A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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To the 75-plus signatories of the open letter to Jewish organizations

To the 75-plus signatories of the open letter to Jewish organizations in St. Louis and the surrounding area:

After reading your letter a few times to better understand where you are coming from, I would like to respond.  I was not the rabbi who raised you, but first and foremost, I want you to know that I believe strongly in nuanced conversations about Israel and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict beginning in my teenage years.  It is not appropriate to have such conversations before middle school and high school.  With that said, it is imperative that we teach different viewpoints to our teenagers.  I invite you to watch my session recorded on “The History of Israel on One Foot.”  I have offered this one-hour session four times, twice in person and twice virtually to our community.  In it, I mention the word Nakba and speak about perspectives on both sides.

That being said, I want to challenge all 75-plus of you to come and sit down to have a real conversation with me about your viewpoints.  Sitting behind a computer screen and/or signing onto a letter is not a way to truly engage in dialogue.  In Judaism we believe in Machlochet L’Shem Shamayim, disagreements for heaven’s sake.  You have opened up a door to have respectful debate on a topic with which we seem to disagree.  So, let’s talk!

If you do take me up on the offer to come and meet with me, I challenge you to come prepared to answer one question:  What is your solution right now?

In raping innocent women, brutally mutilating innocent civilians, men, women and children, and then recording it on their phones for all to see, Hamas has shown its true colors.

You are begging everyone to ask for a ceasefire.  However, you seem to not grasp that a ceasefire right now would mean that Hamas wins, meaning they continue to murder innocent Israelis and Palestinians.  Where it appears we failed you in your Jewish education is in teaching you that Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields.  Those who oppose them are literally thrown off of roofs to their death and face other brutality as well.

We also seemed to have failed in teaching you other aspects about Jewish values and Jewish history.  What you are asking for in a ceasefire right now, and with the logic you are using, would have been the equivalent of saying that since more German civilians died during the fighting in the last couple of years of World War II, that the Allies, particularly the British, were in the wrong.  Can you imagine asking the Nazis for a ceasefire during the Holocaust?  Asking for a ceasefire to an entity that has, as its avowed goal to destroy not only the state of Israel, but all Jews, including you, is folly!

With regards to the other aspect of World War II, in April 1945, things did not look good for the Allies vis a vis the Japanese.  In World War II, 111,606 Americans died with another 253,142 wounded.  What the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor is pale by comparison to what Hamas did on October 7.

The gist of the question President Harry Truman was faced with was “us or them.”  My Zayde (grandfather) was in the Marines and watched the atomic bomb go off from a nearby ship.  No one at the time knew the precise power of the bomb, but I am confident that 78 years later Truman would still say he made the “right decision” to save untold thousands of Americans at that moment in time in 1945.  Innocent lives were lost because of World War II, but Japan was able to ultimately rebuild itself into a far better nation today.  The same can be true for the Palestinians if we get Hamas and terrorism out of Gaza and the region.

I found it ironic that your letter was published during the beginning of the holiday of Hanukkah (even if it was first written to a select group of clergy a few weeks earlier).  The Hanukkah story is one about the Syrian-Greeks who wanted to destroy our Jewish people and no longer allow us to practice our Judaism in any way, shape or form.  The Maccabees rose up against the Greeks allowing us to remain Jewish today.  Should we have asked the Greeks for a ceasefire during the battles at Modiin?  Certainly none of us would be here today if we would have done so.  Similarly, should Esther have asked Haman for a ceasefire so that he could still kill all of us?  Should we have asked Pharaoh in Egypt for a ceasefire so we could be enslaved again?

Again, I invite you to come and sit with me.  Let’s have a dialogue so that we can discuss the nuances of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but please come prepared with solutions to how this can be solved, not just complaints that somehow your Jewish upbringing failed you.  God commanded Moses in Exodus 17:8-12 to destroy Amalek, who had attacked the Israelites in a similar fashion to Hamas.  In my opinion, the only solution is to wipe out Hamas, which will give the Palestinian people a true chance for their own de-militarized state one day side by side with Israel.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham

Senior Rabbi, Congregation B’nai Amoona

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