Rabbi Moshe Hauer
Rabbi Moshe HauerJewish Action

Rabbi Moshe Hauer is the Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union (OU)

Leader Schumer’s speech to the Senate, Thursday, March 14th, was profoundly disappointing and concerning. While Leader Schumer claimed to speak on behalf of a silent majority of Jewish Americans, he did not speak for a great many of us.

Over many years, Senator Schumer has been a critical partner for the Orthodox Union in many of our efforts on behalf of our community and the people of Israel. We appreciate this.

Earlier in this crisis, on November 29, 2023, the Senator gave a speech that we encouraged “every Jew and every American” to “read and absorb,” describing it as epic, thorough, thoughtful, educational, moving, and personal, but above all “plainly and simply a Jewish speech.” This week’s speech was also epic, but in all the wrong ways.

His call for elections to replace Israel’s elected leaders and his threats of intervention should they not be replaced were – in the words of Minister Benny Gantz, PM Netanyahu’s leading rival – “counter-productive and unacceptable.” We can only imagine Leader Schumer’s reaction were PM Netanyahu to call upon the US Senate to replace its leadership for clearly echoing the talking points, proposals, and threats of Senators Van Hollen, Sanders, and others who – unlike Senator Schumer – focus virtually all their efforts on criticizing Israel.

At a time of great danger to Jews in Israel, the United States, and the world, the Senator who consistently invokes his role and responsibility as Shomer Yisrael – a guardian of the People of Israel – accused Israel of attitudes and behaviors that give ammunition and fuel to the campaigns of our enemies in international forums, his party in Congress, and the streets of New York.

In a speech that derided those who insanely do the same thing over and over and expect a different result and who have a governing vision that is stuck in the past, the Senator advocated for immediate progress towards the two state solution, a step that the vast majority of Israelis – including 99 of the 120 members of Israel’s Knesset – have roundly rejected as insanely stuck in the past, in the delusional and widely discredited worldview of October 6th. Israelis know that there is no responsible way to consider advancing Palestinian statehood absent a clear commitment on the part of the Palestinian leadership and people to deradicalize, disavow terror and violence, and educate their children and society to recognize the Jewish state and seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

The speech was neither thorough nor thoughtful as, while expressing much sympathy for the plight of Israeli victims, it faithfully repeated the biased critiques and caricatures of Israel and its government’s harshest critics. It cast opponents of immediate progress towards two states – the vast majority of Israelis and their leaders – as bigoted, while claiming without basis and contrary to every public opinion poll that the vast majority of Palestinians innocently crave peace with Israel. And while there are constant references to Israel’s extremists, the Palestinian Authority that pays to slay are not murderous terrorists; they merely “incite instability through the martyr payment system.”

This is not the speech of a Shomer Yisrael.

Jews treat each other as family.

We reject Secretary Blinken’s formulation that Israel’s “first priority” should be the protection of innocent Gazans. Every nation is morally bound to prioritize the protection of its own people. Israel is duty-bound to defend and protect its citizens by irreversibly destroying and dismantling Hamas and bringing the hostages home. Both its values and strategic considerations move Israel to do everything it can to protect and to minimize the harm to Gazan civilians, innocent or not, while not compromising on its “first priority” to protect its people.

Jews humbly and respectfully follow our sages’ admonition that we not judge our fellow until we stand in their place. We recognize that we American Jews are not more principled than the Israelis; we are just in a safer place. The peaceful future that we dream of must take a back seat to the nightmares of our Israeli brethren.

Jews stand up for each other. Yes, we offer each other constructive criticisms, argue with each other vigorously over the correct path forward, and refuse to defend the indefensible even within the family. But when Israel is under attack from so many fronts, we are both morally and viscerally committed to standing up for them. West Point military historians declare that the Israeli army has done more to prevent civilian deaths than any army in history, while the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in American history seems to be embarrassed by them. To us, that is not the Jewish way.

Israel is a state that was founded and continues to operate based on the highest principles of morality. We admire Israel’s continued commitment to its values despite the vicious attacks of many enemies that have constantly sought its destruction. Israel needs no lectures from us on ethics. It does need and deserve our humble respect for the difficult work ahead as it fulfills its primary moral obligation of providing safety and security for all Israelis.

Senator Schumer occupies a historic role at a critical inflection point in Jewish and American history. We need him to use his voice to cut through the lies and the caricatures rather than amplify them. We need him to help Israel and its duly elected government project more loudly and clearly the core values and considerations driving its actions. We need him to stand up for the Jewish people, to be Shomer Yisrael, for as Mordechai told Esther in the Purim story, it is for this moment that he has been placed in this historic role.