How Could Cong. Bnai Jeshurun Support Abbas' UN Move?

A response to the letter Bnai Jeshurun leaders sent to their congregants expressing their joy at the UN vote giving the PA non-member status.

William K. Langfan

OpEds William Langfan
William Langfan

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:

The Rabbis and congregation at B’Nai Jeshurun Synagogue have the right to say and do anything that they desire.
I suggest that they read, study and understand the following Palestinian documents and then determine if they still have their opinions as expressed in the December 5th NY Times.
1. The 1964 PLO Charter (three years before Israel took control of the 'West Bank')
2. The 1968 Amended PLO Charter which has never been changed irrespective of the fact that Arafat and the PLO stated that is has been modified.
3. The Palestinian National Council (PNC) 1974 Resolution (especially Clause two).
4. The Last Sentence of Arafat’s September 1993 letter to PM Rabin in conjunction with Clause 33 of the 1968 PLO Charter.
5. Chairman Za’anoon speech delivered before the PNC vote.
6. The April 1996 Palestinian National Council Resolution and Vote.
7. Arafat’s January 1998 letter to President Clinton. (There is no record that the PNC ever voted for the specific annulments alleged by Arafat in this letter.)
The PLO Charter and the Fatah both call for the destruction of Israel. The Hamas 1988 Charter not only calls for the destruction of Israel, it also advocates killing Jews. The writer will provide the Fatah Constitution and the Hamas Charter to the Synagogue upon request.
Enclosed are the following:
1. 1964 PLO Charter
2. 1968 PLO Charter
3. 1974 PNC Resolution.
4. 1993 Arafat letter to PM Rabin
5. 1996 Chairman Za'Noon speech before the 1996 PNC vote.
6. 1996 PNC Resolution
7. 1996 Israeli Foreign Ministry Communication re the 1996 PNC Vote
8. 1998 Arafat letter to President Clinton.
9. December 14, 1998 – There is no written record of the vote of the ministers of various Palestinians who approved by a raised arm vote to reaffirm the content of Arafat’s letter to President Clinton.
10. Israeli deaths from Palestinian terrorism.
Please note after the December 14, 1998 Palestinian Minister’s vote for peace, that Israeli deaths before the wall was built from January 1, 1999 through December 31, 2009 exceeded the average annual Israeli civilian deaths from January 1, 1949 through December 31, 1998 by four times. (The non-'peace' years.)
The writer will meet with any authorized synagogue group at any time.
Best regards,
William K. Langfan, Attorney (ret.)

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