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ISRAEL @ 75
DANCING IN THE STREETS
I was impressed by the diversity of opinions in the last Moment “Big Question” project (“What does 75 years of the State of Israel mean in the context of 3,000 years of Jewish history?” Spring 2023) and found the different interpretations interesting and important. The interviews were a very educational experience for me and also brought back two poignant memories that contributed to my development as a Zionist. At the age of six, I vividly remember dancing in the street in South Philly with my grandparents and many of their Jewish immigrant neighbors, celebrating Israel’s independence. Most of all, I remember how proud my Dad was when he shared that his grandfather was a delegate to the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1897. Thank you for this fascinating exploration of Israel today.
THE ‘ISM’ THAT TRIUMPHED
As always, you’ve put together a very diverse and thoughtful group of Jewish opinions on the state of the State of Israel. Second- and third-generation Israelis are all too familiar with their parents’ history in exile and know full well what the alternatives are: diaspora, ghettos, pogroms, forced exile, minority status and Shoah. Israel is and will forever remain the capital of all Jews. Of all the “isms,” Zionism is the one that triumphed. L’chaim!
A UNIQUE MOMENT
As far as I know, this is the first time in history that we have simultaneously had a strong Israel and a strong diaspora, at least in some places. To me as a psychiatrist, that means: How do we use our power wisely and morally? This is a unique opportunity we shouldn’t squander.
H. Steven Moffic
A VIBRANT JEWISH AMERICA
THERE’S MUCH TO CELEBRATE
Nadine Epstein eloquently makes the case for the vibrancy and productivity of the Jewish diaspora (“Finding a Balance Between Israel and the Diaspora,” Spring 2023). Israel is part of the global Jewish narrative and often looms large. But it is not everything, nor should it be. In America, there is a new generation of bright, creative, joyfully pious, justice-seeking Jews whose efforts and passion should be acknowledged, supported and celebrated.
There are too many groups to name, but just a few in my city of Boston are: Hebrew College, a nondenominational seminary/academy sharing a campus with several forward-thinking organizations; Jewish Arts Collaborative, which curates diverse experiences in Jewish art, music, food and more; Lehrhaus, a Jewish tavern and house of learning; Mayyim Hayyim, the Living Waters Community Mikveh and Education Center, whose goal is to open the ritual of immersion to everyone in the Jewish community; and Vilna Shul, a downtown center with programs to entertain, teach and build community.
MUSIC AND MEMORY
A STUNNING SOUNDTRACK
Yossi Klein Halevi’s “Songs to Build a Nation” (Spring 2023) about the history of the people and land of Israel is stunning. This musical journey into the heart of the land and people of Israel was both nostalgic and educational. Having made aliyah and lived in Israel for fourteen years of my young adult life, it taught me so much about the ten years prior to my arrival in 1976 and brought back so many beautiful memories in a way that only music can do. Thank you for this wonderful feature.
ISRAEL’S UNSUNG HEROINES
GOLDA LED THE WAY
What a beautiful essay by Nadine Epstein (“The Women Who Shaped Israel,” Spring 2023)! It taught me more about our female leaders in Israel, some of whom I didn’t know about. When I was a kid in the 1970s, I thought that every person no matter her gender had a realistic opportunity to be a president, prime minister or even a monarch, thanks to Queen Elizabeth II and, in particular, Golda Meir, who was so often on our TV and in the newspapers in our home. Golda reminded me of my father’s mother’s family (also of Russian descent), hard-working people involved with Hadassah, B’nai B’rith and our synagogue. Thanks to them, I thought anything could be if we dreamed it and worked hard.
New York, NY
WOMEN CAN BRING US TOGETHER
I must thank Nadine Epstein for voicing the glaring truth about the lack of respect for women in the culture of Israeli politics and government. The dearth of women in top leadership positions and the total disregard for women’s rights at the Kotel are unfortunate. Working together as one community, one nation, with respect for the secular and religious is crucial going forward. Seeing the divisions today is sad, and perhaps more women in government—including bubbes and Jewish mothers—could bring people together as a family.
Cantor Deborah Katchko-Gray
HOW TO LOVE ISRAEL
IN GOOD TIMES AND BAD
Letty Cottin Pogrebin speaks of the “tortured relationship” she has with the current government of Israel (“Israel, We’ve Got to Talk,” Spring 2023). She names the issues she and other American Jews find unacceptable—disrespect of Reform and Conservative religions, restricting practices at the Western Wall, etc.—and wonders why the “human rights and dignity of millions of Palestinians…are subject to military, not civilian, law.” (Is it because the first war fought against the nascent State of Israel, as established by the UN, was started by the Palestinians who did not accept the partition plan? Nor have they accepted any offers of peace since then.)
Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people. To say that we only love Israel when that country behaves in the best manner (despite its location in a most dangerous neighborhood) is like saying you only love your child when he or she does what you think they should do. I may not like what my child does, but I will always love my child. We may not like the current policies of Israeli leadership, but, unlike some other nations, they can throw the rascals out with yet another election. With the eternal sense of Jewish optimism, we stay in love and try to help Israel find a better way.
Tinton Falls, NJ
Thanks to Letty Cottin Pogrebin for articulating the painful inner turmoil that many of us are experiencing regarding our relationship to Israel. It was helpful to read her suggestions for how to maintain that relationship while exercising our obligation to speak out about current and past injustices.
LEANING INTO ‘ISRAELISM’
Thank you for this very good debate (“Has the word Zionism outlived its usefulness?” Spring 2023). Ignoring the key distinction between Zionism as an identity of general attachment to Israel as well as belief in the abstract “right” of Jews to national self-determination in that land vs. Zionism as the actions that an actual state (and its proto-state predecessors) carries out is precisely how anti-Zionists and Zionists talk past each other on campus and everywhere else.
We need to lean far more into the category of “Israelism,” which historian Derek Penslar (arguing the “No” position) briefly mentions, because it is a better description of the first type of Zionism, attachment to Israel as identity.
WE ARE ALL ZIONISTS
We must continue to support Zionism, which our enemies have attempted to paint as an evil word. Would it be any different if our enemies painted the words “Jew” or “Jewish” as evil—should we then eliminate them from the international vocabulary? Absolutely not.
One must remember that we are all Am Yisrael, the People of Israel. Likewise, we are all Zionists. Let us not forget Ahavat Zion—our love of Zion. Just as we must fight antisemitism, likewise we must defend against anti-Zionism. If we eliminate Zionism, then we have eliminated Medinat Yisrael, the State of Israel.
Green Brook, NJ
A COUNTERPRODUCTIVE TERM
Given the wide variety of sentiments toward the philosophical positions of Israel’s current leadership, and also because of the complex baggage carried by the term, the use in any way of “Zionism” has become meaningless and probably counterproductive.
New York, NY
NAMING THE JEWISH STATE
A WISE CHOICE
I genuinely appreciated Jacob Forman’s “Jewish Word” exploration of the origin of the Jewish state’s name (“What’s in a Name?” Spring, 2023). As someone for whom Israel has been a personal, academic and professional occupation, I’m embarrassed to admit I did not know that “Israel” was the last option among a string of possibilities for the new state’s name. Reading Forman’s review of the various objections to the range of potential names, the concerns of Israel’s founders will still seem current and relatable to many. It’s often intriguing to more closely examine a word or name one can too easily take for granted; in this case, with the passage of time, the wisdom of the National Council’s choice only becomes clearer.
David A. Harris
MOMENT DEBATE POLL
In the spring issue, Moment asked if the word Zionism has outlived its usefulness. We asked followers of Moment’s Twitter to weigh in. The majority answered yes.
Read the debate at here