Who's Afraid Of the Big, Bad Israel Debate?
. New York, N.Y.: Feb 21, 2003.
Vol. CVI, Iss. 31,433; pg. 9
Earlier this month a Torah commentary that I wrote for the Jewish
Theological Seminary's weekly student newsletter was rejected on the
grounds that it included a critique of Israeli government policies. The
decision by a member of the administration not to print the Torah
commentary prompted the resignation of the student editor of the
publication, and has sparked intense debate within the institution.
In the Torah commentary, I spoke of the symbolism in last week's Torah
portion, Tetzaveh, of the names of the Tribes of Israel inscribed on the
clothing of the High Priest. All political leaders, I suggested, implicitly
"wear" the names of those whom they represent. Thus, actions by the
State of Israel -- the Jewish state -- are, in effect, actions in the names of
all Jews. The fact that the State of Israel acts in our names, I argued,
places on all of us the burden of challenging the government to act justly.
In accordance with the "Shnai Luchot Habrit," a 17th-century text, I also
proposed a connection between the clothing of the High Priest and the
teshuva, or repentance, of the Jewish people. I suggested that we need to
do teshuva for the ways in which we have ignored the story of the
Palestinians in our teaching and preaching about Israel.
This piece, rooted in Torah and in my own experience, was not, as some