Friday, December 18, 2009

Standing up to all fanatics – even our own

Last week, some Jewish settlers in Israel vandalized a mosque in a Yasuf, a village south of Nablus. These representatives of our Loving God:

set fire to a carpet and to a library in the mosque's second floor, destroying holy books.

They also sprayed abusive statements in Hebrew on the walls and floor. Graffiti messages included …"We will burn the lot of you."

Upon hearing of this desecration of a holy place, Rabbi Avi Weiss, the leader of what’s being called “Open Orthodoxy” led a small contingent of religious Jews to the mosque to stand in solidarity with the Muslims of that community.

Wearing their kippot, Rabbi Avi Weiss, founder of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, and Rabbi Yair Silverman, formerly of Beth Israel of Berkley CA and now rabbi of Moed in the Zichron Yaakov community in Israel, told a crowd outside the mosque: “We come in peace to express deep pain for what occurred. We condemn it with all our hearts and souls. As a people that has experienced such desecration, we come to reach out to you in the spirit of brotherhood.”

It’s important for us all to remember that fanatics come in all shapes, colors and religions. A Jewish fanatic is no better than a Muslim, Catholic or Atheist Fanatic. Someone who sets fire to another person’s holy place and sacred books is a criminal – in both religious and secular terms.

I think that it’s absolutely incumbent, especially on those who are of the same religion, to speak out when these travesties happen. Thank God for people like Rabbi Weiss who are willing to, in this case literally, reach out to members of that community and let them know that Jews who understand the core messages of our tradition do not condone or accept these kinds of vicious attacks. This is not Judaism, and if I were in Israel, I would gladly had stood with Rabbi Weiss and the residents of Yasuf, and never with those who desecrated their mosque in the name of our God.

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