Lee Rosenberg, national president of AIPAC, spoke at my shul today.
I was in complete and knowing denial, to the extent that I couldn’t even remember the date that he would be coming, not willing to fight the fact or struggle for alternate programming.
Why was I unwilling? Because even though AIPAC spreads lies and half-truths in support of Israel’s suicidal dream that it will be able to hang on to the territories and wear down the Palestinian people to the point that they give up on the notions of nationalism and human dignity (and, I don’t know, go away? Disappear? What’s the long-term game-plan here? I’ve never been clear on that piece of it) — I have given up. They win.
As I recently wrote, while I still advocate for a two-state solution, I believe that the Israeli government and its enablers in AIPAC and the American Congress and White House have created the circumstances in which my advocacy is now hopeless. We’ve reached and passed the point of no return, peace is an unreachable goal, two-states is an unreachable goal, and sometime in the next few decades, the Jewish State will cease to exist. There will be blood, it will be awful, and it will be in no small part because AIPAC won.
Given my denial, then, imagine how gobsmacked I was when I arrived at shul to pick my son up from Hebrew school and found that not only was the presentation today, but the 7th graders had attended. Furious really is a better description.
I spluttered a few clearly unhappy words in the general direction of the Hebrew school director (who told me that they’d sent an email about it), and as we sat waiting for my son’s friend (who had a lesson with the cantor but then came home with us), talked not-quietly with my son about why I disagree with AIPAC and why I’m angry that Hebrew school was given over to listening to the President of AIPAC. And then I wrote a letter*.
Given the way my week went, I can only imagine that I didn’t actually look at the email in question, which, bottom line, is my bad. The simple truth is that if we had realized that AIPAC would be addressing his class, the boy wouldn’t have gone to Hebrew school.
As always, I lead with the bona fides: We’re Israelis — I’m an American-Israeli Zionist, and my husband is Jerusalem-born and –bred and a product of the Israeli school system and an IDF veteran. We speak Hebrew in our house, we travel to visit our Israeli family at least yearly, we keep strictly kosher, study Torah together at home and often attend services (mine are often the only kids at holiday services), and are, generally speaking, active and observant members of the Conservative Movement, raising our children to be fully Jewish and Israeli.
The reason we’re raising our Israeli children in the Diaspora is Israeli policy and politics – in the wake of the second intifada we came to understand that that we weren’t willing to give our family’s life over to the settlement project and continued occupation of the Palestinian people. As a scholar of the region, I am well aware of all of the factors at play, including the history of wars intended to annihilate the Jewish state. Having studied and written about the area for more than 20 years, it’s my considered opinion that AIPAC’s position of unquestioning support of right-wing Israeli policy is a significant piece of what will eventually lead to the end of the Zionist dream. As a family, we support J Street.
And having said all that, the real reason my husband and I are angry that Hebrew school was given over to an AIPAC presentation is not the content of the presentation, but the very fact of it.
AIPAC isn’t Judaism, and neither is unquestioning support of particular Israeli policies (even in the case of policies with which I may agree). We don’t send my children to Hebrew school for lessons in Middle Eastern politics and the role the American Jewish community plays in those politics – we send them so that they may learn their faith and their community and come to value both.
On the other hand, if the synagogue is going to be introducing the 7th graders to those other things, then why not also bring in the JDF, J Street, and JVP? Why not a range of opinion? I am certainly no supporter of the JDF, and neither do I support JVP, but neither is AIPAC representative of all American Jewish opinion (nor are they objective “experts” on what Israel “needs”), nor should they presented as such.
Though I wish that we’d been on top of things, the entire event has turned into a real teaching moment with the boy, who (I’m pleased to say) had questions to ask about Mr. Rosenberg’s presentation, as much of it seemed questionable to him. His questions included “What should I do if someone is telling me about something, an adult is telling me about something, and I don’t agree with what they’re saying?”
Well, you start by being respectful, and then….
* Update: I was so angry yesterday that I posted the actual letter. I had removed all names, but it still felt (to borrow from myself) unnecessarily disrespectful. I’ve since summarized my thoughts, without reproducing what should have been a private communication.