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Rabbi Eric Yoffie is a writer, lecturer, and President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism

God of the left and of the right, forgive us on Yom Kippur

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Haaretz | 0 comments

God of the left and of the right, forgive us on Yom Kippur

With Kol Nidre approaching, now is the time to suggest that this year, all Jews who see Israel as a central part of their Jewish belief and practice need to approach Yom Kippur in a slightly different way. Yom Kippur’s message is primarily personal and not political, of course. It is a time for Jews to consider their actions, confront their wayward inclinations, and contemplate how they might repair their conduct and seek forgiveness for their sins. The prayers of Yom Kippur do not do this in an abstract or philosophical way; they do it...

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Israel: Vigorous Public Debate or Silence?

Posted by on Sep 23, 2014 in Haaretz | 3 comments

Israel: Vigorous Public Debate or Silence?

Since the early years of the 1970s, American Jews have been arguing about whether or not it is permissible for Jewish leaders to publicly question the policies of the Jewish State. That argument continues today. In its lead story this week, the New York Jewish Week reported on the struggles of New York area rabbis who are preparing their sermons for the High Holidays. Those interviewed indicated that they intend to address Israel issues in the wake of the Gaza war but are doing so “reluctantly” and “gingerly.” Israel, the story said, has...

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Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr in Obama’s ISIS Speech

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Time | 0 comments

Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr in Obama’s ISIS Speech

Religion is creating havoc in the world. Authoritarian governments are collapsing in the Middle East, and in the absence of credible alternatives, Sunni and Shi’ite religious groupings, fueled by ancient hatreds, are fighting each other to fill the void. President Obama gave a speech last week on what to do about it. It was a sane and sensible speech, and one that may have drawn some inspiration from a Protestant minister who was a profound political thinker and one of America’s great public intellectuals of the mid-20th century. In 2007,...

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Settlement Expansion is Madness

Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Jerusalem Post | 5 comments

Settlement Expansion is Madness

Israel’s recent decision to appropriate 1000 acres of land in Gush Etzion in the West Bank for settlement expansion has set off a storm of protest. The decision has reignited yet again the 45-year debate on whether such expansion is morally proper, Jewishly right, and politically wise. But after 45 years we know the answer: It is none of these things and does nothing to advance the security interests of the Jewish State. Following are some of the reasons why: 1. Not a single friend or ally in the West – or in the world – came forward to...

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Muzzled by a Minority: Many Rabbis Don’t Talk about Israel

Posted by on Sep 5, 2014 in By Eric | 2 comments

Muzzled by a Minority: Many Rabbis Don’t Talk about Israel

(Published in Reform Judaism Magazine, Fall 2014) → In 2012, I met with a dozen Reform and Conservative rabbis. Two of the rabbis, who served different synagogues, mentioned having each recently made the mistake of giving sermons that were somewhat critical of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. Congregants with hawkish views responded with such outrage, contempt, and ferocity, the rabbis vowed that, going forward, they would simply remain silent on the subject in public, rather than subject themselves to arbitrary litmus tests of...

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The AIPAC Wars are Underway Again

Posted by on Aug 27, 2014 in Time | 0 comments

The AIPAC Wars are Underway Again

AIPAC—the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—is a lobby created by American Jews and devoted to improving relations between the United States and Israel. Every 5 or 6 years a book or major article is published, containing an “exposé” on how AIPAC operates. The latest version, a 12,000-word article written by Connie Bruck and entitled “Friends of Israel,” appears in the September 1 edition of “The New Yorker.” The problem with this most recent effort, like the ones that precede it, is that it tells us very little we don’t already know....

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The Three Mistakes Atheists Make

Posted by on Aug 13, 2014 in Huffington Post | 1 comment

The Three Mistakes Atheists Make

The God Wars mostly bore me. In my younger days I enjoyed, at least for a while, the intellectual back-and-forth of the God debates. For me, these exchanges had a game-like quality, and it was fun to play the game. How can a student of religion ignore the rational argumentation of Nietzsche or the psychological insights of Freud? And from time to time, I still find myself intrigued by the God-debunking that serious atheists offer. When Richard Dawkins claims that biology and evolution demonstrate that God does not exist, I must take notice,...

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“Too many Arabs”

Posted by on Jul 31, 2014 in By Eric | 0 comments

“Too many Arabs”

An article in a central Massachusetts newspaper quotes me as saying that there are “too many Arabs” in Israel.  The only problem is that I never said this. I have said, many times, that demographic factors are one of the reasons why Israel should withdraw from the West Bank and why there must be a two-state solution to bring about an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Calling for a two-state solution does not mean there are "too many Arabs" in Israel. Click To TweetPowered By CoSchedule It means that there are two groups, Israelis and...

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Getting Jabotinsky Right

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 in Jerusalem Post | 0 comments

Getting Jabotinsky Right

Jabotinsky was a true democrat. Those in the settler movement who profess to embrace his principles must embrace the democracy that he championed. And that means real democracy, and not the pseudo-democracy that lies at the heart of Dani Dayan’s recent political plan, published in the New York Times on June 9. The heart of the Dayan plan was that the separation barrier should be taken down and the material circumstances of West Bank Palestinians should be improved. However, their political status—no citizenship in Israel and no Palestinian...

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Brandeis Gets it Right on Islam

Posted by on Apr 10, 2014 in Huffington Post | 4 comments

Brandeis Gets it Right on Islam

Brandeis University, a Jewish-sponsored university and my alma mater, has withdrawn its offer to give an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. As reported in The New York Times and elsewhere, Brandeis changed its mind eight days after announcing the honor to Ms. Hirsi Ali, who was born in Somalia and served in the Dutch Parliament. The president of Brandeis, Fred Lawrence, said in his announcement of the change that “we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core...

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