Sunday, December 21, 2008


Here's something you don't expect to read every day. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said this in a sermon:
And what of the State of Israel? When we look at Israel today, we see a strong state with a reasonably healthy economy. Much of the credit should go to President George W. Bush. He supported Israel’s security needs, provided much-needed military aid, and accepted no excuses for Palestinian terror. The President is under siege right now, but we in the Jewish community must not forget that he has been a good friend to the Jewish State and the Jewish people.
Rabbi Avi Shafran, spokesman of the Agudath Israel of America, wrote the following:
don’t think I’m the only Jewish observer who found (and find) certain expressions of anti-Obama sentiment in parts of the Orthodox community less than reality-based. Many of us may have supported Senator McCain for a number of valid reasons – his experience, his willingness to reach across the partisan aisle, his maverick-ness, or simply because they disagreed with Senator Obama’s positions – but anyone who voted Republican because of the Democrat’s ostensible animus for Jews or Israel was not terribly different from commentators who portrayed Mr. Obama as a Zionist dupe. Osama bin Laden’s top deputy described the President-elect as a “house Negro” who has chosen to “pray the prayer of the Jews.”

Yes, Mr. Obama associated with a nutty, rabble-rousing pastor. But when the clergyman’s looniness was exposed, the Senator denounced both it and him, in no uncertain terms. Political expediency? Perhaps. But perhaps personal conviction. It is unbecoming and unwise to deny the President-elect the courtesy of taking him at his word.

That his path crossed with that of an aging 60s-era radical was unremarkable; seeing it as evidence of some secret anti-American conspiracy was scraping the bottom of an empty barrel. I would certainly never want to be judged by some people I’ve had occasional professional dealings with.

In four years, we will be able to look back and assess the Obama administration (or its first term) – and be either harsh or hailing. Now, though, none of us can claim prophecy. What we can know is that the next President of the United States is long on record as supportive of Israel, enjoyed broad Jewish support (and knows it) and has no record whatsoever of having expressed any ill will toward Jews. And that he is smart and savvy, and surrounds himself with similarly smart advisors (among them, as it happens, a number of Jewish ones).

There may be valid concerns about how the Obama presidency will turn out; I don’t mean to dismiss them. But the degree of fretting among some members of the tribe strikes me as unwarranted, even audacious.
President Bush recalled President Truman at a Chanukah celebration.
Bush's Chanukah reception Monday night, his last, featured the chanukiyah given to Truman in 1951 by David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, three years after the then-U.S. president was the first world leader to recognize Israel.

"A decade after President Truman received this gift, he visited Prime Minister Ben-Gurion for one of the last times," Bush said before the chanukiyah was lit by Clifton Truman-Daniel and Yariv Ben-Eliezer, the grandsons of both leaders. "As they parted, Ben-Gurion told the president that as a foreigner he could not judge President Truman's place in American history, but the president's courageous decision to recognize the new state of Israel gave him an immortal place in Jewish history."

Bush in the past has likened himself to Truman, who left office with low popularity ratings but was later recognized as ahead of his time for his recognition of Israel and for his Cold War strategies. Bush says he feels his unpopular Iraq war policies will be vindicated by history.
I'm not going to blog much about the fall-out from the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme so if you want to follow the happenings in that, check The Fundermentalist.

I'm sorry but I'm with Rabbi Jerome Epstein on these remarks. Yoffie might think he may have some merit but when you consider that Shabbas is a day of rest and that some folks actually do walk to shul, sharing buildings might be out of the question.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, in a speech to the Union for Reform Judaism's board of trustees, said that while he generally views American Jewish pluralism as a source of strength, communities in the current crisis may no longer be able to afford multiple synagogues.

“In a small town it may be that a struggling Reform and a struggling Conservative synagogue will have to overcome their differences and join in cooperative programming, and even formal mergers,” Yoffie said Dec. 12 in Tampa, Fla. “And in a large city, with two or five or 10 Reform congregations, it may be that the time has come to share social services, buildings and staff.”

Barriers have been falling for some time between denominations, particularly the more liberal ones, with leaders of the various movements demonstrating greater willingness to participate in joint initiatives and share resources. This summer, the leading Reform and Conservative seminaries announced that they would be establishing a program, funded by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, to jointly train clergy in various areas of so-called practical rabbinics: communal trends, management and outreach.

But formal mergers between Conservative and Reform synagogues, movements that retain notable distinctions in theological outlook and liturgy, remain rare. Some eight American synagogues are members of both movements.

Rabbi Jerome Epstein, who heads the Conservative movement's congregational arm, the United Synagogue, said that while he strongly favors sharing resources, only in rare cases have formal mergers been successful.

“Our experience has been that it's fraught with peril,” Epstein told JTA. “What you end up doing is making the ideology and the values insignificant, and for many people in congregations they are significant.”

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