Netanyahu with Rabbis Yosef,  Lau
Netanyahu with Rabbis Yosef, LauFlash 90
Prior to October 7, many of us thought that the division of Jews in Israel had hit a low point. For a period, post October 7, it seemed that we were once again unified. However, that period was short lived and in the past two to three months the division amongst Jews in Israel has crossed to a new low that many of us have never witnessed in our lifetimes. Israeli protests are engaging in the same rhetoric and disruptive behavior present in many of the Pro-Hamas, and more recently Pro-Hezbollah, protests as witnessed by many Jews living in America and the United Kingdom.

On Thursday, April 18, 2024, after more than 6 months of fighting in Gaza and differences between various political and religious ideologies reaching unprecedented tensions, we heard a respected Jewish Orthodox Rabbinical leader address the Hostage Family Forum in a respectable and relatable manner when the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau called for unity between Israelis of all political and religious stripes.
Rabbi David Lau addressed the crowd in an empathetic manner, stating: “There is no right, no left, there is no religious, traditional, or secular. We all want to see them home. “We are all united in worry, love and care.” Later in the rally, Moran Zer Katzenstein, chair of the Women Wage Peace movement, and religious leader Rabbanit Yemima Mizrahi spoke to the crowd of thousands. Two women, from completely different backgrounds and ideologies standing together onstage reflected the religious diversity of the crowd. Ironically, the only English Israeli news website to cover the story was the Times of Israel. With such terrible division being reported endlessly for months in Israel, one would have expected all the News agencies to publish the positive story.

The question I am struggling with, and we should all be asking, is how religious leaders can provide more words of comfort to the secular Israeli population in a manner they would relate to.

There have been many words of comfort previously provided by well-respected Rabbinical leaders without the attention of the press, it is disturbing to think that as the fabric of Israeli society continues to degrade towards an endless spiral of hate protests, there are not enough publicized attempts to bridge the gap and provide some reassurance to left-wing secular Jews that we are there with them and we feel their pain.

In February, I had the privilege of listening to Jonathan Conricus at Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, NJ as he provided insight into the Gaza war. Mr. Conricus is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and was the international spokesperson for the IDF. When he was introduced by Rabbi Eliot Schrier, he was given the same platform and accolades as Abba Eban. Abba Eban was renowned for his exceptional oratorical skills and was praised by Henry Kissinger as someone whose “sentences poured forth in mellifluous constructions complicated enough to test the listener’s intelligence and simultaneously leave him transfixed by the speaker's virtuosity”.
Mr. Conricus humbly responded that it is Rabbis who are “truly masters of words and speech” and that he was grateful to be in the presence of someone like Rabbi Schrier whose command of language and oratorical skills is beyond extraordinary.

The current political environment in Israel is fraught with backstabbing, mistrust and dangerous rhetoric coming from Knesset leaders. This puts not only Israeli Jews at risk, but the global Jewish Community as well. Imagine a future where the likes of Rabbi Lau, , Jerusalem Chief Rabbis Rav Shlomo Amar and Rav Aryeh Stern, Rabbi Yaakov Shapira, Rabbi Moshe Hillel Hirsch, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach and Rabbi Nissim Karelitz influence their constituents to rally for Judaism anvd not just their own communities? Until they can, progress against hate won’t unfold.

It is sincerely not my intention to only call out Haredi Rabbis even though Jews the world over are more familiar with them, but to call out to all Orthodox rabbis, as they have significant influence over the education and decision making of the Orthodox community.
Until ALL Rabbis can unify, antisemitism will persist and Pro-Hamas/Pro-Hezbollah protestors will continue blocking bridges, highways, and airports.
Until ALL Rabbis become entrenched in global Jewish needs, Israeli leaders will continue backstabbing each other.
Until ALL Rabbis gain a healthier perspective on what needs to unfold to protect Judaism, Jewish communities will continue to drift apart.

Perhaps it is time to stop obsessing about antisemitism and start obsessing about how we can unify.