As a child, I have fond memories of attending meetings of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), where my father Rabbi Sam Silver served as one of its most passionate leaders for decades. As a progressive rabbi, he championed Israel as a bastion of Judaic liberal values, where Jewish pioneers settled in communes on the kibbutz and moshav, in a state with socialized medicine, social security, vast social services, protection of the holy sites of Islam, Bahai, Christianity and Judaism, where prodigious Jewish minds use science to protect humanity and fight climate change, which Netanyahu considers as grave a threat to Israel as the Arabs.
However, in the highly partisan, farblunget America of today, the ZOA has been uprooted from its liberal moorings to become rabid Trump supporters as I discovered at a recent discussion I hosted with ZOA President Mort Klein. Fortunately, my father was spared the sad spectacle of witnessing his beloved ZOA now dominated by pseudo-Orthodox, who vilify all liberals, and after initially opposing the Jewish state until God’s Messiah arrived, now that others established it, seek to take it over and deny equal rights to other Jews. History has shown that such sinat chinam (gratuitous hate) led to the destruction of both Temples and millennia of bitter Jewish exile.
As you can see on a video of this discussion with ZOA President Mort Klein, I agreed with him on almost every issue, from the Jewish historic and moral claim to Israel, my rejection of statehood for Palestinians, my opposition to Obama’s accord with Iran, my condemnation of the anti-Semitism of the Black Lives Matter group, my concern over radical Islam, and my opposition to groups representing Reform and Conservative Judaism and 14 other major Jewish organizations who wish to excommunicate Mr. Klein as I praise him as a courteous and valiant defender of Israel.
None of this was sufficient to curb the wrath of right-wing fanatics who demanded that I be muted and forbidden to speak at my own discussion at my synagogue, and who shared vile comments including this almost unintelligible chat room gem from Rabbi Friedman who received no rebuke when he said “Barry is no real "RabbI' al pe halacha Jews have a right to all that Hashem gave us. Thus, all who are for Arabs are Rashaim Judenrat/Kapo!”. In case his point was not clear, he followed this up with an email expressing his sadness that I had not perished in the Nazi ovens.
It was this type of hatred which led a beit din (panel of 3 Orthodox rabbis) to brand Israeli war hero Yitzchak Rabin a Nazi and a legitimate target for assassination and led Orthodox fanatic Baruch Goldstein to murder Arabs praying in a mosque, whose grave is considered a shrine and the object of pilgrimage by right wing Jews.
The trigger for this vitriol was my suggestion that Mr. Klein drop his claim that God promised Israel to the Jews in the Torah, because a billion Muslims claim God granted Israel to them in the Koran and millions of Christians say Israel will be ruled by Jesus, once the Jews, Muslims and others are done killing each other at Armageddon, after which they will all burn in hell forever as Christians live happily ever after.
As Sam Harris wryly lamented “We are still killing each other over ancient literature” arguing whose imaginary father loves us best.
Meanwhile Jews on the left castigate me because while I support the concept that black lives matter, I reject the “Black Lives Matter” group which traffics in anti-Semitism, vilifies all police, spreads violence and accuses Israel of the blood libel of genocide.
It is time for both sides to realize that to be truly “woke” we must awaken the rational mind and smell the charoses, the sweet smell of freedom from self-imposed shackles of the mind. The eagle, which symbolizes America, cannot fly without a left and a right wing. The Shema calls us to not just hear, but listen rather than shouting down opposing views, and calling inconvenient truths a hoax. Unity is our strength, division our weakness. Few in number, Jews must unite to bring harmony to our people and peace to the world guided by Isaiah’s admonition “Come let us reason together”.