Rabbi Daniel Gordis – A Conservative Rabbi And Lightning Rod On Israel

I never thought much of Rabbi Daniel Gordis’s work (I read his first two books, they were snoozers) until he moved to Israel. Since then, everything I have read by him has been magnificent. He’s found his mission. He’s found his meter. His work is important. He’s a strong advocate for Israel within the non-Orthodox rabbinate and he’s willing to take on his peers. Not many rabbis will do this.

Liberal thinker Leonard Fein writes: “Rabbi Daniel Gordis, I’m told, is perhaps the single most popular speaker on Israel to American Jewish audiences. He moved to Israel in 1998, after serving as founding dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and in Jerusalem he serves as Senior vice president of the Shalem Center, a think tank. Gordis is thought to be a man of considerable distinction, but I fear we have here a case of a whole that is smaller than the sum of its parts, as a consideration of three of his recent essays will show.”

Rabbi Daniel Gordis writes for Commentary Magazine:

It is a staggering misreading of Zionist history to mention Chaim Weizmann—Israel’s first president and a lifelong activist for a Jewish national homeland—and Judah Magnes in the same breath. Magnes was a believer in a binational state. He and Weizmann were ideological antagonists, not allies. But when the subject is “peace,” the details of history are subordinated to the furtherance of that all-encompassing agenda.

As Rabbi Scott Perlo, another respondent to my Jerusalem Post column, wrote: “I readily concede that there is a decided slant to the left of center in most of our seminaries….But people misunderstand the nature of this slant. We are not the generation of rabbis hoping to abandon Israel. We are the generation of rabbis who hope that God will give us the merit to be peacemakers.” How a rabbi holding a pulpit in West Los Angeles is going to become a peacemaker in the Middle East is never explained. But one thing is clear from Perlo’s article: peacemaking, this generation believes, requires imagining that we do not have enemies. Neville Chamberlain would have appreciated the company.

And while one can surely forge meaningful relations with people in Ramallah, it requires a stunning suspension of the particular for Kaiman to call Ramallah a “place I care deeply about” and to say that one cares about Jerusalem “for the same reasons.” Does the fact that Ramallah recently dedicated a public square to Dalal Mughrabi—the terrorist who participated in one of the worst attacks on Israeli civilians that killed 37 people—in the presence of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas and thousands of other celebrants make no difference? Does the fact that there were PLO posters in the bar where the birthday party was held not make it difficult for a future rabbi to have a beer there?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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