Richard Silverstein

When I first read that the leadership of the South African Jewish community including its chief rabbi had made Judge Richard Goldstone feel unwanted among his own people on the occasion of his grandson’s bar mitzvah, I felt incensed. It seemed as if a group of mean-spirited fellow Jews were hijacking our religion for purely partisan political purposes.

My first thought was to ask a group of religious leaders to issue a call for support for Judge Goldstone and rebuke the uncharitable, and I believe un-Jewish behavior of South African Jewry. One of the most important values of our tradition is hachnasat orchim “welcoming guests.” By their churlish behavior, South African Jewry’s leadership has betrayed this special Jewish precept.

Tractate Brachot contains the memorable saying: “In a place where there is no [hu]man, be one.” In other words, where common decency and humanity (menschlichkeit) does not exist, model it for those so impoverished that they’ve forgotten how to be human.

That’s what I’m proud to say the rabbis below have done. I’m pleased to have helped initiate this project and that Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb crafted the letter and secured signatures for it. Yashar koach to everyone involved, signers included.[The letter follows.]

[Ed. Note: Shortly after these rabbis signed, the South African Board of Jewish Deputies announced they had brokered an arrangement whereby Judge Goldstone would be welcome at his grandson's Bar Mitzvah service, the South African Zionist Federation had agreed not to demonstrate at or disrupt the Bar Mitzvah service, and the Zionist Federation had agreed to meet face-to-face with Judge Goldstone to exchange views. A total victory for Jewish decency and seichel -- good sense -- and a defeat for efforts at repressing and slandering Judge Goldstone. -- AW, ed.]

Dear Judge Goldstone,

As rabbis from diverse traditions and locations, we want to extend our warmest mazel tov to you as an elder in our community upon the Bar Mitzvah of your grandson. Bar and Bat Mitzvah is a call to conscience, a call to be responsible for the welfare of others, a call to fulfill the covenant of peace and justice articulated in our tradition.

As rabbis, we note the religious implications of the Report you authored. We are reminded of Shimon Ben Gamliel’s quote, “The world stands on three things: justice, truth, and peace as it says ‘Execute the judgment of truth, and justice and peace will be established in your gates’ (Zaccariah 8:16).” We affirm the truth of the report that bears your name.

We are deeply saddened by the controversy around the report. We affirm your findings and believe you set up an impeccable standard that presents strong evidence that during the war in Gaza Israel engaged in war crimes that revealed a pattern of continuous and systematic assault against Palestinian people and land that has very little to do with Israel’s claim of security.

Your report made clear the intentional targeting of civilian infrastructures such as hospitals, schools, agricultural properties, water and sewage treatment centers and civilians themselves with deadly weapons that are illegal when used in civilian centers.

This is the ugly truth that is so hard for many Jewish people to face. Anyone who spends a day in Palestinian territories sees this truth immediately.

Judge Goldstone, we want to offer you our deepest thanks for upholding the principles of justice, compassion and truth that are the heart of Jewish religion and without which our claims to Jewishness are empty of meaning. We regret that your findings have led to controversy and caused you not to feel welcome at your own grandson’s Bar Mitzvah.

We believe your report is a clarion call to Israel and the Jewish people to awaken from the slumber of denial and return to the path of peace.

This letter is endorsed by Taanit Tzedek / Jewish Fast for Gaza , Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, Tikkun and The Shalom Center.
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence
Rabbi Brant Rosen, Taanit Tzedek –Jewish Fast for Gaza
Rabbi Brian Walt, Taanit Tzedek –Jewish Fast for Gaza
Rabbi Haim Beliak
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun Community
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert
Rabbi Phyllis Berman
Rabbi Michael Feinberg
Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer
Rabbi Margaret Holub
Rabbi Shai Gluskin
Rabbi Douglas Krantz
Rabbi Eyal Levinson
Rabbi Mordecai Liebling
Rabbi David Mivasair
Rabbi David Shneyer
Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman
Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill
Rabbi Erin Hirsh
Rabbi Benjamin Barnett
Rabbi Julie Greenberg
Rabbi Linda Holtzman
Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen
Rabbi Jeffrey Marker
Rabbi Nina H.Mandel
Rabbi Victor Reinstein
Rabbi Everett Gendler
Rabbi Meryl M. Crean
Rabbi Sheila Weinberg
Rabbi Pamela Frydman Baugh
Rabbi Lewis Weiss
Rabbi Shaul Magid
Rabbi Stephen Booth-Nadav
Rabbi Phillip Bentley
Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy
Rabbi Chava Bahle
This letter is supported by Taanit Tzedek- Jewish Fast for Gaza , Shomer Shalom Institute for Jewish Nonviolence, Tikkun and The Shalom Center.