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2014 Year End Letter

Stephen L. Naman
November 2014

November 20, 2014  
Dear Associates,  
This year has been an exceptional year for the Council. Requests for  
speaking engagements, permission to reprint our articles, interest in our  
positions and web site, and additions to our email and hardcopy distribution  
lists have been at decades’ long highs.  
Our long time Publications Editor, Allan C. Brownfeld had the opportunity to  
speak at the National Summit to Reassess the U.S.–Israel “Special  
Relationship” at the National Press Club; the Committee for the Republic  
also in Washington, DC; and the Sabeel DC Metro conference titled, “Jews and  
Christians, Palestine and Israel: A Call for a New Conversation”. Allan was  
interviewed on radio programs of the Berkeley, CA public radio; Cotto and  
Company, a nationally distributed program; and the Burt Cohen program, heard  
throughout New England. Articles appeared on the web sites of Tikkun, Jewish  
Currents and Mondoweiss, as well as in The Washington Report on Middle East  
Affairs; letters to the editor were published in the Wall Street Journal and  
Washington Post; and late last year an interview on the Washington Times’  
Communities page.  
The under reported provocation of the Israeli government in the latest  
conflict with the Palestinians, its brutal and disproportional response, and  
the continued settlement expansion clearly indicate it has no desire to seek  
peace. This current environment, certainly not in keeping with the  
philosophy of Judaism as a universal, prophetic religion, and the  
preferences of the United States government, has promoted renewed interest  
in the Council, as well as consternation throughout the Jewish community.  
The following are quotations from a September 22, 2014 New York Times  
article by Laurie Goodstein (which can be read in its entirety on the NYT  
web site or the internet):  
“It used to be that Israel was always the uniting factor in the Jewish  
world,” said Rabbi Aigen, who has served Congregation Dorshei Emet in  
Montreal for 39 years. ‘But it’s become contentious and sadly, I think it is  
driving people away from the organized Jewish community. Even trying to be  
centrist and balanced and present two sides of the issue, it is fraught with  
“Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinical Call for  
Human Rights, a liberal group with 1,800 member rabbis, said: ‘Rabbis are  
just really scared because they get slammed by their right-wing congregants,  
who are often the ones with the purse strings. They are not necessarily the  
numerical majority, but they are the loudest.’”  
“There is more space to be critical of Israel in Israel than in North  
America, said Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, a former president of the Union for  
Reform Judaism, who wrote an article for the current issue of Reform Judaism  
magazine on rabbis who feel “muzzled.” He said in an interview, ‘There are a  
range of opinions in Israel, and there should be a range of opinions here.’”  
Sadly, blind support for Israel, whatever its policies and actions may be,  
has squandered the moral capital of the organized American Jewish community.  
This, in turn, has driven many idealistic young people away from what is  
increasingly viewed as a form of idolatry, making Israel, not God, "central"  
to contemporary Judaism. A community in which free speech and open  
discussion is not welcome has little appeal for the next generation. Witness  
the stifling of dialogue within Hillels’ on many college campuses; and the  
most appropriate challenge to this affront to the right of free speech and  
intellectual exchange by Jewish Voice for Peace.  
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine, profoundly wrote in a  
recent article, republished in the Fall edition of ISSUES, the following “…  
the American Jewish community and Jews around the world have taken a turn  
that is disastrous, by turning the Israeli nation state into “the Jewish  
state” and making Israel into an idol to be worshiped rather than a  
political entity like any other political entity, with strengths and deep  
flaws…If a Jew today goes into any synagogue in the U.S. or around the world  
and says, “I don’t believe in God or Torah and I don’t follow the  
commandments,” most will still welcome you in and urge you to become  
involved. But say, “I don’t support the State of Israel,” and you are likely  
to be labeled a “self-hating Jew” or anti-Semite, scorned and dismissed.”  
The Council has long fought to have alternative positions heard and  
discussed in civil and intellectual discourse; it is gratifying to see that  
others are recognizing this need, right and obligation. It is regrettable  
that those who represent open and balanced positions must face condemnation  
and vitriol because they do not fall in line with the “establishment”, whose  
claim of representing the majority is continuing to be challenged and fall  
under scrutiny. The Council will continue to endeavor to provide a voice for  
fair minded dialogue and alternative thinking.  
To those of you who have already made your 2014 contributions to the Council  
thank you, we are grateful for your support. If you have not yet contributed  
this year we hope you will find the Council, our positions and activities,  
worthy of your financial support. Please note our mailing address is now  
different from those you might have on older envelopes. To insure receipt of  
your contribution please use the enclosed envelope or the address in our  
header. Credit card donations can be made only by PayPal which may be  
accessed via the Donations page of our website, www.ACJNA.org. You do not  
have to have a PayPal account to use this link. We thank each of you for  
your continued interest in and commitment to the American Council for  
Stephen L. Naman  
Stephen L. (Steve) Naman, President  
American Council for Judaism, Inc.  

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