Expanding the Discourse on Israel & Zionism

We are living in complex times, where differences of opinion can prove incredibly divisive even within close-knit communities. For our American Jewish community, discourse about Israel, in particular, has become increasingly challenging. This week, I was honored to take a step towards bridging this divide by interviewing my friend and colleague, Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute. Donniel’s thoughtful scholarship on engaging with Israel has long been a powerful resource for me personally and for the Jewish community writ large.

Before a large and engaged Zoom audience, Donniel and I discussed the need and implications of broadening public discourse within the Jewish community around Israel, particularly to include those he calls the “troubled committed.” This group is deeply morally troubled by some of Israel’s policies and actions and, simultaneously, deeply committed to supporting the existence and survival of a Jewish homeland in Israel.

While, as one might expect, our passionate discussion veered in several directions, there was one clear takeaway: in order to expand discourse and, in turn, ensure the survival of Zionism and support for Israel within the American Jewish community, we must include the “troubled committed.”

As Donniel noted, the issue at hand isn’t if we can still engage in productive conversations about Israel, but that we must. “When the conversation stops, we have a real problem. Without it, we can’t move forward as Zionists, as Jews, and as those who are connected to Israel and want to see it succeed.”

Like any discussion involving a complex history and competing assumptions, these interactions may be uncomfortable. But, as Donniel’s guidance suggests, we must remain open to new ideas and conversations that are not solely based on competing facts but on questions of morals and values. This, of course, is only possible if we continue to expand the conversation to include groups that hold these views.

The full recording of our conversation is below, and I hope you’ll share it with your networks.

Only together can we continue to advance discourse about Israel and foster vibrant Jewish life at home and abroad. Thank you to the more than 400 of you who joined us for this meaningful conversation. I look forward to many more in the future.

Shabbat Shalom,

P.S.: On another important note, I encourage you to join Federation’s partners at Secure Community Network for their Countering Active Threat Training Webinar on February 16th. This critical training will introduce all members of our community to the concepts of run, hide, and fight in a manner that is both easy to understand and easy to apply.
Register here.

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