friday, may 11, 2012 .
letters to the editor the rabbi’s turn
“Israelis don’t differentiate between a Democrat and a Republican president. They just want a pro-Israel president.”— Jerusalem Post political correspondent Gil Hoffman on what his fellow citizens look for in American leadership. See the story on page 7.
WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR: We wold love to hear from yo! Or gide to writig aletter to the editor ca be fod at www.jtew.et/idex.php?/letter_gidelie.html,bt pleae limit yor letter to approximately 350 word. The deadlie for the ext ie iMay 15. Ftre deadlie may be fod olie.
Jstce, jstce we wprse, nd mke hstory
rabbi Zari Weiss
On January 4, 2012, I hadthe privilege o participat-ing in an historic event atthe state capitol, when Gov-ernor Christine Gregoireannounced she would intro-duce legislation to ensuremarriage equality or allpeople in Washington State.It was exciting and movingto be present that day, sur-rounded by legislators and other commu-nity leaders and activists who had workedhard or years on this issue.Standing at the podium, Gov. Gregoireshared her internal struggle, as she hadtried to reconcile what her aith traditiontaught with her own belies about whatwas right and just. She said she had calledher priest that morning to tell him o herdecision. As she spoke to us and the press,her words were rm and unequivocal: Tetime had come, she said, or the state tostop discriminating against one group o people by denying them the rights thatother citizens enjoyed. During that legisla-tive session, she said, she would back leg-islation guaranteeing marriage equality,and she was condent the proposed legis-lation would pass.As we all know, she was absolutely right. From that moment on, everythingunolded very rapidly. First the Senateand then the House passed the legislation,and then Gov. Gregoire signed the billinto law (Senate Bill 6239) on February 13, 2012, making Washington the seventhstate in the country to grant those who areLGBQ the right to marry.Opponents o marriage equality quickly went to work. Tey led theirintention with the Secretary o State’soce to put a reerendum on the ballot,which has been designated as Reeren-dum 74. I the opponents gather a su-cient number o signatures (more than120,000), it will be placed on the Novem-ber ballot, to be voted upon by the public.At that point, Re. 74 must be approved by the public by 50 percent plus 1; otherwise,the marriage-equality law will be repealed.Failure to approve by 50 percent plus 1essentially vetoes what the legislature andthe governor already approved.As Jews, we are guided by a number o core values in determining how we treatothers and the world around us. First andoremost is the concept o tzelem elohim,the belie that every human being is cre-ated in the image o God, as it states in theBook o Genesis 1:2: “And God createdthe human being in God’s image in theimage o God did God create the human;male and emale God createdthem.”Underlying this principleis the belie that all people,regardless o their race, reli-gion, nationality, age, gender,sexual orientation, ability,or any other distinguish-ing characteristic, have aninherent right to dignity, orkavod. I believe that such dig-nity includes the right to love whom onechooses to love, and to sanctiy that love ina way and manner that refects one’s owndeepest religious belies and practices. Noperson, institution, or government has theright to deny another person that dignity.Another value that guides us as Jews isthe concept o adam yachid. According tothe sacred text o our people, the orah,one human being — Adam — was createdoriginally so no one can say, “My parent[ather] was greater than your parent.” (M.Sanhedrin 4:5). In other words, all peopleare equal, and deserve to be treated equally.But Judaism should not determine ourcivil law, just as it should not be deter-mined by Christianity, Islam, Buddhism,or any other religious tradition, or us oror others. Tereore, as Americans, wemust insist that our civil laws be guidednot by any one religious tradition or inter-pretation, but by the ounding principleso this country, which declare: “We holdthese truths to be sel-evident, that allmen [people]
are created equal
, that they are endowed by their Creator with cer-tain unalienable Rights, that among theseare Lie, Liberty, and
the pursuit of Happi-ness
.” (Te Declaration o Independence,July 4, 1776. Italics mine). And, “Congressshall make no law respecting an establish-ment o religion, or prohibiting the reeexercise thereo.” (Amendment 1, Bill o Rights, ratied December 15, 1791).Under the U.S. Constitution, the statemay not
religious groups to o-ciate at, or bless, same-sex marriages. Aclergy person may reuse, thereore, tomarry an interaith couple without any ear o liability. At the same time, how-ever, it is not the state’s unction or roleto sanction one set o religious belies orpractices over another. For the state toprevent the legal recognition o marriageso same-sex couples because some aithtraditions object is to violate the religiousliberty provisions o the Constitution.Back to Judaism. As Jews we knowthat, in addition to the above concepts/ values, we are also guided by the mitzvah,the sacred obligation, o “tzedek, tzedek,tirdo” — “Justice, justice, you shallpursue.” (Deut. 16:20). Pursuing justicemeans ending discriminatory practicesthat have been unairly directed againstany one person or any group.Gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgen-der people are citizens o this country and citizens o this state; they require thesame rights as all other citizens. It is parto our sacred obligation as Jews to redressthe injustice perpetrated against this onegroup or too long. Justice, justice, we willpursue, until all people, (whether coupledor single, gay or straight), are treated withdignity, kavod, and with an equal applica-tion o the law — with all o the rights andresponsibilities thereo.I urge all those who share my view to join me in speaking out in support o therecently passed marriage-equality law.ogether we can ensure that same-sexcouples can legally marry, while clergy andaith traditions can decide or themselveswhether they will recognize and solemnizethese legal marriages. As or this rabbi, Ilook orward to being able to sign legalmarriage licenses or same-sex couples inthe near uture. I know my congregationenthusiastically supports my decision.
In IsRAEL’s InTEREsTs
In his letter (“Difcult decisions,” April 25), David Shayne misrepresents my views andmy comments during my recent visit to Seattle. The subject of my talk was not the Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic stalemate, and I did not assert that Israeli settlements and BenjaminNetanyahu’s intransigence are solely responsible for that stalemate. Rather, I described thedanger that the settlement effort poses to Israel’s own democracy and cohesion as a state.A two-state agreement, I argued, is in Israel’s interests. Obviously, reaching an agree-ment also depends on the Palestinian side. But I’m hardly alone in the assessment that theNetanyahu government is uninterested in reaching an accord. The former head of Israel’sShin Bet security service, Yuval Diskin, recently expressed the same evaluation, based onhis own experience working with Netanyahu.Contrary to what Shayne writes, I do not dismiss Hamas’s attitudes toward Israel. How-ever, his argument that Israel cannot pursue peace as long as Hamas has an inuence in Pal-estinian politics grants that organization a permanent veto over compromise. Israel cannotdictate internal Palestinian politics. But it does have the potential to reduce Hamas’s inu-ence and increase that of moderate Palestinians by showing that it is committed to a two-state outcome. On the other hand, to postpone peace efforts grants a victory to extremism.
TIME FOR DIALOGuE
Thank you for your coverage of author Gershom Gorenberg, who spoke about pre-serving Israel’s democracy on April 17 to a packed house at Temple De Hirsch Sinai inSeattle. I would like to add a few comments to the JTNews story about Gorenberg’s visit.First of all, I was deeply touched that so much support from local congregations wasvisible at the event. Though primarily sponsored by J Street Seattle and Temple De HirschSinai, additional co-sponsorship was provided by Herzl-Ner Tamid Conservative Con-gregation and Temple B’nai Torah. Additional support was given by Congregation BethShalom and Temple Beth Am. I commend the rabbis, staff and members of each of thesecommunities for their participation.Second, I was delighted to nd that the audience included a diverse representation of the political and denominational landscape. Why? Because Gorenberg asks us to challengestereotypes and reject the either/or argument of “Israel can do no wrong” versus “Israelcan do no right” that is simplistic, divisive, and only serves to promote a knee-jerk reactionto bury one’s Jewish head in the sand to “avoid conict” about something “so complicated” and “so political.” I thought the nal remark of the JTNews article was right on the mark: “Instead he (Gorenberg) encourages people to learn to understand complexity andchallenge themselves with cognitive dissonance.” For me, it is only through cognitive dissonance (e.g., the simultaneous truth of “I loveIsrael” and “I don’t think Israel is living up to ethics of my Judaic foundation”) that I canbegin to unbury my head and engage in sane dialogue on the subject of Israel’s occupa-tion of Palestine. Dialogue is not debate. Dialogue is engaging and empowering. It offersus a safe environment in which we can stop, listen, engage, reect, and connect.J Street provides me, as an American Jew, a way to engage nuance in a forward-think-ing manner. For me, pro-Israel dialogue is that which is focused on a viable future forboth Israelis and Palestinians. Protection of Israel’s security and preservation of Israel’sdemocracy are not mutually exclusive ends. It’s denitely time for more dialogue!