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Rabbi's Update 2/22/2023


Dear Friends:


At the beginning of this month I read an Op-Ed in The Times of Israel that I never thought I would see. Matti Friedman, Daniel Gordis, and Yossi Klein-Halevi, three prominent Israeli writers who all made aliyah from North America, published “An Open Letter to Israel’s Friends in North America” which urged North American Jews to speak out against the current Israeli government which “is undermining our society’s cohesion and its democratic ethos, the foundations of the Israeli success story.”


Friedman, Gordis, and Klein-Halevi are mainstream Israeli figures who have all spoken across the world on behalf of the Israeli government and organizations such as AIPAC. (Klein-Halevi is the cousin of our member David Markowitz; Gordis and I shared an office suite at the University of Judaism in LA and often commuted to work together.) Until very recently they would have been far more likely to write an article explaining why Diaspora Jews should support Israel unconditionally rather than one urging us to speak out against the current government.


In another unusual move, the Jewish Federations of North America sent an open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu asking him to make clear that a simple majority of the Knesset is not enough to override a decision of the Supreme Court. They write that “the essence of democracy is both majority rule and the protection of minority rights” and urge the maintenance of a system of checks and balances -- precisely what the current Israeli government seeks to eliminate.


Of course not everyone agrees that American Jews should be speaking out on this issue. Our neighbor Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt of B’nai Tzedek in Potomac published an Op-Ed in the Times of Israel. He writes: “I find it ironic that American Jews, who are not citizens or voters in Israeli elections are being called upon to enter the fray to save Israel’s democracy. Democracy means that sometimes the party you vote for and policies you advocate win and sometimes you lose.”


Tomorrow night during our “Contemporary Jewish Controversies” class I will discuss these and other articles and explore the question of the role of American Jews in the current situation.


We are once again having a sponsored Kiddush after services this Shabbat. If you are planning to attend, it is really helpful for you to register at https://forms.gle/osZdwt1QwZ843UHi7.

If you have not registered and decide at the last minute to attend, you will of course still be joyfully welcomed. However, advance registration helps us to determine how much food to prepare for Kiddush without being wasteful. Your assistance is appreciated -- from weekly experience I can tell you that filling out the registration form literally takes less than 30 seconds.


As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.

As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at rabbi@kehilatshalom.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.


L’shalom,




Rabbi Charles L. Arian







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