Saturday, February 28, 2015

Why I Decided To Attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Address To Congress

Last week I received a call from Congresswoman Michelle Lujan-Grisham to be her guest at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress. While honored I had mixed feelings about what I wanted to do. Part of my gut told me I had to go and my kishkes (my Jewish gut) said not to.

As I was conflicted I turned to friends, colleagues and members for their analysis and advice. As I expected, the people I called split 50/50. Half said go. Half said do not. Both groups offered a variety of reasons to support their position, most of which echoed what I already thought. Some provided unique perspectives.

I concluded that the best possible outcome would be for the Prime Minister to choose not to make the address. Since that is not a reality, I decided to accept Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham’s invitation and attend the address.

The primary reason I decided to accept Congresswoman Lujan-Grisham’s invitation is because of my respect for her and her respect and friendship for our congregation and Jewish community.

My other reasons included:

Benjamin Netanyahu is the sitting Prime Minister of the State of Israel. The upcoming election in Israel nor the internecine fight between Congress and President Obama does not negate the current reality.

I am not a policy expert but I have mixed feelings about our negotiations with Iran. Hearing and seeing the speech live would give me a better perspective on his message and the response from Congress, as I would be there to see body language and hear inflection without the filter of television’s 2 dimensions and “talking heads.”

A significant part of my responsibilities includes representing Congregation Albert in the larger community.

Finally, I believe that it is incumbent upon us as Jews, as Americans and as lovers of freedom that we take the time to educate ourselves about this and every issue. We cannot just read and consider serious articles containing opinions we already agree with but rather, take the risk of reading serious articles containing opinions that diverge from our initial instincts and consider them carefully as well.

Much has been written by American Jewish leaders about “the speech”. I would suggest you read some of these perspectives, both pro and con that I have read.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) 

Abe Foxman national director of the Anti-Defamation league (ADL)

Rabbi Irwin Kula President of Clal — The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

Alan Dershowitz