Zionist Rabbi Suspends ‘Prayer for Israel’

Jeremy Kalmanofsky, the senior rabbi of Ansche Chesed, a Conservative congregation on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, made news on January 6th as the subject of Jody Rudoren’s weekly column as editor-in-chief of The Forward.  (Interestingly, both of Rudoren’s immediate predecessors, Jane Eisner and J.J. Goldberg, are or have been members of Anshe Chesed — as is Ralph Seliger, the editor of TTN’s website.)

With this new Netanyahu-led coalition apparently dominated by fanatics, bigots and scofflaws, Rabbi Kalmanofsky decided to stop the recitation at Shabbat services of the traditional Prayer for the State of Israel.  The subhead quotes him as saying:

I don’t hope that this government succeeds; I hope that this government falls and is replaced by something better. . . .  I just could not imagine us saying this prayer that their efforts be successful. I think their efforts are dastardly.  

He makes it clear both in his conversation with Rudoren and in his blog post at the synagogue’s website, that he remains a Zionist and even a religious Zionist.  As he writes in his blog:

. . .  Nothing could shake my support of the state of Israel, the national home of the Jewish people. 

This remains true. The ingathering of Israel’s exiles from every corner of the globe, the rebirth of Hebrew, the flourishing of modern Jewish culture in an ancient homeland, and the physical defense of vulnerable Jews. These are among the greatest achievements of the long history of our eternal people. I hold fast to my Zionism and will never slacken my support of Jewish society in our ancestral homeland. 

But the soon-to-be government is beyond apologizing for. The appointment of racists, fascists and Jewish supremacists as ministers in the government of the state of Israel is a red line no Jew should cross. 

Speaking as an American rabbi, not an Israeli citizen but as a very loving cousin, I feel that we – me personally, our local Jewish community, American Jews and all Am Israel – face a tremendous religious and moral challenge. We must remain in solidarity with our family in Israel, the largest Jewish community in the world.  . . .

But this incoming government – which includes Jewish supremacist, racist, ultra-nationalists in senior positions –  is more than I, personally, can bear. 

I will never cease supporting the cultural, social and spiritual richness of this beloved Jewish society. In fact, given the devolution of Israeli politics, we should intensify our support for Israeli society. We should visit Israel. We should redouble and re-triple our efforts to know our Israeli brothers and sisters. We should support them in their very real challenges. We should redouble and re-triple our personal and financial contributions to the organizations that build on the Judaism we share: a religious culture of kevod habriot, human dignity, for all people created in the divine image. And there are still a great many exemplary corners of Israeli society we should be proud to support and reinforce our partnership.

But we should shun the incoming government.  . . .

In place of that Prayer for the State of Israel, Rabbi Kalmanofsky leads a recitation of the 122nd Psalm, “to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all who live under her authority.”  

ttn@ameinu.net TTN