When the Navi Shmuel (Samuel) confronts King Saul for sparing the life of Agag, the king of Amaleik at the time, he issues a strong rebuke: “Though you are small in your own eyes, you are the head of the tribes of Israel, and Hashem anointed you to be king of Israel.” For this misplaced modesty, Saul was ultimately stripped of his kingship.
The State of Israel is currently under attack physically in Israel itself, politically around the world, and here in the United States, as well. As always, Israel is accused of “disproportionate response” when it defends against terrorist rockets being fired at Israel’s civilian centers, especially Tel Aviv. We are ever so grateful when a country says Israel has a right to defend itself. Wow! How gracious! But that is the best we can expect from a world that simply does not like Jews.
In the political arena, we are losing big time here. The Muslims and their supporters from the East Coast to the West Coast are holding rallies and demonstrations in support of the “Palestinians” in countless neighborhoods. What are we doing? Essentially nothing – a few rallies here and there that attract almost no attention.
This lack of action on our part comes with a heavy price. Former supporters such as Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey and local congressmen are now questioning Israel’s justification for responding to Hamas. Of course, Senator Charles Schumer, forever the poll watcher and political hound, can comfortably get away with stating nothing. We expect nothing from Kirsten Gillibrand, and true to form, she has delivered nothing.
The politicians see that the street is with the Palestinians, which makes it politically advantageous to support them.
The Muslims have almost no major established organizations. We Jews, on the other hand, have multimillion-dollar-funded, long-established organizations. Yet we can’t fill a shoebox of demonstrators. Why? To a large extent, it’s due to the very sad fact that most non-Orthodox Jews today have turned their back on Israel. They sympathize to a great extent with the “oppressed and occupied” Palestinians. The Reform movement, under the leadership of its head rabbi, Rick Jacobs, said so. A letter signed by about 100 rabbinical and cantorial students of the Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative) said the same.
But what about us? What about the Orthodox? We are dynamic. We are growing. We are committed to Israel uncompromisingly. Why are the major Orthodox organizations doing nothing? Why are they not arranging a major rally either in New York or in Washington? Why are they not coordinating publicity with each other? Why are they not coordinating with shuls and yeshivos to bus thousands of older and younger adults to show support for Israel? Why can the Muslims rally (often with anti-Semitic violence) yet we nary a peep?
Some of the organizations sent staffers to Israel. Wow! That will help the situation! Why not stay here and organize our own ground troops? The Orthodox organizations, with some exceptions, remained silent during the Oslo Accords and then the Gush Katif Disengagement. We warned that the consequences would be disastrous. Unfortunately, we were right, as we are witnessing right now. Now is the time to change that attitude.
As much as I would love to mention the organizations by name, I cannot. I already burned my bridges with some of them. In fact, one president will not allow my letters to the editor to be published in his organization’s respected magazine because I dared to disagree with him in a previous article.
But you know who they are. Google them and give them a call or email. Demand that something be done and now. Please do not allow them to justify their inaction by stating that they are “working behind the scenes.” That is their eloquent way of saying, “We would rather not rock boats.”
Remember: We are not small; we are leaders of Judaism’s major and most dynamic tribe. Let’s get to work!
Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, Vice President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.