Tzohar humanizes Israeli Judaism – opinion

Last week, I had dinner at a fantastic new Italian restaurant in Jerusalem: Palomino. Before I left, they asked me: “Has Tzohar kashrut; Is that okay? “” Okay? “I replied.” That will make the food tastier!

Tzohar is that extraordinary organization led by the heroic Rav David Stav that seeks to humanize Israeli Judaism. With their impressive religious credentials, the 800 Orthodox rabbis of Tzohar remember what we just read in Lech lech: Jews merge! In Genesis 12 God makes us a people, intertwining our religious and national identities. The Tzohar rabbis understand that the mission of every Jew includes cultivating Jewish unity.

With that perspective on village status, wherever the anti-Zionist rabbinate (TAZR) harms Judaism, Tzohar steps in, saving the day. TAZR enforces alienating, selfless, and heavy-handed rabbis at weddings – poof – Tzohar sends warm, welcoming and friendly rabbis in their place. TAZR makes conversion increasingly difficult, ignoring the plight of Russian Jews with confused Jewish backgrounds who serve in Israel’s military, poof, Tzohar helps Russian Jews clarify their Jewish status while facilitating conversions for those. who sincerely want to join the Jewish people. And now, TAZR runs an unresponsive, often corrupt kashrut supervision system – poof – Tzohar creates an easy-to-use but equally rigorous system while, an added bonus, upholding equality by training female supervisors as well.

The creativity and flexibility infused by the Zionist and Jewish-loving TZOHAR people reflect a broader trend that refutes that popular Jewish stereotype about Israel: that we are divided between secular Jews who hate religion and religious Jews who hate secularists.

The forward-thinking and open-minded Israeli first kippah prime minister, Naftali Bennett, represents the magnificent center of today. Many coalition partners are also building bridges against stereotypes, from the secular-looking Benny Gantz, who reads the weekly Torah portion regularly and tries to avoid working on Shabbat, to his blue, which keeps kashrut, observes on Saturday. , but equally with the head uncovered. and white colleague Alon Tal, who also doubles as gabbai, the expert in all trades, at his Conservative / Masorti synagogue.

A Tzohar kashrut sticker on a window (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Many studies echo Shmuel Rosner and Camil Fuchs’ 2019 book on Israeli Judaism. With more than two-thirds believing in God, observing Shabbat dinner with their families, sitting shiva when there is a tragedy, eating matzah on Passover, and fasting on Yom Kippur, most Israelis are “traditional,” even if they call themselves to themselves “secular” because they swallow the all-or-nothing idiocy of TAZR claiming that if you don’t observe religion like they do, you’re a “goy.”

EQUALLY CONFUSING, in the best way, is the courageous position taken by another hero, Reb Eliezer Melamed.

Last year I labeled Melamed as our generation’s Yosef Caro because his best-selling series, Peninei Halakha, Pearls of Jewish Law, so brilliantly sums up the procedures of Jewish life. But the millions of copies his books have sold make him the Jewish piper of today as well, helping many young Jews live rich Jewish lives by summarizing and simplifying without distorting the basics.

Two summers ago I met Melamed and his wife, Inbal, thanks to Our Common Destiny, an important initiative that emphasizes the ideological and family ties that bind us Jews around the world.

Last June, the inimitable bridge-building journalist Zvika Klein and Makor Rishon invited me to moderate a conversation between Melamed and Delphine Horvilleur, the Reform rabbinical pop star revered by French Jews and non-Jews. The conversation that followed was a symphony of Jewish learning, set to a clear melody: We all love the Jewish people.

That interaction made Klein, Melamed and Horvilleur more worthy of the Jewish Nobel Prize than the simply rich or famous Jews who have been nominated for this year’s Genesis Prize. These people understand the power of Jewish unity and Jewish history. These people are true Zionists, working to hold the Jewish people together and prosper. And these people learned from the destruction of the Second Temple that our role as Jews is to reject non-Jews, those Jews who rise up to divide us, disrespect our core values, try to undo the defining Jewish lesson, of Abraham and Sarah. , that we not only pray to the same God as followers of the same religion, but we are interconnected, one people, protecting each other as members of an extended family, making sure that all Jews know that wherever they are, no matter what Face it, they are never alone.

The high contact from that conversation should have triggered a massive moment of belonging to the Jewish people. This love bomb, from Jerusalem, where I sat; Har Bracha, where Melamed was sitting; and Paris, where Horvilleur sat, should have detonated globally, fascinating Jews everywhere, uniting and silencing the unaffiliated who mock serious and primitive Jews, the Reform and Conservative Jews who mock “the Orthodox “as medieval, to Orthodox Jews who dismiss liberal Jews as primitive. lost and dangerous.

Instead, most Jews ignored this moment, while a few insecure and ignorant ultra-Jews attacked Melamed. Instead of being praised for understanding the power of the Jewish people, for defending our common destiny, for reaching out as one Jew to another, one believer to another, one neighbor facing COVID against another, he has been condemned. Recently, two rabbis withdrew their approval of his jewels of Jewish law.

Your opposition is a badge of honor. By condemning Melamed, they condemn themselves, showing their meanness, their insecurity and their ignorance; they missed the fundamental lesson of the Torah.

Melamed knows who he is. He, like Stav and all the rabbis of Tzohar, understands that Jews have only one option: talk to each other, care for each other, grow together.

This imperative is not just because we delight our enemies when we are divided. It is because we betray each other, and ourselves, when we define Jews by the few things that distinguish us rather than the many sacred ties that hold us together. So the Jews of the world unite, we have nothing to lose, much to gain.

The writer is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University and the author of nine books on American history and three on Zionism. Your book Never alone: ​​prison, politics and my people, co-authored with Natan Sharansky, was published by Hachette’s PublicAffairs.

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