Thursday, March 21st | 14 Adar II 5779

December 25, 2014 1:15 pm

Where Are the Jewish Liberals Marching For Decency?

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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Rabbi Avi Weiss. Photo: Drew Kaplan.

A few weeks ago, I wrote an op-ed in The New York Observer entitled “B’nai Jeshurun: Do Jewish Lives Also Matter?” I noted that “high-profile Upper West Side Jewish temple B’nai Jeshurun led a protest after the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the New York Police Department. Then, there was a pre-scheduled event at BJ honoring Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, and the attendees included such luminaries as Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Congressman Jerry Nadler and others.” Multiple rabbis and liberal Jewish communal leaders were arrested in acts of civil disobedience during that protest. In times of injustice, rabbis and leaders should speak out.

I took (and take) issue with the fact that leaders of B’nai Jeshurun (and similar minded liberal organizations) rally quickly for perceived and real injustices when it comes to every other group – as long as they are not Jewish or pro-Israel causes. They are also quiet when it comes to causes that they consider to be conservative or right-leaning, which include traditional Judaism, Israel, and now, police officers (including those who are not white).

No protest marches or acts of civil disobedience have come from these uber-liberals defending the police officers who protect New York. Unsurprisingly, this community has been silent in the aftermath of the murders of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. These two men, one Asian and one Latino, were patrolling Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn when a man executed them as they sat in their police car. The killer had posted in his social media pages that he was avenging Eric Garner. Supporting police officers should not be a political decision.

On the other hand, Rabbi Avi Weiss held a prayer vigil and memorial for the cops outside of his synagogue’s local police precinct on Monday morning. As Weiss noted, “In this time of tragic loss for the NYPD and all New Yorkers, we stand here with you. You, the New York Police Department, are New York City’s finest – a racially diverse force. Every day, you risk your lives for us. You protect our synagogues, our churches, our mosques, our institutions, our businesses, our homes – for this and much more we are eternally grateful. With great empathy we declare: your pain is our pain, your suffering is our suffering.” How right he is.

If only more people of all religions and beliefs would stand up in support of decency – at all times -for all people in need. Jeff Jacoby, the Boston Globe columnist has criticized “warped Jewish liberals” on multiple occasions, saying “This liberalism isn’t rational. It isn’t sensible. It certainly isn’t good for the Jews.”

Rabbi Hillel famously asked, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And, if I care only for myself, what am I? And, if not now, when?”

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