Category Archives: American Politics

Jews in the American Military on this Memorial Day

Once again Memorial Day has come to the United States.  For many people the day corresponds to the beginning of summer, bbq, sales, a day off from work and getting together with friends.  Memorial Day includes these things for many people, but we need to remember the original (and I say most important) reason for the holiday – to remember the members of the armed services who gave their lives in battle, in conflict, or in training.

Regardless of politics and political opinion about the wars, actions and conflicts in which the United States has engaged. we can support the men and women who serve in the armed forces.

Many years ago, I had the privilege of being in the US Navy Chaplain Candidate program.  I became part of the Naval Reserves.  I trained and served with men and women of passion, patriotism and devotion to call.  Rabbis have served in the US military services since the Civil War, and Jews have served since the Revolutionary War.  I am no longer in the Navy,  yet I remain forever changed by the short time I served.

On this Memorial Day, let us remember all members of the armed forces of all faiths who sacrificed their lives.  We think especially of the Jewish soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, coast guardsmen who have died.  A list of those who have died since September 11, 2001 is provided by the Jewish Welfare Board Chaplain’s Council.

Organizations Supporting and about Jews in the Military
Jewish War Veterans
Jewish Welfare Board Jewish Chaplains Council
National Museum of American Jewish Military History
Support Our Soldiers – send packages and encouragement to Jewish service members. (An effort of the Jewish War Veterans.)
The Brave – a listserv for families with members in the military

Links to some other posts on Jews in the military

I pray that the day will come soon when no country will need to send its children into battle and when armies are unnecessary, for then the words of the prophets will be evident all around – “Nation will not lift up sword against nation and they will not make war anymore. All will sit under their vines and fig trees and none will be afraid.”

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Summertime, Freedom and Captivity

Growing up in the United States, summertime equalled freedom. We were free from school, free to play, ride bikes, sit by the lake, free to spend much of our time in our imaginations. Celebration of America’s Independence Day on the 4th of July amplified the focus on freedom.

This year, more than the previous 2 years, my thoughts turned to Gilad Shalit as we celebrated American Independence Day. Gilad Shalit has not known freedom for 3 years. He sits in captivity, captured in a cross-boarder raid by Hamas. None of his family, friends or colleagues have heard from him in years. Hamas, the terrorist government of the Gazan Palestinian Authority does not allow even the Red Crescent, the Muslim version of the Red Cross to see him. This is in violation of international law and practice. (By the way, I wrote Gazan Palestinian Authority because the PA in Gaza does not get along with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank led by Fatah.) While he is not free, none of us are free.

Freedom is precious and cannot be taken for granted. I pray that Gilad will know freedom some day soon.

If you would like to learn more about Gilad Shalit, visit the website HaBanim.

Politics in the Shul?

What is the place for politics in shul? Where should the line be drawn for rabbis, cantors and educators?

IRS regulations specify that a clergyperson may not preach a sermon supporting (or demonizing) a particular candidate if the house of worship wishes to have tax exempt status. This rule draws a clear line, but what about other communication? What about conversations at kiddush, oneg or in the parking lot? Is it okay for the rabbi to send emails to congregants about partisan political issues?

I ask this question at this time because of the presence of politics in Shul JewCrew where I attend. A rabbi of Shul JewCrew refrained from formal political pulpit sermons during last fall’s election season. The rabbi sends congregants negative, partisan emails, invitations to political events on Facebook (JewCrew city’s “tea party”), discussions at oneg, and during private conversations.

For months now, I have felt that my views are unwelcome. I worry that I have to either defend my views or plan to extricate myself from a conversation or not go to shul. Why should an uncomfortable political conversation from the rabbi keep me from feeling comfortable at shul? The thought that I am refraining from going to my current spiritual “home” because of the rabbi’s politics makes me mad. US politics is not the rabbi’s role (IMHO). This rabbi does not work for a political organization, does not see his/her job as primarily educating representatives….

When I feel denigrated by the rabbi for my political view, how can I feel comfortable going to the rabbi for much more difficult or sensitive issues in my personal life?

A rabbi in another city preached from the pulpit many times during last election season and made the congregants who did not agree with him/her so uncomfortable that they stopped going to shul – and they themselves are a rabbinic family!

Please know that while I personally have a political opinion, I have a problem with rabbis pushing their views on either side (in American politics) in their congregations. The examples above are of each – a partisan republican rabbi and a partisan democratic rabbi.

What do you think? Is this happening elsewhere or only in the two examples above?

Palin Forces Women to Pay for Own Rape-Kits

While Mayor of Wasilla, (now) Gov. Palin told the police to require women to pay for their own rape kits to save money. She required this even though it was against Alaska law!

For more detials see the blog Leah’s Life and a CNN story.

Her record shows us how much value she places a) on law and b) on women.  What will she do when her “values” contradict the law when VP (or G-d forbid, President)?

Update:  See a powerful discussion of this issue at Feministe.

Sarah Palin & Jews for Jesus

On August 17, 2008, David Brickner (director of Jews for Jesus) spoke at Sarah Palin’s family church in Wasilla, Alaska.  Govenor Palin was in attendance. Mr. Brickner spoke extensively of his organization’s mission in Israel (they also do extensive work in America – especially with college students) to convert Jews to Christianity.  They call themselves Jews for Jesus, but the religion the practice is Evangelical Christianity.

In his sermon (download/read the entire sermon on the Wasilla Assembly Church website) Brickner details Jews for Jesus’s missions in Israel (and his son’s work in India). He describes the difficulty of converting Jews in Israel and highlights the important work that his group is doing there.

Following the sermon, the Pastor of the church, Pastor Larry Koon, offered a special version of the congregation’s closing prayer. This prayer likely encapsulated the day and focused Koon & Brickner’s messages.  Here is the prayer

Our Father in heaven, We stand before You as a people who’ve experienced Your grace, and we acknowledge that that grace was first extended to our people through Your people, the Jews; that there is not a one here in this room who would know Jesus and serve Him if there had not been a Jew, generations ago, that spoke Jesus’ name to our people.  Father, that comes full circle and we wish to extend Your grace back to Your people.  And we pray and we ask that as a result of this time here, and as a result of this offering, there will be people among the Jews today who come to say the name “Jesus” with faith. In His glorious name we pray, amen.

Governor Palin was there.  Her church advocates for the active conversion of Jews.  Not because the Jewish people are seeking such conversion (we are not), but because her church believes that is what they (good Christians) must do. In the time that she has been known as the nominee, Palin has often spoken of her faith but has never clarified that she differs with her church on this matter.  Even after this sermon got a small bit of press on Politico.com, she did not see a need to say that her views are different from Brickner. All people need to seriously think about whether we really want to vote for someone who believes that Jews need to be converted.  We already know that she doesn’t find any validity in Evolution, believes in (and promotes in her state) abstinence only education – both of which are closely linked to ideologies in the Assembly church movement.  Since she acted on these issues in her state, why would she act differently about Jews being allowed to be Jews as Vice President?  Why not?  Will the Constitution really contain her? The GOP stance on religion in American life is clear – more of it.  The walls separating church/state are already very very low with faith based social services receiving government money.  Jews cannot vote for her without giving serious thought to this issue.

But, you may be thinking, isn’t she okay on Israel?  We don’t really know.  Let’s look to the sermon from her own church, the central focus of her life and her family’s life.  Maybe Brickner’s sermon will give us a clue.  Here is what he says about Israel.

But what we see in Israel, the conflict that is spilled out throughout the Middle East, really which is all about Jerusalem, is an ongoing reflection of the fact that there is judgment.  There is judgment that is going on in the land, and that’s the other part of this Jerusalem Dilemma.

Brickner is blaming the Jews for the terrorist violence and war in Israel.  Why is Israel being judged in his statement above?  As you can see clearly in the full sermon – it is because Jews don’t believe in Jesus.  Really.  Is this the kind of Israel support that Jews need?

I went to the McCain Palin website to research this post and search for any statement put out by the campaign about Palin and her beliefs, her faith, and the role she sees it having in their administration.  I searched “Palin” and “faith” and received an error message for an invalid search.  (Guess McCain’s “I don’t use a computer” is also impacting the usability of their website.  Either that or they don’t want people to know what Palin believes. Hmmm)

Governor Palin supports open, pressured conversion of Jews.  She has said not one word to clarify, distance herself from, nor disagree with Mr. Brickner.  The Israel that some Jews think she supports is one where the violence is destined because Jews believe wrong.

I ask you again, is this the Israel support that the Jews need?

Updated:

How much does faith inform her decisions?  Take a look at video of Gov. Palin preaching in her church in Wasilla on G-d’s plan for War (since we know that G-d “loves” war – not).

Two other blog posts on this issue: The Israel Situation, Blogs of Zion

Israelis in NYC Gay Pride Parade

I have been catching up on some blog reading and saw this post on IsRealli with a YouTube video of the Israelis (gay and allies) who marched in New York’s gay pride parade at the end of last month.  It made me smile – something I appreciate on this sad day.

Perfected like Ann Coulter…..

Remember a few weeks ago when Ann Coulter taught the world that all would be perfect if Jews accepted Jesus and became “perfected” and if everything was like the Republican National Convention in NY in ’04?

Leah Kaufman, a senior at Temple University, wrote a funny song about Ann Coulter. Take a look at it on this you tube clip. Learn more about Leah here.
[hat tip to Unsealed Room]