Culture, Israel, Politics, Religion

Killing the Messenger

The Jewish Week is reporting that Rabbi Paul Joseph of Temple Emanuel in Lynbrook, L.I. may have been fired from his job for criticizing Israel’s and America’s current direction in a sermon. In the article, the Rabbi is quoted as having said:

“What grieves me as an American and a Jew is that I have been thrust into the conflict of conscience in which the two societies I love and admire more than any others in the world, the United States and the State of Israel, seem to have lost their moral compass and slipped back into more primitive modes of acting. Their ethics have reverted to tribalism and their claims to righteousness when examined closely amount to little more than intra-tribal morality, with one standard to be applied to their own kind and another, lesser standard to those with whom they are in conflict.”

According to the article, people made a big show of being offended, turning their backs on him while he was still speaking, and walking out of the temple. A letter-writing campaign soon followed, which seems to have resulted in his termination.

The temple doesn’t seem to update its site that often, because their website still says Rabbi Joseph is their rabbi and it even hypes his “commitment to social justice.” The incident is kind of reminiscent of the furor over the comments by the Chief Rabbi of Britain’s orthodox community, Jonathan Sacks last year. Is a rabbi supposed to be an spiritual, community and ethical leader who speaks his mind? Or should he simply act like a parrot and stick to only whatever the congregation wants to hear?

3 thoughts on “Killing the Messenger

  1. This is sad news, if all-too-familiar. One reads echo of the smears that destroyed Breira 30 years ago. You’ve already noted the criticism that was addressed to Chief Rabbi Sacks a couple of years ago.
    I think, however, that the rabbi spoke the truth. There is something worth pondering there, regardless of his congregation’s reaction.
    (Am I the only person who is saddened by the near-omnipresent synagogue banners that claim to support “Israel in her quest for peace.” If we really wanted peace, would those banners not read something like “we support all those who continue to strive for peace in the Middle East”?)

  2. The rabbi was attempting to teach Torah in applying it to the most pressing moral problem of the time. If the Torah cannot be shown to be applicable to deciphering our contemporary ethical conflicts, it will be reduced to an antiquarian document that fails us in our search for transcendant guidance. Anyone who would like to read the sermon in its entirety should contact me at my e-mail address above.

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