“Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation” edited by Carolyn L. Karcher— Stories from Diverse Backgrounds

Karcher, Carolyn L., editor.  “Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism: Stories of Personal Transformation”, Olive Branch Press, 2019.

Stories from Diverse Backgrounds

Amos Lassen

I have never seen the American Jewish community so divided on Israel. When I was growing up through Zionist youth activities, there was never a question about the way we felt about Israel. We totally supported her and wept when there was pain and rejoiced when there was reason. I will never forget the exhilaration we felt with the Six-Day War, the very same war that is now the basis of so many problems.
Today Jews face a choice. We can be loyal to the ethical imperatives at the heart of Judaism—on one hand, we can love the stranger, pursue justice, and repair the world. On the other hand, we can give our unconditional support to the state of Israel. We face a choice between Judaism as a religion and the nationalist ideology of Zionism, which some feel is usurping that religion.

Carolyn Karcher brings us a powerful collection of personal narratives with entries from forty Jews of diverse backgrounds who share a wide range of stories about the roads they have traveled from a Zionist world view to activism in solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis striving to build an inclusive society founded on justice, equality, and peaceful coexistence. Naturally this
will be controversial. Those contributors here welcome the long overdue public debate. They want to tear down stereotypes of dissenting Jews as self-hating, traitorous, and anti-Semitic. They want  us to meet readers and writers  who are part of  the large and growing community of Jewish activists who have created organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, and Open Hillel. They want to form and strengthen alliances with progressives of all faiths. However, it seems that their mqin goal is  to nurture models of Jewish identity that replace ethnic exclusivity with solidarity, Zionism with a Judaism once again nourished by a transcendent ethical vision. Nothing  the actions of Jewish Voices of Peace, I was already prejudiced against what I read here and that has not changed. I lived in Israel for many years and served in the Israel Defense Forces. I saw firsthand how Israel was forced to exit day-to-day because she is surrounded by enemies.

One of the reviewers said that, “These powerful stories send a message about the resilience and passion of a courageous group of Jews who have come to the realization that the state of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians does not live up to the ethical standards Jewish tradition demands.” If that is the case, why is nothing mentioned about the way Palestinians have treated Israel and the terrorist tactic the non-nation has used?  The contributors  challenge the idea that Judaism and Zionism are inseparable. I totally disagree that “Their commitment to live a Jewish life without Zionism bodes well for the future of Judaism.” What it does is tear us apart even more that we already are.

An emeritus professor of law at one of America’s most respected universities states “Carolyn L. Karcher has superbly edited a fascinating collection of autobiographical essays describing how devout American Jews disentangled themselves from the distortions of Zionism. In the process they recovered their authentic religiously and ethnically framed identities. Required reading for Jews, and engaging reading for everyone.”  I need to know the definition of devout here. I know members of some of these organizations and the only devout things about them are misinformed and radical views of the Jewish state.

Contributors include: Joel Beinin; Sami Shalom Chetrit; Ilise Benshushan Cohen; Marjorie Cohn; Rabbi Michael Davis; Hasia R. Diner; Marjorie N. Feld; Chris Godshall; Ariel Gold; Noah Habeeb; Claris Harbon; Linda Hess; Rabbi Linda Holtzman; Yael Horowitz; Carolyn L. Karcher; Mira Klein; Sydney Levy; Ben Lorber; Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber; Carly Manes; Moriah Ella Mason; Seth Morrison; Eliza Rose Moss-Horwitz; Hilton Obenzinger; Henri Picciotto; Ned Rosch; Rabbi Brant Rosen; Alice Rothchild; Tali Ruskin; Cathy Lisa Schneider; Natalia Dubno Shevin; Ella Shohat; Emily Siegel; Rebecca Subar; Cecilie Surasky; Rebecca Vilkomerson; Jordan Wilson-Dalzell; Rachel Winsberg; Rabbi Alissa Wise; Charlie Wood.

It is now time to hear from the other side.



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