MazelWatch: Good news in synagogues everywhere!

While we often report bad news about the shutting down of debate, we want to take a moment today to acknowledge the dialogue, honesty and open-minded inquiry that is happening in synagogues from coast to coast. As the political discourse becomes more polarized and shrill, these rabbis and congregations are choosing humanity over dehumanization; coexistence over fighting; open debate and searching over silencing. For that, we say mazel tov. And thank you.

Mazels go to:

  • Rabbi Reuben Landman of Congregation Har TzeonAgudath Achim,a conservative shul in Maryland that is hosting Egyptian writer and political thinker Tarek Heggy on “The Future of Jewish/Muslim Relations in the Middle East.” It’s a very rare occasion when a conservative-traditional synagogue hosts an Arab speaker–Rabbi Landman should be applauded.
  • Congregation Emanu-El (Reform), Netivot Shalom (Conservative), and Congregation Shir Hadash (Reform), all in California, are welcoming Jerusalem-based Rabbis for Human Rights director Rabbi Arik Ascherman as a speaker this coming week. There was a time when Rabbi Ascherman, the head of one of Israel’s most respected human rights organizations, found it difficult to get invited to synagogues here in the US. That is changing, and this speaking tour shows that.
  • Rabbi Arthur Waskow, from Philadelphia’s Shalom Center, who, as we reported, resisted pressure to boycott the Old South Church in Boston after the Sabeel conference, and further, publicly acknowledged the work of the church’s pastor, Rev. Nancy Taylor, on behalf of Jews.
  • Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak of JewsonFirst who co-authored, with Rev. George Regas and Imam Shakeel Syed, this very important op-ed on “Islamophobia promotion week”.
  • And most amazing of all, Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B’nai David Judea in Los Angeles who wrote in the LA Jewish Journal An Orthodox rabbi’s plea: consider a divided Jerusalem. Though I wish he had used the more accurate and less deliberately provocative phrase, a “shared Jerusalem,” Rabbi Kanefsky has shown an extraordinary measure of personal courage and character–he has said what many others think, but are afraid to say.

We hope, for all our sakes, to see more and more moments like these.

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