Praying for the State of Israel

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I’m a few days late, but I must take serious issue with my good friend Ariel Beery’s recent Blogs of Zion post about the prayer for the State of Israel — and some communities that are revisiting its language and place in the service.

In a move that should shock no-one who understands the history of reform Judaism and its paradigm shift away from Judaism-as-a-lifestyle, the JTA is reporting that congregations have decided to stop or change their recitation of the Prayer for the Welfare of the State of Israel.

So wasn’t I surprised when the JTA article begins with a discussion of Altshul, the traditional egalitarian (reform?) minyan in Park Slope, Brooklyn that I have been involved with since its inception.

Ariel seems to see all those communities mentioned in the article as distinctly “religiousâ€? or “spiritualâ€? — i.e. unconcerned with Jewish Peoplehood. Writes Ariel: “From a Zionist perspective, this move is further proof that a Judaism that is limited to the religious tradition of the Jews acts to tear apart our historical community.â€?

As a loyal member of Altshul, I have to say that Ariel is seriously mistaken in his diagnosis of who we are. Altshul does, indeed, hold a prayer service, but I’d venture to say that more of its members come for a sense of community and connection to other Jews than they do to commune with the Divine Spirit.

(In fact, I’ve described Altshul – in jest – as Hadar without soul.)

Ariel concludes his post with a bewildering statement that I’d love for him to explain:

In this case, the unwillingness of American Jewish ’spiritual folk’ to get their hands dirty suggests, I would argue, that they’re leaving us behind — that is, the Jewish People — in their own search for purity. But since they haven’t yet accepted the principal of conversion, they’re less like the early Christians and more like the Essenes — and if history is any indication, I’m not sure it’ll turn out so well for them either.

What principal of conversion have the “spiritual folk� (we Altshulers?) not accepted?

For the record, Altshul — as far as I know — continues to recite the prayer for the State of Israel.

Posted on April 9, 2008
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