Temple Beth El News

Below is a selection of teasers for past TBE News posts.  Click on the title or "read more" to view the full news article.  Use the pager at the bottom to step backward in time.

War and Antisemitism

It is with heavy hearts that we acknowledge the horrific suffering of the Israel-Hamas war. We are deeply concerned by the brutality of the October 7 attack on Israel, the fate of the hostages, the staggering number of civilian casualties, destruction of infrastructure and looming famine in Gaza, and the turmoil in the West Bank.  For decades Temple Beth El has provided opportunities for our members and the public to study the issues in depth and work for peace. With awareness of the complex history and current geopolitical realities driving the conflict, we encourage diversity of opinion in our membership while advocating for vigorous diplomacy and non-violent action.

In this time of crisis we are deeply troubled to hear legitimate criticism of the Israeli government spilling over into expressions of antisemitism, some of it due to naivete or ignorance, but some of it reflecting deeply held anti-Jewish prejudices. To protect our members and guests, we are constantly strengthening our security measures.  We ask the public to help us: if you see or hear something that endangers the Jewish community, please report it to law enforcement and fill out our Antisemitism Incident Report Form. [click for form]

If you are a teacher or other community leader in need of resources on antisemitism, we recommend this excellent short film: Antisemitism in Our Midst: Past and Present (11 minutes) and these Questions for Deeper Discussion.

Rabbi Naomi Steinberg has been following many sources to give us news and opinion articles about the conflict.  If you would like to receive Rabbi Steinberg's updates, contact the temple office at templebetheleurekaca@gmail.com.

Nearly two thousand years ago rabbis of the Talmud wrote, "The sword came into the world because of justice delayed and justice denied." (Pirkey Avot 5:8)

  חֶרֶב בָּאָה לָעוֹלָם עַל עִנּוּי הַדִּין, וְעַל עִוּוּת הַדִּין
We will continue to learn, teach and act so that future generations may see a world of justice and peace.

Rabbi Naomi’s Passover Message 2023

Why is this Passover different from all other Passovers?

On all other Passovers we’ve discussed injustice, tyranny and the longing for liberation. On this Passover we must do everything we can to redress the planetary injustice of climate crisis, to stand up to tyrannical movements here in the United States and across the world, and respond to the younger generations’ desperate longing to be liberated from the enslavements of poverty, hatred, war, and environmental disaster.  

In Biblical Hebrew the land of Egypt is called Mitzrayim meaning “the narrow place.” All of humanity and all other species are passing through a narrow place such as we’ve never seen before. The recent report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gave us a stark warning: we have only a decade left to take action to avoid the worst outcome - Climate Change Is Speeding Toward Catastrophe

In our great liberation story, Moses, Miriam and Aaron lead the Israelite people out of bondage and into the unknown of the wilderness and the future. Having lived as slaves for hundreds of years, they must learn how to become a functioning society. Moses ascends Mount Sinai and brings down divine guidance in the form of laws and rules for wholesome, righteous living and meaningful worship to maintain the human-Divine connection. While Moses is up on the mountain, the people grow anxious and demand that Aaron let them build an idol, a calf made of gold, something they can see and worship in the ways of Egypt. That tale ends badly, making it abundantly clear that we are not to worship material objects, most especially gold.

From the Rabbi - Israel Crisis Update - March 22, 2023

Dear Temple Members,

Many thanks to those of you who have expressed appreciation for these updates. I will not be able to send one next week, but will continue doing so the first week of April.

American involvement:
Biden tells Netanyahu in call he's concerned about Israel's judicial overhaul plan
Key Israeli lawmaker Brings the Fight Over Judicial Coup to America - Israel News - Haaretz.com - Labor MK Gilad Kari, the first Reform rabbi to serve in the Knesset,speaks to US rabbis and legislators

From the Rabbi - Israel Crisis Update - March 22, 2023

Israel Crisis Update - March 22, 2023
Dear Temple Members,
Many thanks to those of you who have expressed appreciation for these updates. I will not be able to send one next week, but will continue doing so the first week of April.
American involvement:
Key Israeli lawmaker Brings the Fight Over Judicial Coup to America - Israel News - Haaretz.com - Labor MK Gilad Kari, the first Reform rabbi to serve in the Knesset,speaks to US rabbis and legislators
Warning from Israel’s President: 
Impacts on security forces and military:
Economic impacts:
Analysis of “secular” vs “religious” tensions: 
When Secular Israelis Stand Up to Their ultra-Orthodox Overlords - Opinion - Haaretz.com - by Zehava Galon, the former chairwoman of the Meretz party. - Note that the lifestyle of the majority of American Jews would be considered “secular” in Israel and our political sympathies tend to align with Israeli secular political parties that champion human rights.
A turning point:
Since the pogrom committed by Israelis against the village of Huwara, Israelis have been using the term “reckoning,” as we did in America after George Floyd’s murder.
Are Israelis starting to wake up to th occupation? 972+ magazine - +972 Magazine is an independent, non-profit media initiative run by progressive young Israelis.
A discussion of protest tactics by journalist Amjad Iraqi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel:
Repeal of law will allow rebuilding illegal settlements in West Bank:
.timesofisrael.com/knesset-okays-repeal-of-disengagement-law-for-northern-west-bank  - The video shows members of the Knesset dancing with settlers singing a beloved Carlebach melody. 
Excerpt: National Unity leader Benny Gantz, the former defense minister and a key member of the opposition, addressed [former settlement resident, now an MK] Har-Melech in his speech on the Knesset podium before the vote, telling her: “I know that today’s vote on this law comes from an authentic, painful, and believing place,” but, he said, it is “wrong to return to northern Samaria,” using a biblical term for the northern West Bank…“We cannot ignore our need to find a way to live alongside Palestinians who are in the area. I think we have no choice. Even though we don’t agree, we have to know how to live with each other,” he said…Labor MK [Reform Rabbi] Gilad Kariv, also in the opposition, criticized the passage of the law as well and said it moved Israel “closer to a binational reality.” Calling it a “pre-annexation bill” and an “anti-Zionist law,” Kariv said the repeal would “lead to the establishment of additional illegal outposts,” result in an uptick in violence between Israelis and Palestinians, and “stretch the capabilities” of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank.
A compelling white paper from Emor, The institute for Bold Jewish Thought - Welcome to Emor
Excerpt from the Executive Summary:
The rise of right-wing “populist” parties the world over has generated considerable anxiety about the future of liberal democracy. In fact, many of these parties explicitly endorse what Hungary’s Victor Orban termed ‘illiberal democracy’ – meaning a political system in which certain procedural elements of democracy (e.g. elections) remain but the laws and courts no longer aim to deliver equal treatment or protect basic human rights. In practice, illiberal democracy offers a way for nationalist movements to claim democratic credentials while legally discriminating against their purported external and internal enemies – all in the name of national preservation. While these trends are evident in countries around the globe, they are particularly present in contemporary Israel.
Seeking to better understand these movements, the authors of this report set out to study the political-theological dimensions of illiberal democracy or ‘post-liberalism’ as it is often called. Of particular interest is the way that post-liberals understand three fundamental political concepts: the law, the state, and the people, all of which exist as theological categories within Western religious traditions. As a political theory, liberalism carefully distinguished among the three concepts and their associated institutions; this was particularly the case with the liberal ideal of law as disinterested and universal. In contrast, we argue that post-liberal political movements tend to collapse the theoretical and practical distinctions between these categories: the law becomes whatever serves the interests of “the people” (a rhetorical concept that need not correspond with an actual popular majority), with the state charged with securing its implementation….
…Sitting on the precipice of a major constitutional crisis in Israel–not to mention significant moves toward West Bank annexation–as well as ongoing political turmoil in the United States, our report underscores that the imperatives of nationalism and those of democracy pull in contradictory directions. In particular, laws and state institutions that operate on a discriminatory basis in the name of protecting ‘the people’ deserve wholehearted rejection regardless of where they occur. Liberalism’s ideal of equal protection under the law may have never existed in fact, but we contend that whatever replaces it will likely be much worse – both for marginalized populations deemed ‘outsiders’ to the nation or for those stigmatized as ‘traitors’ within.
B’shalom - in peace, Rabbi Naomi

From the Rabbi - Dual Crises in Israel & West Bank

Now in the 8th week, the protest movement against the Netanyahu government’s drastic “reform” of the courts has spread to cities and towns across Israel, with protesters across the full spectrum of Israeli society, from the ultra-left secularists to ultra-right religious nationalists and everyone in between.  It’s moving to read of this passionate defense of democracy, while remembering that millions of Palestinians living under direct or indirect Israeli control do not have the equal rights we expect in a democratic society.  

From the Rabbi - Israel Governance Crisis

I usually refrain from sending out disturbing material before Shabbat, but there is nothing usual about the events taking place in Israel.  Here is a summary in stirring words from Eran Etzion, former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council, and Ambassador Daniel Shek, former  served as Israel’s ambassador to France and spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry:

“Israel is undergoing a rapid, aggressive attempt at regime change. A seemingly legitimate, elected coalition is determined to use its slim, almost accidental majority to reframe Israel’s democratic foundations into an illiberal and hollowed-out state…This is a transformative point in the history of the Israeli nation and the Jewish people. At this moment, our entire nation-state is on the verge of a homemade catastrophe…Well over 100,000 people have taken to the streets in recent weeks for regular protests against the government’s so-called “judicial reform” and other parts of the right-wing agenda. Supreme Court President Esther Hayut has warned that “if the people who made up this plan have their way, Israel's 75th year will be remembered as the year in which its democracy suffered a fatal blow.” From economists and tech companies to jurists and security leaders, so many corners of our society are more alarmed than ever before – and we are mobilizing…This is the moment for the U.S. government, American Jews and all pro-Israel Americans – for all who have deep concerns about our government’s policies and Israel’s future as a secure, democratic homeland for the Jewish people – to speak out.”
Full article here: American Jews Cannot Stay ‘Neutral’ in the Face of Israel’s Catastrophe - Israel News - Haaretz.com

From the Rabbi - Historic mass demonstrations in Israel

As momentous events unfold in Israel, I'll continue providing you with materials from a range of sources. I hope you'll consider subscribing to some of these excellent news outlets and organizations. It's critical that American Jews stay informed, discuss these issues with one another, and make our views known to leaders of our community institutions and our elected officials. The primary focus of the mass demonstrations is the Netanyahu government efforts to make drastic changes to the Israeli court system that would undermine the authority of their Supreme Court.

From the Rabbi - Mass Protests in Israel

Here in Humboldt we just enjoyed a blissful Shabbat Shira with the choir and soloists and a beautiful outdoor Tu BiShevat Celebration with our wonderful Jews In the Wilderness families and staff. But in Israel, these weeks have been fraught with violence and political strife.

For the past six weeks, Israelis have been rallying in huge numbers on Saturday night to protest the government's efforts to undermine the judiciary: