Wants ‘truly open debate’

Wants ‘truly open debate’

Rabbi emeritus, Temple Avodat Shalom, River Edge, Reform

In condemning J Street, the new Jewish lobby in Washington, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach very selectively quotes Sept. 18 from The New York Times Magazine article that I also read. Personally, I believe that the need for J Street to be created reflects the failure of all of us, myself included, to hold honest and open internal debates and seek the consensus opinions for which both AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents were created.

Does the American Jewish community have more of an impact when we speak to our government with a united voice? Of course. However, in previous decades, including in the aftermath of the 1982 Lebanon War, when I represented the Labor Zionist Alliance on the Presidents’ Conference, there was truly open debate between Jewish groups of the different religious streams and political perspectives. The same openness and search for consensus was true of AIPAC in it first four decades.

J Street was created by American Jews whose devotion to a free democratic Jewish state of Israel is unquestionable. In today’s political environment they represent an important bridge between the Obama administration and the American Jewish community.

My hope is that in the year 5770 we can build a bridge between AIPAC and J Street and the other Jewish groups who lobby in the name of the Jewish community. I even dream of the day when Rabbi Boteach and his Orthodox colleagues will be willing to sit with me and other non-Orthodox rabbis and discuss how we can all work together, with respect for our differences, on issues of vital concern for the Jewish people locally, nationally, and internationally.