David Friedman, Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, was the third guest speaker in Temple Beth El of Boca Raton’s “Antisemitism Series” on December 1, 2022. His recently published book is titled “Sledgehammer: How Breaking with the Past Brought Peace to the Middle East.” The Antisemitism Series is part of Project Nuremberg, underwritten by Jay and Marilyn Weinberg to provide Holocaust, Law and Ethics programming to Temple Beth El and the greater Boca Raton, Florida community.
Rabbi Dan Levin, senior rabbi at Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, led the conversation with Ambassador Friedman. Through this conversation “Antisemitism Series” they covered topics from anti-Zionism and antisemitism on college campuses, to the Abraham Accords, to the impact of far-right leaders in the most recent Israeli election. They discussed the rise of antisemitism – on the right and the left – and what should we as American Jews do to combat antisemitism and help heal the rifts in American life?
The message was clear that we need to get the politics out of fighting antisemitism. Whether on the left or the right, Democrat or Republican, all Jews need to come together to ensure the future of the Jewish people.
Rabbi Levin shared that in Boca Raton, we are a united Jewish community who admire and respect one another, even though our Jewish affiliation – Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, etc. – may be different. Rabbi Levin further assured Ambassador Friedman that our congregation and Reform Jewish community has a love of Torah and tradition, and a love for the State of Israel and the Jewish people. He ended the evening with a message for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
You can read the transcript below.
Rabbi Dan Levin: When you speak to the prime minister, I would invite you to share a message, from me.
David Friedman: Sure.
Rabbi Dan Levin: The message has two parts. One is that Reform Judaism exists here in America to bring people on the periphery of Jewish life into the core and love of Torah and tradition. It is because of our love for Torah and tradition, and the way in which we want to synthesize our modern lives in the world in which we live, and a Judaism that makes sense and that brings the commanding voice of God from within, that we have such vibrancy of Jewish life. And what Reform Judaism can contribute to Jewish life is nothing to be shunned, or to be condemned, or thought of as a slur, but as a Makaya. As something that ennobles the life and enriches the life of the Jewish people.
David Friedman: By the way, I agree with you. I don’t think he would quarrel with a single word of what you just said, and that’s why I’m less concerned about the Coalition and how that will influence him. I don’t think he’s going to let Israel go off the rails in that area. Let me just say to you, first of all thank you for having me, thank you for exposing me to a beautiful community and a beautiful congregation. Even though I’m not a member of the Reform faith, nobody’s rooting for you more than me, because your success is all of our success, and if you can keep the Jewish Community strong among those who aren’t getting up every morning and praying three times a day, and where Judaism is a central daily aspect of our lives, if you can keep that community tied into and being vibrant members of the Jewish people, the Jewish world, you’re doing a tremendous service to the Jewish people as a whole. So I want to thank you for everything you’re doing.
Rabbi Dan Levin: The second message I would hope that you’d bring to the prime minister is that –
David Friedman: Should I get a pen? I’ll write this down.
Rabbi Dan Levin: Yes, you should. The second message is that the Reform Jewish Community, certainly our Reform Jewish Community, passionately loves the state of Israel and the Jewish people, and we will do everything we possibly can to support the growth and the security of that state. We may not always agree with everything that a particular government does – that’s alright, they don’t always agree with us either – but our love for the state and our love for its people is unwavering and unshakable.
Rabbi Dan Levin: The third thing that I would say, and why I’m so inspired by having an opportunity to get to know you and to spend time with you this evening and times we’ve met before, is that I really believe the answer to antisemitism is when the Jewish people stop hating each other.
David Friedman: Absolutely.
Rabbi Dan Levin: And I think that we have enough problems dealing with those who would bring bigotry and inhumanity to us from the outside. We need to be sure that we are embracing each other from the inside.
Rabbi Dan Levin: So thank you so much for being with us, Ambassador. Thank you to your family for schlepping to be with us, thank you to all of you who are joining us online and those of you are here… we appreciate you being with us tonight.
Read about David Friedman and Temple Beth El’s Antisemitism series in the Jewish Journal.