In other news I'm topping the charts over at the Forward: The hed on my piece is 'What Would You Call Me?'
Right. So I wrote this op-ed for the Forward about how I underwent a Conservative conversion because I go to a Conservative shul these days, but I came from a patrilineal Reform background and so forth. And in it I suggested that it’s time for the Conservative movement to start accepting patrilineal descent.
Then the internet discharged platoon after platoon of Jew-baiting Jewish commenters with all kinds of nonsense on their minds. There were also some thoughtful comments and a ton of kind emails from friends and acquaintances.
Here’s one of the emails:
I so wanted to comment on your Forward article, but I simply could not wade into the aggravating mess of Jews baiting each other.
So for his benefit and yours, I waded neck-deep into the muck to pluck out the best of the comments — not only at forward.com, but on Facebook and twitter as well. And I’ll respond to a few too.
[I started writing this post yesterday so there are probably even more comments now that I haven't even looked at.]
Just over a week ago, the world Yiddish community lost the greatest Yiddish songstress of our time, Adrienne Khane Cooper, who died on December 25, 2011 at the age of 65. Adrienne was a person of enormous passion and talent who, as both a performer and teacher, molded a whole generation of young Yiddishists and klezmorim.
In her short 65 years on this earth, Adrienne zigzagged the map, both domestically (living in Oakland, Chicago, and New York), and internationally, touring and studying far and wide, bringing with her a love of Yiddish that was contagious as it was deep. A scholar, a writer, a performer, and an innovator, Adrienne was a trailblazer in demonstrating to the world that the adventure of Yiddish has only begun. Adrienne’s profound love and respect for language, combined with her progressive politics made her the ideal figure for spearheading the contemporary Yiddish renaissance.
After working at the YIVO Language, Literature, and Culture summer program in New York City, Adrienne envisioned an intensified Yiddish cultural experience, and so, along with Henry Sapoznik, she created KlezKamp, the renowned annual Klezmer and Yiddish culture gathering in the Catskills, now nearing its 30th year. These two programs, both of which Adrienne had a significant hand in shaping, are responsible for the outpouring of new Yiddish cultural expression—fueled largely by the enthusiasm of their young participants—that has emerged in recent years.
Among the countless Yiddish scholars and artists whom Adrienne mentored are such prominent figures in the Yiddish world as Yiddish scholar Jeffrey Shandler, acclaimed Yiddish singer Lorin Sklamberg, and outstanding Klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals. The assembled crowd at the New York memorial service for Ms. Cooper (which packed Ansche Chesed’s main sanctuary on Sunday, January 1st) was a veritable ‘who’s who’ in the Yiddish world, and each person in attendance seemed to have at least one story of how Adrienne had changed her/his life. Each of the twelve speakers who eulogised Adrienne at this memorial service shared thoughts regarding the varied and far-reaching aspects of Adrienne’s life and legacy. Upon exiting Ansche Chesed after the memorial service, I overheard an older man ask his friend, “Did you work with Adrienne?” his friend replied, “Of course. Who didn’t??”
As one who delights in all things Yiddish and also sees in it a larger social mission, it warmed my heart when I heard dramatist and political activist Jenny Romaine read an excerpt from the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker award, which was presented to Adrienne by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) in 2010: “For all of this, and for never working from a place of chosen-ness or nostalgia but from a place of justice, empathy, and complex Yiddish polyphony, JFREJ is deeply honored to present the 2010 Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk Taker Award to Adrienne Cooper. ” Indeed, for Adrienne, Yiddish language and culture was not a quaint novelty trapped in a glass box in a museum, but rather a living, breathing, and evolving hands-on process which could help create a better world.
Perhaps my favourite memory of Adrienne was a Yiddish song workshop she facilitated at the 2008 YIVO summer program, where both myself and Adrienne’s daughter, Sarah Gordon, who is a talented and innovative Yiddish songstress in her own right, were students. At the aforementioned workshop, I witnessed the special beauty of the bond between Adrienne and Sarah, a bond, spanning the generations, of shared dedication and love, both for Yiddish language and culture and for each other. This special bond was best summarised by the final eulogy delivered at the memorial service last Sunday by Sarah, who stated simply, but most eloquently, “She was my mother.” All too often, when we speak of great figures, we forget the unique and personal relationships that are truly the defining aspects of life—the relationships that make us who we are. After hearing eleven people speak beautifully of Adrienne as a legend, Sarah reminded us that she was also a “Yidishe Mame.”
Because of her dedication to helping create a better world, Adrienne served on the Board of Directors of JFREJ, and the family requests that donations in her memory be made to them: www.jfrej.org/. Koved ir ondenk.
Scholars of religion have a term for the common practice of adherents to a religious tradition that do not always perfectly fit into the doctrinal teachings of that religion — folk religion. This is in contrast to the normative doctrinal teachings of a religion often dubbed “state religion.” This is most often noted in Jewish history as the drive by the ancient Jewish monarchy of the 6th century BCE to centralize worship in Jerusalem with an organized Temple worship and priesthood. The ‘folk religion’ of the time, however, preferred a sort of blending of local pagan customs and the normative priestly cult. If people were not worshiping idols or eating non-kosher food there would have been no need for the Torah to repeatedly warn against worshiping idols or eating non-kosher food. It’s as the old adage goes, society does not develop laws people are already following.
Since becoming an ordained rabbi, I have rarely been faced with needing to fulfill the role of mar d’atra (Aramaic for, literally, “master of the place”). In that role a rabbi acts as a posek (Hebrew for, literally, “arbiter”) and makes halakhic decisions for her or his community. However there is one topic about which I have been asked repeatedly by numerous people in my congregation — Mourners’ Kaddish. To contextualize this, let me say a few words about my congregation.
The average age in my community is probably around 65-70. I have regular attendees who are in their 90s and older. Needless to say, it is an aging congregation. To give you an idea, I recently buried three people in one week. My congregation is made up of many transplants — people who moved to this community from somewhere else. However, many of my congregants are 4th or 5th generation in this community. That being the case, almost everybody who is actually born and raised in this community is related to everybody else even if just as distant cousins. Even though halakhah dictates that people only say Kaddish for one one of the seven relatives whom they must mourn for — parents, children, siblings and spouses — people in my community will often come to shul to say Kaddish for their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Kaddish has become so important in this community that during daily prayer services the names of those who left the world that day throughout the 120+ year history of the synagogue are read aloud and if someone knows who the person was and their story, that story is shared. On Shabbat, the names of those for the entire coming week are read aloud. Most days, although we try, we do not make a minyan — unless someone is observing a yahrzeit. Kaddish is truly the ‘folk religion’ of this little community. More »
Thanksgiving celebrators around the country, here ye. Amidst all your holiday planning and travel, and your decisions on how to spend “Black Friday,” please consider how you might conclude this festive weekend. On Saturday evening, Rosh Chodesh will be upon us. On Sunday morning it is traditional to give praise to the Most High. One way to do this is by Occupying Rosh Chodesh, as some of us are doing this Sunday at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. All are invited. For more information see below:
What is Rosh Chodesh? This Sunday November 27th we are entering into the darkest month of the year, Kislev. However, during the month of Kislev, we celebrate Hanukkah, the festival of light.
Why be Occupied with it? It’s easy to celebrate when life is pleasant, when victory has been achieved and when the weather is warm. Rosh Chodesh is a monthly celebration fueled by a historical memory of enslavement. No matter where we are in the struggle for freedom and justice, Jewish tradition commands us to find ways to join forces and sing together – to experience the feeling of what redemption will truly taste like.
How will we celebrate it? On the Thanksgiving Sunday, two days after Black Friday, we will welcome the Hebrew month of Kislev with song and praise. In contrast to the melodies used to urge us toward the season of ‘holiday shopping’ we will sing the traditional Hallel / songs of praise sung on Rosh Chodesh. As part of the service, there will also be a chance for some learning and reflection on how Rosh Chodesh connects to the wider Occupy movement. The whole service should last no longer than one hour.
Who is invited? We welcome people of all backgrounds, races, gender identities and religious/faith affiliations.
In what seems like a development only possible on the satirical pages of the Onion, Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions has just unveiled plans to co-finance a new film about Judah Maccabee, with Joe Eszterhaus of Showgirls fame onboard as screenwriter. This is too good to be true. I mean, who better than Mel Gibson, the man who boldly asserted that Jews are responsible for all wars in the world, to capture the quintessential epic military struggle of Jewish national religious pride versus the lures of assimilation?
Well, time will only tell what choices Gibson will make, but if he sticks to my above plan, we’re going to have something even greater than The Passion of the Christ (2004). Or, as Reb Yudel puts it, “If Gibson’s Hanukkah film succeeds, can his Tisha b’Av blockbuster be far behind?”
Incidentally, I vividly recall dragging a date to a Sunday matinee screening of his last Jew epic in 2004. We paid for two tickets to see Dirty Dancing: Havana Nightsin the hopes that our tickets wouldn’t profit Gibson’s film, but later, a friend in the industry explained to me that films only benefit from concession stand money, not from actual ticket sales. Alas. The film itself wasn’t particularly noteworthy, aside from its curious subtitling choices. While Gibson promised to cut out any direct implication of the Jews in Jesus’ crucifixion, the English subtitling did not always match the Aramaic dialogue onscreen. (I attended a high school which forced us to learn Aramaic. Now on facebook, I smugly resent that under the languages option, there is an “Aramaic of Jesus” and not also an ‘Aramaic of Rabban Gamliel.”) We, along with busloads of young Christian children, some of whom were as young as four years old, proceeded to watch what amounted to two full hours of Jesus being beaten to a bloody pulp. ::Spoiler alert:: Jesus is killed.
A few weeks ago, my good friend Mordechai Levovitz mentioned on Facebook that he would like to see a debate between myself and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on the subject of circumcision. I was aware of the fact that following a brief back and forth on CNN, Rabbi Boteach had challenged Lloyd Schofield, the man behind the ballot initiative in San Francisco, to a longer form debate. I was also aware that Schofield had declined the challenge. I wrote to Rabbi Boteach suggesting that he debate me instead. Much to my surprise, I received an email a few days later saying that Rabbi Boteach was interested. The terms we agreed upon were that there would be 10 minute opening statements followed by 5 minute rebuttals, and an hour and a half of Q&A. We also agreed that I would be provided with an unedited copy of their video in addition to which I would be able to shoot my own video of the event. The debate was scheduled to take place at the Manhattan Jewish Experience on July 18th. I prepared for the debate and flew out to NY with my camera and tripod in tow.
A few hours before the event, I was having lunch with my mother and sister on 72nd street when I got an email from Boteach’s people requesting that I call them urgently. They informed me that I would not be allowed to shoot video of the debate and that no cameras other than the MJE’s official camera would be allowed in the room. No explanation for this change was forthcoming and I had to take it or leave it. Despite advice from close family and friends to pull out on account of this blatant breach of terms, I went ahead with the debate and at the last minute, set up an audio recorder. The debate itself was spirited and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience despite the glaring absence of a moderator. But my absolute favorite moment of the evening came just after the debate was over. Rabbi Boteach came up to me and by way of apology for all of the drama said “You have to understand. No offense, but I just didn’t know who you were.”
Upon returning home, I asked Boteach’s people for an unedited copy of the video as per our original agreement. They refused. Luckily, I had my audio recording which I posted on the Cut website and on YouTube. It was not long before Boteach’s people posted their video, which turned out to be the first 40 minutes of the debate shot from a bizarre dutch angle at knee height and compressed to within an inch of its life. Here are the two versions of the debate:
More than anyone in recent memory, Matthew Hess is testing the old adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. After Nancy Appel of the Anti-Defamation League released a statement condemning his comic Foreskin Man for its “grotesque anti-Semitic imagery,” many prominent intactivists felt the need to distance themselves from him and his organization MGMBill.org. Moreover, the furor over Foreskin Man undoubtedly contributed to the pressure that ultimately shut down the ballot initiative in Santa Monica. Over the past month, many people have been asking me whether Matthew Hess is an anti-Semite. I don’t know the man, so I decided to contact him and ask him some questions. Below are his unedited responses: More »
I spoke about this topic with Debbie enough times to know that she wasn’t interested in this aspect of her private life being discussed in print.
I knew about it, other writers knew about it, and respected her privacy. There was enough to write about her — and Shlomo Carlebach, for that matter — without getting into what they did or whom they called when they were lonely.
Did some closeted Jews feel that closeted lesbians would benefit from her talking about sex?
And it continues from there. Regardless of whether you think Friedman herself should have been out or not–and outed or not–there are a couple of problems here. First, this rehashes the whole notion that being out and queer (as @itsdlevy noted on Twitter this morning) is all about what happens between the sheets (as opposed to, say, what happens under the chuppah, what happens when one brings a date to events, what happens at daycare pick-up, and so forth.) This isn’t (‘just?’) about “bedroom stuff.” It’s about life stuff. And though Marks seems to cast the story as one in which Friedman herself framed the issue as about sex, I’m not so sure I consider him a reliable witness.
Being gay is like sexually assaulting your congregants and followers? Really?
(And if you want to talk open secrets, from Blustain’s Lilith article, linked above: “We do know that certain segments of the progressive Jewish world, until the day Rabbi Carlebach died, distanced themselves from him because they were aware of reports of his sexual behavior. Leaders at ALEPH, and its sister organization, a retreat center called Elat Chayyim, told Lilith that during Rabbi Carlebach’s life they refused to invite him to teach under their auspices or sit on their boards.”)
I take umbrage at the idea that sexual assault and harassment is about “call[ing someone] when.. lonely.” I take umbrage at the idea that the perpetuation of sexual assault and harassment is something that should not be discussed. I take umbrage at the even merest implication that being queer and perpetuating sexual harassment and assault are even remotely analogous.
If you want to argue that Friedman had a right to privacy about her life, you can argue that. But do not bring in this disgusting analogy, and do not imply that sexual abuse should ever be left a private matter.
When I heard that Debbie Friedman had passed away, I was sitting in a conference room at the San Francisco Federation, participating in a board meeting for Keshet, a nonprofit organization working for the full inclusion of GLBT Jews in Jewish Life. I learned of Debbie’s passing via a message posted on Twitter by a lesbian Jewish educator with whom I used to work. The news hit our meeting hard. We stopped for a moment of silence. After all, she was one of us.
Sadly, Debbie Friedman was not a member of the Keshet board of directors. She was, however, a lesbian Jew. But reading the press asking for healing prayers during her recent illness, or the overwhelming displays of grief and affection in both the Jewish and mainstream press since her passing, you’d never know it.
I didn’t know Debbie personally. But like most liberal Jews my age who have been even the slightest bit involved with organized Judaism, I’ve been touched by her melodies. Most of those songs came to me second- or third-hand, learned at summer camp and USY events from song-leaders and enthusiastic youth leaders who taught their friends to sing “Not By Might” or her havdalah niggun as though they were as old and as central to Judaism as the Torah itself. Although I eventually became familiar with Debbie Friedman’s name, I still prefer to hear her songs shouted by enthusiastic teenagers over her considerably more polished renditions. And it wasn’t until I reached graduate school that I learned that the havdalah melody I had been singing since the fifth grade came from her wellspring of melody.
I didn’t know Debbie personally. But as someone who’s been a leader in the Jewish GLBT world for a number of years, I’ve heard persistent stories about her life as a lesbian. It seems that Debbie’s sexuality was an open secret; everybody knew about it, but no one spoke of it. This made me angry. Was she ashamed? Did she fear for her career? From all accounts, Debbie was incredibly humble – is it possible that she didn’t realize how central and beloved she was to not only her Reform Movement, but to contemporary American Judaism as a whole? I can’t imagine a single synagogue refusing to sing her prayer for healing because the love of her life was a woman, but maybe Debbie could.
I don’t bear any ill-will towards Debbie for staying in the closet. But her life in the closet was double-barreled tragedy: how sad that Debbie could not live her life with wholeness, and how sad that so many queer kids were deprived such an important role model. How ironic that the tyranny of the closet overpowered the woman whose songs let us let go for a moment of what the world might think of us, just long enough to shout “Nutter butter peanut butter” or sway with our arms around our friends and not worry if we looked gay.
My friends who knew Debbie tell me that she had a life-partner. I don’t know her partner’s name, because all the press around Debbie’s illness and passing only asked for prayers and comfort on behalf of Debbie’s sister, family and friends. I hope this did not add to the unbearable pain and loss her partner must be experiencing now, but how could it not?
My friends who knew Debbie tell me that she struggled against the closet, that as recently as this year she expressed a desire to come out and a loss as to how to do so. It saddens me to think of her life ending, prematurely, with this business left unfinished. I hope whoever becomes the guardian of her legacy will follow through on this wish of Debbie’s, so that her life can be a blessing to future generations of GLBT Jews, and to all Jews.
So Debbie Friedman has passed away. JTA has an article and the URJ has issued a statement. Her passing has been really sad for me and thousands of others. I will write a longer post in the coming days but I thought I would invite those of you who were touched by her music and dedication to the Jewish people share your Remembering Debbie stories in the comments here as well as on Twitter with the Hash Tag #rememberingdebbie.
Here is mine: Once in the late 1990s Debbie preformed at House of the Book at the then Brandeis-Bardin Institute and she told us that Jews can’t clap on 2 and 4 and proceed to prove it to us. It was funny. It was sad. It was classic Debbie Friedman.
Apologies for having been quite quiet for the past while. Much of it had to do with planning a wedding and getting life back to “normal” afterwards. As I reflected on that experience, I decided to write up some advice for people planning weddings or helping people that are. Crossposted at DiD. Since this is a manifesto in progress, your thoughts on topics for inclusion, changes, etc are all very much welcomed. Sorry for the technical mishap and resulting problems with readability in an earlier draft.
As we planned our wedding we came under pressure to spend obscene amounts of money on a variety of silly things–I suspect this is the American way. The pressure was real, came from many places, and thankfully was almost entirely resisted. If it can happen to us–it can happen to you! I’ll outline some of the things we did and why, including resources. My approach to weddings is that it’s critical to save your budget for things that will make your wedding match your goals. Since the budget is limited, spending on things you care about will necessitate ruthlessly cutting things you don’t. I’ll talk more about this throughout. My experience with wedding is a bit limited (though I’ve been to 30 or so I’ve only planned one).
… Bennett Epstein [a Manhattan trial lawyer]… recently asked New York federal judge Kimba Wood to grant him a day’s reprieve in a criminal trial to attend the bris of his grandson. Epstein’s daughter has not yet given birth — so he doesn’t yet know the sex of the baby. But Epstein wanted to give Judge Wood ample notice to consider his request, given that his daughter’s due date is Dec. 3, smack in the middle of the scheduled trial.
So Epstein was stuck in the slightly awkward position of asking Judge Wood for a day off if, in fact, the baby turns out to be a boy. If it’s a girl, well, no bris, no day off needed.
Wrote Epstein, in this letter filed with the court on Thursday:
Should the child be a girl, not much will happen in the way of public celebration. Some may even be disappointed, but will do their best to conceal this by saying, “as long as it’s a healthy baby.” . . . However, should the baby be a boy, then hoo hah! Hordes of friends and family will arrive . . . for the joyous celebration . . . known as the bris. . . . My presence at the bris is not strictly commanded, although my absence will never be forgotten by those that matter.
Judge Wood, in a note written at the bottom of the letter, granted the request. But she did Epstein one better. Wrote Wood:
Mr. Epstein will be permitted to attend the bris, in the joyous event that a son is born. But the Court would like to balance the scales. If a daughter is born, there will be a public celebration in Court, with readings from poetry celebrating girls and women.
We say, well done Judge Wood!
How did Epstein respond to the answer? “It was wonderful,” he told the LB on Friday. “It struck the perfect chord.” Epstein said he appreciated being granted some time off to celebrate, given the burden such a request places on a court. “As a lawyer, you don’t want to make a habit of asking for things like this,” he said. “You’re really asking for a disruption of the court’s time. So I’m very grateful.”
And on the topic of having to ask a noted female judge for time off to celebrate the birth of a boy, but not a girl, Epstein minced no words:
“Look, the Jewish religion is sexist. It just is. But I didn’t make the rules!”
With one month to go until Yom Kippur, The Shalom Center and Jewish Currents have teamed up to create a video celebrating 10 contemporary martyrs who were killed in the past 50 years “because they were affirming profound Jewish values of peace, justice, truth, and healing of the Earth.”
This is a guest post by Rebez. For reasons of privacy, names of participants have been left out.
Even before the dancing began, one could sense this wedding was going to push boundaries. The seating arrangement for the huppah was a tri-chitza. Looking out from the huppah, on the right was a small woman’s section, on the left was a men’s section, and in the middle with 80% of the participants was mixed seating. No signs for the different sections, just implicit understanding. It was assumed that you would know which section you belonged in. And dividing each of the three sections was a looming thick movable wall also known as the mehitza.
I’ve never seen this mechitza’s equal. The mehitza was a solid structure of four metal bars with a connecting crossbar and a piece of colored hanging plexiglass that was both opaque at eye level and translucent everywhere else. The metal bars were shaped like a swing-set with the glass divider hanging down as the swing. Approximately 10 feet long and 9 feet high. An intimidating presence.
By the time the dancing began, the room was transformed from a tri-chitza huppah space to a dance hall with one barrier in the middle. As soon as the Chattan and Kallah were introduced and the dancing ensued, they parted ways to opposite sides. The separate dancing began.
There are many ways to create intentional separated dancing space at a simcha. You can have a physical barrier. You can also have no barrier and still have separate dancing. You can have a tri-chitza. And then you can do what this wedding did, although I’m not sure something like this can be planned. More »
Yesterday, Dan Sieradski, known as Mobius and founder of Jewschool, and Ris Golden married in a warehouse-turned-shul in Brooklyn amidst a niggun-chanting crowd sporting every head covering from black hats to rainbow kippot. Settler cousins and anti-occupation activists danced together, along with half the Jewish media conspiracy. And tweeted well-wishes poured in like milk and honey. There, tradition and innovation mixed — with a dash of rave — in a fashion unexpected and wholly expected.
Mobius is a man an unbridled passions, who never let lie an act of unjustice, a constant crusader. But yesterday, he was serene and beaming, bashful and gleeful, as he stood before his bride and best friend, Ris, to complete the marriage before faith and family that they already sealed in New York state court weeks before. Ris’ serenity and sweetness embued everyone with confidence, joy, and levity. The spirit of her father, who passed only weeks before, could be felt hovering over the processions, proudly and bittersweetly. Standing together like yin and yang, as their community escorted every step with niggunim and boisterous cheers, one felt that a little tikkun had healed in the heart of the world.
Mazal tov to Jewschool’s own ZT, on the occasion of his marriage today to BR! ZT has blogged extensively about the elements that make Jewish wedding celebrations so joyous, from sheva berachot to shtick, based on experiences with many different semachot, and so we wish BR and ZT the joy of all those celebrations combined.
Last week, Warren Goldstein, the chief rabbi of South Africa and a persistent critic of the report, wrote in the newspaper Business Day that the judge should be allowed to attend the bar mitzvah because every synagogue “should welcome in a tolerant and nonjudgmental way all who seek to enter and join in our service and pray to God.”
Glad these guys realized the error of their ways.
But Rabbi Goldstein also renewed his criticism of the judge, saying his report “has unfairly done enormous damage to the reputation and safety of the State of Israel and her citizens.”
Oh wait, that’s right. Never mind.
He [Goldstone] added that Rabbi Goldstein’s “rhetoric” about tolerance “simply does not coincide with how my family and I have been treated.”
That just about covers it. It takes a pretty despicable lowlife to uninvite someone from their grandson’s Bar Mitzvah because of political differences. Rabbi Goldstein does not deserve to be a community leader.
One more thing. They didn’t just invite him back. They effectively “reached an agreement.”
A day earlier, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, which represents most of the country’s synagogues, issued a statement that outlined something like a quid pro quo: a promise of no protests on the bar mitzvah boy’s big day, in exchange for a meeting between the judge and leaders of the South African Zionist Federation and other Jewish organizations.
Disgusting. They actually felt the need to make political deals to preserve their image. Couldn’t have their constituents believing they were bighearted people willing to put aside political differences to celebrate together, or anything radical like that.
A shonde of infinite proportions. I was in disbelief when I heard of this and sure enough it’s factual and true. Richard Goldstone, the author of the ‘Goldstone Report’ on the war in Gaza has been pressured by South African Zionist organizations to not attend his own grandson’s bar mitzvah service because they have threatened to protest.
JTA reports: (I found a link here, but I’m sure there’s more)
Jewish groups, including the South African Zionist Federation, had planned to organize a protest outside the synagogue if Goldstone was in attendance, according to reports.
Rabbi Moshe Kurtstag, who heads the South African Beth Din, or religious court, said he was not involved in the negotiations, but he lauded the outcome. “People have got feelings about it, they believe he put Israel in danger and they wouldn’t like him to be getting honor,” he said.
Reached in Washington, where he is now based, Goldstone was reluctant to comment, but did say that “In the interests of my grandson, I’ve decided not to attend the ceremony at the synagogue.”
Arthur Chaskalson, a retired chief justice of South Africa, said it was “disgraceful” to put pressure on a grandfather not to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah.
“If it is correct that this has the blessing of the leadership of the Jewish community in South Africa, it reflects on them rather than Judge Goldstone,” Chaskalson said. “They should hang their heads in shame.”
Seriously. What a shonde. They should hang their head in shame, and it’s equally shameful that the rabbi didn’t say as much. When a rabbi agrees that a person should not be in attendance at their grandchild’s bat/bar mitzvah and all because of politics, well, from here it seems that sinat hinam is reaching dangerous levels. Shame on them.