jewish clergy from across the country, welcome the announcement that Title 42 will no longer be used to deny entry to asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. We are thrilled that this public health regulation, which has been used to expel tens of thousands of people who were doing nothing more than legally seeking protection and safety in the United States, will soon be a thing of the past. We thank your administration for finally ending the implementation of Title 42.

Our tradition teaches us that every person seeking asylum, just like everyone in the world, is infinitely precious and holy. And, as Jewish clergy in the United States, both the aspirations of our country and the teachings of our Torah call on us to love, welcome, and care for the most vulnerable among us.

From the very first day of Title 42’s implementation in 2020, public health experts have been adamant that it serves no protection against the spread of COVID-19, the specious claim that both the current and former administrations used to justify its use. And yet it continued with devastating human impact. It is estimated that since the start of your administration, there have been almost 10,000 kidnappings and cases of torture, rape and other violent attacks on people turned away. 

As your administration works to rebuild the U.S. asylum system, we call on you to fulfill the promise that this country has made to generations of people who sought a new start, the commitment that you made in your campaign promises, to protect the basic right of each and every individual to seek safety in our country, and to treat people with fairness and compassion.

Furthermore, the right to seek safety cannot – and should never – be provided selectively. We have seen reports that Ukrainian asylum seekers have been able to enter the country while those from Central American countries, Haiti, and other countries have been denied. This cannot be allowed to continue. Treating Ukrainian refugees with respect and dignity is paramount; and, human rights and dignity must be available to all asylum seekers.

As our community nears the Passover holiday, we remember that our story is a refugee story, and that our community too traversed the desert fleeing oppression. Our American Jewish community has a deep historical connection to the refugee experience, and many generations of our families have sought safety in this country. We know what it looks like to be welcomed, and we know what it looks like to be turned away, including by misguided public health regulations.

Our communities are ready to welcome asylum seekers into our communities with warmth and generosity. We are eager to greet our new neighbors, to join a chorus of welcome from advocates across the border and across the country. We look forward to working with your Administration to build a just and humane asylum system that gives equal treatment to all human beings fleeing violence and persecution. 

Putin’s Brutality is Nothing New!!!

The west is understandably shocked by the depth and breadth of Putin’s brutality and war crimes in Ukraine, but we should not be at all surprised. Putin has a long history as a murderer, so wrote Masha Gessen in her chilling book The Man Without a Face – The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin – with a postscript (New York: Penguin Random House, 2012).

Here is a partial list (compiled from Gessen’s book and from Wikipedia entries) of those murdered at Putin’s command. For those interested in Putin’s overall corruption and greed, I recommend reading Masha Gessen’s well-documented book in which she paints a horrific profile of a murderous autocrat.  

Viktor Borisenko, Putin’s childhood friend and classmate, described Putin and the company he kept since childhood this way:

Thugs all. Unwashed, unshaven guys with cigarettes and bottles of cheap wine. Constant drinking, cursing, fistfights. And there was Putin in the middle of all this … if anyone ever insulted him in any way, Volodya [Vladimir nick-name] would immediately jump on the guy, scratch him, bite him, rip his hair out by the clump – do anything at all never to allow anyone to humiliate him in any way.” (Gessen, p.48)

The following are journalists, who were investigating Putin’s crimes, and political leaders, who either were once his allies but turned into adversaries, or who were always adversaries, as well as mass killings, who were murdered at the command of Vladimir Putin:

Boris Yefimovich Nemtsov – From 2000 until his death, he was an outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin. He criticized Putin’s government as an increasingly authoritarian, undemocratic regime, highlighting widespread embezzlement and profiteering ahead of the Sochi Olympics, and Russian political interference and military involvement in Ukraine. After 2008, Nemtsov published in-depth reports detailing the corruption under Putin, which he connected directly with the President. Nemtsov was shot and killed in Moscow in 2015.

Marina Litvinovich – Opposition journalist. Was threatened, beaten, and robbed. In the late 1990s she created Russia’s first political website for Boris Nemtsov, at that point deputy prime minister, who (as noted above) was murdered in 2015. On February 24, 2022, as Russia invaded Ukraine, Litvinovich called for antiwar protests in Russian cities. She was detained by Russian police as she left her house.

Andrei Babitsky – Russian journalist and war reporter, who worked for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) from 1989 to 2014, covering the 1991 August Coup, Civil War in Tajikistan and both the First and Second Chechen Wars from behind Chechen lines. The radio correspondent was detested by Russian authorities for his powerful reports on civilian suffering and soldiers’ hardships in Chechnya which official television coverage carefully avoided. He died of a “heart attack” on April 2, 2022 in his apartment. At the age of 57, one has to wonder, given Putin’s history, whether he was murdered.

Anatoly Aleksandrovich Sobchak was a Soviet and Russian politician, a co-author of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the first democratically elected mayor of Saint Petersburg, and a mentor and teacher of both Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev. He called Putin “the new Stalin.” He mysteriously died in a resort town outside Kaliningrad, but ultimately was determined to have been poisoned with a substance smeared on his bedside lamp that was released when he turned on the light. Sobchak’s two body guards were soon thereafter poisoned (Ibid, 143).

Sergei Nikolayevich Yushenkov was a liberal Russian politician. He was a career military man, turned liberal, and shot four times in the chest in broad daylight on April 17, 2003, just hours after registering his political party to participate in the December 2003 parliamentary elections (Ibid, 129);

Arkady Vaksberg – an investigative journalist who investigated Sobchak’s death. His car was blown up in his Moscow garage, but he wasn’t in it (Ibid, 144).

Kursk submarine disaster in which most of the crew died instantly, and in the end all 118 personnel on board were killed. Vladimir Putin initially continued his vacation at a seaside resort and only authorized the Russian Navy to accept British and Norwegian assistance after five days had passed. Putin publicly said nothing about this tragedy and offered little to no solace to the families of the victims (Ibid, 164-172).

Yuri Petrovich Shchekochikhin was a Soviet and later Russian investigative journalist, writer, and liberal lawmaker in the Russian parliament. He wrote and campaigned against the influence of organized crime and corruption. His last non-fiction book, Slaves of the KGB, was about people who worked as KGB informers. He was part of an independent committee investigating the 1999 apartment bombings. Shchekochikhin died suddenly on July 3, 2003 from a mysterious illness a few days before his scheduled departure to the United States, where he planned to meet with FBI investigators. His medical documents were either lost or destroyed by authorities. The symptoms of his illness fit a pattern of poisoning by radioactive materials and were similar to the symptoms of Nikolai Khokhlov, Roman Tsepov, and Alexander Litvinenko. According to Litvinenko and news reports, the death of Yuri Shchekochikhin was a politically motivated assassination. (Ibid. 211).

The Beslan school siege was a terrorist attack that started on September 1, 2004, lasted three days, involved the imprisonment of more than 1,100 people as hostages and ended with the deaths of 333 people, 186 of them children, as well as 31 of the attackers. Gessen reports that all died at the hands of the Russian military that had no intention of negotiating with the “terrorists.” The so-called terrorists were trying to protect the children, but Russian tanks, military grenade launchers, and fire launchers let loose on the gymnasium despite efforts by the local police to stop the Russian troops from firing (Ibid, 216).

Anna Politkovskaya – Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist, and human rights activist who reported on political events in Russia, in particular, the Second Chechen War. It was her reporting from Chechnya that made Politkovskaya’s national and international reputation. Politkovskaya  was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building in central Moscow (Ibid, 219).

The Russian apartment bombings were a series of explosions that hit four apartment blocks in the Russian cities of Buynaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk in September 1999, killing more than 300, injuring more than 1,000, and spreading a wave of fear across the country. The bombings, together with the Invasion of Dagestan, triggered the Second Chechen War. Then-prime minister Vladimir Putin‘s handling of the crisis boosted his popularity and helped him attain the presidency within a few months. Russian courts ruled that the attacks were orchestrated by Chechen-linked militants, while some scholars, journalists, and politicians argued that Russian security services likely organized the bombings. Masha Gessen concluded that these bombings were the work of the secret police to enhance the politics of fear and enable Putin to take control of local governments. Putin’s aim was to maximize bloodshed and multiply fear and horror  (Ibid, 217).

Chechen Genocide – Sources claim that 400,000 died, while presuming a higher number of deportees. A higher percentage of Chechens were killed than any other ethnic group persecuted by population transfer in the Soviet Union. Masha Gessen wrote that Putin was guilty of genocide of the Chechen people (Ibid, 220).

Alexander Valterovich Litvinenko was a British-naturalized Russian defector and former officer of the Russian Federal Security Service who specialized in tackling organized crime. A prominent critic of Putin, he advised British intelligence and coined the term “mafia state”. On  November 1, 2006, Litvinenko suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized after poisoning by polonium-210; he died from the poisoning on November 23, 2006. Litvinenko knew he was poisoned, and dictated a note blaming Putin.. The cause of death was poison by polonium, a highly radioactive substance (Ibid, 223-224).

Alexei Navalny – Jailed Kremlin critic who was building a movement against Putin and was poisoned, flown to Germany for treatment, recovered, and was arrested. Now languishing in a Russian prison.

Ukraine – estimates of the deaths of Ukrainians and Russian soldiers, all of whose blood are on the hands of Vladimir Putin, are yet to be determined.

Israel’s “Jewish” Character – The Religious-Right vs. the Middle-Left

Israel is obviously not alone in confronting the Ukrainian refugee crisis, but opinion in Israel about accepting non-Jewish refugees is disturbingly mixed.

According to a recent Israel Democracy Research Institute Survey, 44% of all Israelis support welcoming Ukrainian refugees regardless of their religion, which means that the majority of Israelis are opposed to welcoming these non-Jewish war-terrified refugees. Breaking down the percentages into the “yes” and “no” columns offers an unsettling picture of the differences between the Israeli-middle and left-wing on the one hand and the Israeli religious and right-wing on the other with respect to the Jewish value of welcoming the stranger.

On the political left, 74% are open to refugees – in the political center, 59.5% are in support – on the political right, 31% are supportive – among the ultra-Orthodox, only 6% welcome Ukrainians – in the national religious movement, the figure rises to 20% – among the traditionally religious, 35% –the non-religious traditionalists, 35% – and amongst secular Israelis, 60%. There are differences between Jewish-Israelis and Arab-Israelis. See this article in The Times of Israel (https://www.timesofisrael.com/new-poll-finds-israelis-split-on-ukrainian-refugees-based-on-religiosity-politics/)

On the religious-right, there might well be a fear that the “Jewish character” of the state will be threatened if large numbers of non-Jewish immigrants enter and remain in Israel for a limited or indefinite period of time. Others in that camp may be suspicious and resentful of non-Jews, having themselves come from nations in which antisemitic persecution made their lives miserable and forced them to leave their country of origin.

Regarding middle-left-wing-Israelis – Their support of Ukrainian refugees coming regardless of whether they are Jewish or not suggests that they are not concerned about this wave of refugees being an existential threat to the “Jewish character” of the State of Israel?

Israel set a maximum of 100,000 Ukrainians that would be welcome as refugees, many of whom are Jewish, but whatever the number is of non-Jews that wish to come, this small immigration wave is hardly a threat to Israel’s “Jewish” character and majority population. Most of these people are not immigrants anyway. They are refugees fleeing the violence of war, and it is assumed that most will want to return to Ukraine once the war is over. Even if they remain and eventually become citizens, the numbers are not overwhelming.

The difference in attitude towards Ukrainian refugees between the middle-left and religious-right is based, I suggest, on how each group defines “Jewish state.” For the religious-right, “Jewish” means creating a “Halakhic state” as opposed to a liberal democratic state. For the middle-left, “Jewish” means enabling Jewish culture to flourish in a liberal democratic state.

By all markers, Jewish culture in Israel is flourishing and secure. Over time, Judaism has been subsumed into the Israeli character itself. Those in the middle-left are, by all accounts, proud liberal Jewish nationalists and proud Jews. They want to take part in the global culture and economy. They are happy that the country speaks Hebrew and lives according to the Jewish calendar. They want Jewish and Hebrew education for their children in the school system.

The difference between the religious-right and the middle-left comes down to how each regards Jewish tradition playing itself out in the State of Israel, and what values are most important.

For 3500 years, a principle Jewish value has been “to welcome the stranger” (cited 36 times in the Torah). For the religious-right, this mitzvah applies only to Jewish refugees. For the middle-left it applies universally to any refugee in distress, Jewish or not.

Though Israel is too small a country to take in millions of people – millions are not clamoring to come – the call of this moment is about helping Ukrainian refugees in crisis. There is a process in becoming an Israeli citizen, and there is no need to change that process.

The Jewish value of “welcoming the stranger” (indeed, any stranger fleeing persecution and violence) ought to compel Israel to throw open the gates and let all refugees, Jewish and non-Jewish, who choose to come to do so and be welcomed with open arms. Not only is doing so based in Jewish values but also in our own historic Jewish experience of being a persecuted people forced to wander the earth.

This blog appears also at The Times of Israel https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/israels-jewish-character-the-religious-right-vs-the-middle-left/

Good News on Planned al-Walaja Home Demolitions

Note: I wrote about the impending Israeli government’s demolition of the homes of 38 Palestinians in the East Jerusalem village of al-Walaja on March 24, and there is good news to report. The following comes from Amenu, the American support group for Israel’s Labor Party. Ken Bob, the President of Amenu, helped lead the action in the United States to garner American Congressional support to enlist Secretary of State Tony Blinken to help persuade Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to use his influence to persuade the Israeli courts not to demolish the homes of 38 Palestinian families in this village. Read Ken’s brief report here with links to Ken’s article in the Times of Israel and the congressional letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken. Here is one example in which the American Jewish community in our role as progressive Zionists can, at times, have an impact on Israeli policy:

“Over the past couple of weeks, we have been reporting on the threat of home demolition facing 38 families in the village of al-Walaja on the outskirts of Jerusalem. We wrote about our visit to the village in the Times of Israel and called on our members to urge your congressional representatives to support this letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken.

We are pleased to report that our activism worked!

Our friends at the NGO Ir Amim report that on Wednesday the hearing to block the demolition took place at the Supreme Court and it lasted only five minutes. The judges decided to postpone the proceedings for 7 months to allow for the further advancement of the planning process that has been initiated by the village alongside experts, including those from Ir Amim and Bimkom. This means that the demolition freeze currently protecting the 38 homes is extended until at least November 1, 2022.

It is clear that the pressure created by all of the public and private efforts succeeded in moderating the stance of the Israeli government. Previously, it took a hardline approach pushing for the demolition of the homes and expressing opposition to an equitable planning arrangement; following the extensive campaign carried out by a coalition of organizations including Ameinu, the State Attorney yesterday proposed a postponement of the proceedings, suggesting an openness to alternative solutions.

Together with our colleagues in the U.S. and in Israel, we are discussing next steps to ensure that we support the al-Walaja villagers as they prepare a compelling zoning plan for submission to the municipal authorities. In addition, there are eight homes within the village that are not included in this legal case and have pending demolition orders against them. Since they are not protected by the demolition freeze, they can be destroyed at any time. We must all join together to call upon Israeli government to freeze these orders and advance fair urban planning policies for al-Walaja and the rest of the East Jerusalem neighborhoods.

We will share the next steps of the action plan in the weeks to come as we continue to support the desire of Arab residents of Jerusalem to live their lives equitably alongside their Jewish neighbors.”

A New Grandchild – Carrying Forward the Life of our Family and People

Our daughter in-law Marina gave birth this past week to hers and Daniel’s second child, a boy this time, who they named “Leon BenAmi” after my father, the baby’s great-grandfather – and his two grandmothers, each with the name Barbara (using the “B” in BenAmi) affirming that little Leon is the “son of my people.”

When Leon was born last Friday morning (March 25), we were beyond thrilled with the news that we have a second grandchild. If that were all there is to say, “Dayenu – it is enough.” However, Marina and Daniel chose the name “Leon,” a name that is meaningfully large in the Rosove family-line. Daniel’s middle name is “Leon,” named in memory of my father, Leon Rosove (1905-1959). I too carry the middle name of “Leon,” but named not for my father, but for my maternal grandfather, Leon Bay (1881-1932).

When Jews name their children, they make their choices for many reasons. They like the sound of the name. They look for English names that have direct Hebrew equivalents, as Barbara and I did with our sons Daniel and David. And they name their children after members of their family who carry positive associations and values.

Sephardic Jewish families often name babies for living relatives. Ashkenazic families name their children in memory of deceased loved ones.

I always encouraged b’nei mitzvah young people in my congregation that if they were named for someone in their families, they owed it to themselves to learn as much as they could about their namesake – when and where they were born – who were their parents and grandparents – what they did with their lives – what were their values and accomplishments – what and who did they love. Knowing these things can serve as a guide in their own lives and, in a way, as a mentor of sorts, to fashion their values based upon the values of the one for whom they are named.

In that spirit – here are a few things about Leon BenAmi’s namesake, my father and his great-grandfather, Leon Rosove (z’l).

My Dad attended UC Berkeley as an undergraduate and entered the University of California San Francisco Medical School and earned his MD degree in 1932. He specialized in internal medicine with a sub-specialty in cardiology. Upon finishing his residency, he returned to Los Angeles to practice medicine.

On December 7, 1941, already a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Naval Reserves, he enlisted that day and left a month later for service on the medical staff at the Honolulu Naval base. As his ship sailed into Pearl Harbor he saw the burning oil and debris still in the waters from the attack a month before. He treated troops there from 1942-1943. Then he was assigned to be the chief medical officer on Midway Atoll in the South Pacific theater from 1943 to 1944 (a year after the consequential battle there). He was honorably discharged in 1944 and returned to Los Angeles to resume his medical practice.

He met my mother in early 1947 and they married later that year. Both my parents were somewhat older (my mother was 31 and father was 42) and so, like many after WWII, they wasted no time in having children. My brother, Michael, was born in 1948. I came along a year later in 1949.

We were a happy family in the 1950s. My Dad, as the Assistant Chief of Medicine at the Wadsworth Westwood Veterans Administration Hospital, had normal working hours, coming home by 5:30 every evening, doing rounds on weekends, but being available to us the rest of the time. He also taught medical students at the UCLA Medical School.

His patients and students loved him as did everyone who knew him. He was kind, attentive, smart, humble, generous, and wise. I never saw him lose his temper or say an unkind word about anyone. He loved people, and as an only child he was devoted to his extended family of cousins and my mother’s large family of siblings and their children.

When he died in 1959, he left a hole in my heart that never was filled. Though I was only nine years-old, I learned much from him. The impress of a parent’s influence upon a child begins very early and lasts a lifetime. He taught me by example the virtues of compassion and empathy. He was a gentle man and a gentleman. His liberal politics reflected his concerns for justice and the rights of the underdog.

My father was part of what Tom Brokaw called “the greatest generation of Americans” who gave selflessly to country, bore with courage and perseverance the deprivations of the Great Depression and the burdens of fighting in World War II, worked hard, and helped rebuild America after the allied victory over Nazism and autocracy.

My father was devoted as well to his Israeli cousins, orthodox rabbis from Ukraine, who he helped financially in the 1930s to pay their passage to Palestine. He also assisted in 1949 a young cousin who had been raised by German Christians during the Shoah to come and live in Petach Tikvah with his uncle and aunt, my father’s first-cousins.

Holding little Leon BenAmi this week as I held my sons decades ago, felt so familiar, so natural, so wonderful. Barbara and I are immensely happy for Marina, Daniel, and Violet (now 3 years old) who happily has a little brother, and our son David who is a loving uncle for the second time.

I mentioned yesterday to Daniel as I held Leon that it’s with awe and wonder that I realize that in these first days of Leon’s life there are so many years ahead in which he will grow and carry forward his family name to help create new worlds and make a contribution to the well-being of others as did and are doing the generations in his family before him.

As Pesach arrives in two weeks, it’s enough for us to say especially this year, Dayenu.

This blog is also posted at the Times of Israel – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-new-grandchild-carrying-forward-the-life-of-our-family-and-people/

“Al-Walaja deserves a zoning plan, not home demolitions” by Ken Bob

My friend, Ken Bob, is in Israel as I write this, and he just published a blog at The Times of Israel on a pressing court case to be decided at the end of March concerning the fate of Palestinian homes in the Jerusalem area village of Al-Walaja that are threatened with demolition by the Israeli government.

You can find Ken’s blog here – an important read – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/al-walaja-deserves-a-zoning-plan-not-home-demolitions/

Earlier this week, Ken asked me to write a second letter to Yair Lapid, Israel’s Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the 237 American Rabbis who wrote in December to Lapid urging him to save these homes. Here is my letter followed by our initial letter from December and the names of all the signatories.

Dear Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Lapid,

I am one of 237 American Rabbis who signed a letter to you in December, 2021 expressing our hope that you will side with the villagers of Al-Walaja to preserve their homes and prevent their demolition.

50 members of the United States Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Blinken last week asking him to speak with you about this unfair, Catch-22 situation.

In our minds, this is a matter of fairness, tzedek, and rachmanut to the people living in this village who simply want to stay in their homes and live out their lives in peace.

Please do everything you can to end the anxiety they feel and resolve this case in their favor.

With respect and admiration,

Rabbi John L. Rosove – Senior Rabbi Emeritus, *Temple Israel of Hollywood, Los Angeles

*Former National Chair of the Association of Reform Zionists of America

*for identification purposes only

December 20, 2021

His Excellency Yair Lapid
Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
9 Yitzhak Rabin Boulevard
Jerusalem 9195022

Dear Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Lapid:

As American rabbis and Jewish community leaders who hope for security, peace, and justice in the state of Israel, we are writing to express our deep concern and distress over the ongoing home demolitions in the Palestinian village of al-Walaja in East Jerusalem and the lack of intervention thus far from the Israeli government to stop them. Time is running out: on Dec. 26, the Supreme Court may allow the demolition of 38 homes and set a precedent for the potential mass dispossession of the entire section of al-Walaja that Israel annexed in 1967. We call on you to intervene and prevent this humanitarian disaster.

It aggrieves us to know that for the Palestinian residents of the part of al-Walaja that was annexed in 1967 to the Jerusalem municipality, building on their lands is forbidden– and that as a result, they have been punished with the demolition of their homes. In addition to the 38 homes under question on Dec. 26, during the past five years some 30 residential homes have been demolished, and four in only the past few months. To date, the approximately 1,000 people residing in the annexed part of the village live under constant threat of demolition at the hands of the Israeli authorities. Meanwhile, the Israeli neighborhoods and settlements right next to al-Walaja– a number of which are built on al-Walaja’s lands– continue expanding.

Since 1967, the Israeli government has failed to fulfill its responsibility to draw a zoning plan for the annexed part of al-Walaja. The residents of al-Walaja have done everything they can, even taking it upon themselves to draw up and submit a zoning plan of their own, a process that requires tremendous investment of effort and money. After putting it on hold for over fifteen years, in January 2021, the District Committee rejected the plan. By preventing al-Walaja the basic right to fair planning, the Israeli authorities essentially have left the residents of al-Walaja with one of two choices: building “illegally” on the land they own, or exile from the village and lands that they have cultivated for generations.

We feel it worth mentioning that the al-Walaja community is preserving an ancient agricultural heritage. To this day its beautiful terraces are all traditionally hand-cultivated by the villagers with no modern implements. Thus, it has been called by the Israeli Society for the Protection of Nature “a unique example of a living biblical landscape.”

We believe that home demolitions do not reflect the values on which the state of Israel was founded, and certainly not those to which it must aspire.

Currently, legal appeals have delayed the execution of the demolition orders for 38 families’ homes. Dozens of other families in the Jerusalem part of al-Walaja are under threat of home demolition. Understanding that the demolitions may be carried out following the hearing on Dec. 26, we ask that you intervene and call on Israel to:

–Immediately freeze ALL demolitions in al-Walaja.
–In tandem, work with the planning authorities to advance an equitable planning solution that will formally authorize existing homes and provide for proper further residential development of al-Walaja in fulfillment of the Israeli government’s obligation to uphold the community’s rights to housing and shelter.
Signed:

Rabbi Rachel Adelman, Hebrew College & WA Square Minyan MA
Rabbi Esther Adler, Mount Zion Temple MN
Rabbi Alana Alpert, Congregation T’chiyah MI
Rabbi Doug Alpert, Congregation Kol Ami-KC MO
Rabbi Renni Altman, Vassar Temple NY
Rabbi Melanie Aron, Congregation Shir Hadash RI
Rabbi Toba August, TSSB CA
Rabbi Susan Averbach, Society for Humanistic Judaism CA
Rabbi Benjamin Barnett, Havurah Shalom OR
Rabbi Phyllis Berman, ALEPH Ordination Program PA
Rabbi Linda Bertenthal, Temple Emanuel IA
Rabbi Binyamin Biber, President, Assn of Humanistic Rabbis – N. America MI
Rabbi Debra Sue Cantor, B’nai Tikvoh-Sholom CT
Rabbi Adam Chalom, Kol Hadash Humanistic Congregation IL
Rabbi Aryeh Cohen, American Jewish University CA
Rabbi Howard Cohen, Congregation Shirat Hayam MA
Rabbi Norman Cohen, Bet Shalom Congregation MN
Rabbi Michael Davis, Hebrew Seminary IL,
Rabbi Malka Drucker, Temple Har Shalom CA
Rabbi Shoshana Dworsky, Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges MN
Rabbi Doris Dyen, Makom HaLev PA
Rabbi David Eber, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation IL
Rabbi Laurence Edwards, Congregation Or Chadash, Emeritus IL
Rabbi Charles Feiny, Interfaith Action for Human Rights Wash. DC
Rabbi Jeff Foust, Spiritual Life Center Bentley University MA
Rabbi Bob Gluck, University at Albany NY
Rabbi Shefa Gold, CDEEP NM
Rabbi Susan Goldberg, Nefesh CA
Rabbi Monica Gomery, Kol Tsedek Synagogue PA
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, BackYard Mishkan CA
Rabbi Arthur Green, Hebrew College MA
Rabbi Nadya Gross, Pardes Levavot: a Jewish Renewal Congregation CO
Rabbi Jill Hammer, Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute NY
Rabbi Maurice Harris, Reconstructing Judaism PARabbi Shai Held, Hadar NY
Rabbi Kimberly Herzog Cohen, Temple Emanu-El TX
Rabbi Linda Holtzman, Tikkun Olam Chavurah PA
Rabbi Daniel Isaak, Congregation Neveh Shalom OR
Rabbi Jill Jacobs, T’ruah NY
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Union for Reform Judaism NY
Rabbi Marisa Elana James, Congregation Beit Simchat Torah NY
Rabbi Juliana Karol, Congregation Rodeph Sholom NY
Rabbi Peter Kasdan, Temple Emanu-El of West Essex NJ
Rabbi Nancy Kasten, Faith Commons TX
Rabbi Karen Landy, Havurat Shalom in Andover, MA MA
Rabbi David Lazar, Or Hamidbar CA
Rabbi Arielle Lekach-Rosenberg, Congregation Shir Tikvah MN
Rabbi Mark Levin, Congregation Beth Torah KS
Rabbi Seth Limmer, Chicago Sinai Congregation IL
Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, Rabbi Emerita, Kolot Chayeinu NY
Rabbi Janet Liss, North Country Reform Temple NY
Rabbi Sanford Marcus, Tree of Life congregation, Columbia SC
Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer, The Kitchen CA
Rabbi Rachel Mikva, Chicago Theological Seminary IL
Rabbi Carol Mitchell, Temple Beth Elohim MA
Rabbi David Mivasair, Ahavat Olam Synagogue PA
Rabbi Nina Mizrahi, Ames Jewish Congregation IA
Rabbi Dev Noily, Kehilla Community Synagogue CA
Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum, Kavana WA
Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Wash. DC
Rabbi Michael Rothbaum, Congregation Beth Elohim MA
Rabbi David Saperstein, Dir. Emeritus, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Wash. DC
Rabbi Sunny Schnitzer, Bethesda Jewish Congregation MD
Rabbi David Shneyer, Am Kolel Jewish Community MD
Rabbi Misha Shulman, The New Shul NY
Rabbi Suzanne Singer, Temple Beth El CA
Rabbi Toba Spitzer, Congregation Dorshei Tzedek MA
Rabbi Sharon Stiefel, Mayim Rabim MN
Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker, Mount Zion Temple MN
Rabbi Robert Tabak, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association PA
Rabbi David Teutsch, Reconstructing Judaism PA
Rabbi Lennard Thal, SrVP Emeritus, Union for Reform Judaism NY
Rabbi Gordon Tucker, Sr Rabbi Emeritus. Temple Israel Center NY
Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow, The Shalom Center PA
Rabbi Josh Weinberg, Union for Reform Judaism NY
Rabbi Max Weiss, Oak Park Temple B’nai Abraham Zion, Rabbi IL
Rabbi Rachel Weiss, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation IL
Rabbi Alex Weissman, Congregation Agudas Achim MA
Rabbi David Dine Wirtschafter, Temple Adath Israel KY
Rabbi Lina Zerbarini, Kehillath Shalom Synagogue NY
Rabbi Brian Zimmerman, Beth El Fort Worth TX

Rabbi Morris Allen MN
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert PA
Rabbi Emily Aronson NY
Rabbi Allen Bennett CA
Rabbi Yosef Berman Wash. DC
Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein IL
Rabbi Edward Bernstein FL
Rabbi Jonathan Biatch WI
Rabbi Rena Blumenthal NY
Rabbi Rachael Bregman GA
Rabbi Caryn Broitman MA
Rabbi Harold Caminker NC
Rabbi Michael Tevya Cohen TX
Rabbi Meryl Crean PA
Rabbi Jill Crimmings MN
Rabbi Faith Joy Dantowitz CA
Rabbi Michelle Dardashti RI
Rabbi Alexander Davis MN
Rabbi Ellen Dreyfus IL
Rabbi George Driesen MD
Rabbi Judith Edelstein NY
Rabbi Amy Eilberg CA
Rabbi Lewis Eron NJ
Rabbi Rachel Esserman NY
Rabbi Fern Feldman WA
Rabbi Ruth Gais NJ
Rabbi Laura Gelker CA
Rabbi Stuart Gershon NC
Rabbi Rosalind Gold VA
Rabbi Megan GoldMarche IL
Rabbi Debra Goldstein MA
Rabbi Maralee Gordon IL
Rabbi David Greenstein NJ
Rabbi Suzanne Griffel IN
Rabbi Rayna Grossman PA
Rabbi B. Charles Herring AZ
Rabbi Justin Kerber IN
Rabbi Paul Kipnes CA
Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman MN
Rabbi Michael Kramer DE
Rabbi Ronald Kronish NY
Rabbi Adam Lautman MD
Rabbi Joshua Lesser GA
Rabbi David Levin PA
Rabbi Tamar Magill-Grimm MN
Rabbi Paula Marcus CA
Rabbi Susan Marks FL

Rabbi Jonathan Miller MD
Rabbi Catherine Nemiroff MN
Rabbi Salem Pearce NC
Rabbi William Plevan NY
Rabbi Robin Podolsky CA
Rabbi James Ponet CT
Rabbi Aaron Portman NY
Rabbi Shani Rosenbaum MA
Rabbi Jessica Rosenberg MN
Rabbi John Rosove CA
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg IL
Rabbi Elisheva Salamo CA
Rabbi Julie Saxe-Taller CA
Rabbi Aliza Schwartz PA
Rabbi Stephen Segar OH
Rabbi Judith Seid, CA
Rabbi Gerald Serotta MD
Rabbi David Steinberg MN
Rabbi Danielle Stillman VT
Rabbi Joshua Samuel Taub TX
Rabbi Shifrah Tobacman NY
Rabbi Burt Visotzky NY
Rabbi Miriam-Simma Walfish NY
Rabbi Brian Walt MA
Rabbi Abi Weber PA
Rabbi Elyse Wechterman PA
Rabbi Sheila Weinberg PA
Rabbi Ora Weiss MA
Rabbi Bridget Wynne CA
David Abraham, Educator FL
Hannah Bender, Rabbinical Student CA
Nancy Bernstein, J Street National Board member PA
Emma Sofia Born, Jewish Chaplain, AJRCA CA
Sarah Brammer-Shlay, Rabbinical Student PA
Caleb Bromberg, Rabbinical Student, Jewish Theological Seminary NY
Max Buchdahl, Rabbinical Student, Jewish Theological Seminary NY
Pini Herman, Board Member CA
Willemina Davidson, Rabbinical Student, Jewish Educator MA
Carly Dreme Calbreath, Educator MA
Ren Finkel, SVARA PA
Howard Friedland, Cantor, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation IL
Talya Gillman, Board member, U of WA Hillel WA
Floyd Glen-Lambert, President, Jewish Labor Committee Western Region CA
Wendy Goldberg, Educator and Cantorial Soloist MN
Adam Graubart, Rabbinical Student, Hebrew Union College NY
Neil Hirsch, Rabbinical Student MA
Andrea Hodos, Director, Moving Torah CA

Rebecca Kanner, Board President, Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation MI
Carol Kantar, Holocaust Educator MN
Ned Kantar, Former President and Board Member, Kenesseth Israel MN
Jonathan Kaufman, J Street Bay Area Advocacy Co-chair CA
Jayce Koester, Rabbinical Student MA
Victor Kovner, Board Member, J Street NY
Joy Ladin, Yeshiva University MA
Elaine Landes, Israel-Palestine Steering Committee for Congregation Dorshei Tzedek MA
Rhona Leibel, Former Board Member, Shir Tikvah Congregation MN
Craig Levine, Past President, Bnai Keshet; Co-Chair, J Street NJ
Jan Mahler, Cantor IL
David Mandel, Chapter leader, Jewish Voice for Peace CA
Eliana Mastrangelo, Rabbinical Student CA
Alice Mishkin, Interim Director, Jewish Communal Leadership Program, U of MI
Josh Nelson, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College TN
Julie Newman, Cantor PA
Steven Orkand, Hillel Board Member CA
Elisheva Pripas, Rabbinical Student, Hebrew College MA
Alicia Rabins, Educator OR
Edward Rapoport, Congregation Darchei Noam, Former Board Member JCRC MN
Penny Rosenwasser, Educator and Committee Leader CA
Aaron Rotenberg, Rabbinical Student, Spiritual Leader PA
Jessi Roemer, Cantor PA
Lia Lynn Rosen, Yotzeret-Artist/Educator NY
Lynna Schaefer, Spiritual Director NY
Yaakov Ginsberg-Schreck, Rabbinical Student MA
Frankie Sandmel, Rabbinical Student MA
Eva Seligmankennard, Ex Co SF Bay Area J Street; JCRC CA
Ori Shaham, Mazkir T’nuah, Hashomer Hatzair NY
Roni Shaham, Rosh Ken of Hashomer Hatzair NY
Linda Shivers, Retired Cantor, Cong. Neveh Shalom OR
Barbara Slader, Cantor OR
David Snyder, Board Member & Founder, Shir Tikvah Synagogue MN
Louisa Solomon, Rabbinical student, RRC PA
Dale Strok, Board Member, Temple Israel and NCJW CA
Robert Nathan, Suberi Center For Jewish NonViolence MO
Howard Sumka, J Street DC Metro Chapter Steering Committee MD
Ilana Sumka, Student Rabbi, NY
Mark Zivin, Board Member, Alliance for Middle East Peace IL
Nancy Becker OR
Sheerya Berg VT
Michaela Brown MA
Gloria Cowan CA
Jessica Curhan MI
Wendy Ferguson CA
Linda Fox CA
Bernard Friedman CA

Gili Getz NY
Shula Gilad MA
Tal Klausner NY
Jonathan Kopp NY
Jonathan Lopatin NY
Nora Paul IA
William Singer IL
Evan Traylor NY
Louise Wiener Wash. DC
Chloe Zelkha OH
Charlie Zimmerman CA