William K. LangfanThe writer is a pro Israel activist and lawyer living in Florida.
Last Friday, the B'nai Jeshurun Synagogue on Manhattan's Upper West Side, not affiliated with any established Jewish sector, but similar in observance to the Reform movement, sent an email to its congregation, congratulating them on the United Nations General Assembly vote to give the Palestinian Authority non-member status.
The letter was signed by the congregation's clergymen J. Rolando Matalon, Marcelo R. Bronstein and Felicia L. Sol and by the president of the board of directors and its executive director.
The email called the vote a historic moment comparable to the angel's calling Jacob by the new nation-name Israel and to the November 29, 1947 UN partition plan that led to the establishment of the state of Israel.
"The vote at the UN yesterday is a great moment for us as citizens of the world. This is an opportunity to celebrate the process that allows a nation to come forward and ask for recognition. Having gained indenpendence ourselves in this way, we are especially conscious of this. Every people has the right to recognition..."
The New York Times printed several reactions of congregants to the e-mail, which the congregation's leadership continued to stand behind, despite criticism.
Allan Ripp, a member, said he and his wife were appalled, wrote the Times. “We are just sort of in a state of shock,” he said. “It’s not as if we don’t support a two-state solution, but to say with such a warm embrace — it is like a high-five to the P.L.O., and that has left us numb.”
"It’s very shocking to many of the congregants that this position was taken publicly and this e-mail was sent around,” said Eve Birnbaum, a member of the congregation. "I am very dismayed, as a longstanding member of the synagogue, that the rabbis and the board would take a position that is contrary to what many of us feel."
“I thought it was very courageous of them,” said Gil Kulick, another congregant quoted in the Times. “I think as of late there has been a reluctance to speak out on this issue,” he added, “and that’s why I was really delighted that they chose to take a strong unequivocal stand.”
The United Nations’ vote was strongly opposed by the governments of the United States and Israel, as well as by the leadership of many American Jewish organizations, as it is a circumvention of the possibility to negotiate for an end to the conflict - let alone try for peace - and shows the intent to define borders and a state that is an enemy entity by definition. It is in clear contradiction to the terms of the signed Oslo Agreements.
The following is the open letter I sent to the congregation and its members:
Dear Rabbis Matalon, Bronstein, Sol, and Board of Directors:
2100 SOUTH OCEAN BOULEVARD, #501N, PALM BEACH, FL 33480, Email: Mapmun@aol.com