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Thursday, December 8, 2016

ISRAEL IS NOT THE HOMELAND OF AMERICAN JEWS

The following letter was published in the Dec. 1 issue of the Washington Jewish Week
newspaper.

ISRAEL IS NOT THE HOMELAND OF AMERICAN JEWS

To the Editor:
        Regarding "American Jews dismayed with Trump should come to Israel" (Washington Jesish Week, Nov. 17), the author, David Benkof, apparently believes that Israel is home for American Jews. If so, he should certainly feel free to emigrate there. Does Washington Jewish Week share this view? If not, why carry such a headline on its op-ed page?
          Judaism is a religion of universal values, not a nationaliy. American Jews are Americans by nationality and Jews by religion, just as other Americans are Protestant, Catholic or Muslim. Israel, a sovereign state, is the homeland of its own citizens, not of American Jews.
           American Jews have felt at home from the very beginning of our country. In 1841, Rabbi Gustav Poznanski of Charleston, South Carolina, declared, in dedicating a new synagogue:  "This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple."
           For 75 years, the American Council for Judaism has rejected the politicization of Judaism and the manner in which, for some, Israel has become a virtual object of worship.
           One of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. for civil rights for all people, said:  "Judaism is not a religion of space and does not worship the soil.,So, too, the State of Israel is not the climax of Jewish history, but a test of the integrity of the Jewish people and the competence of Israel."
           We wish Israel well and hope that a just peace will be achieved with the Palestinians. If Mr. Benkof believes it is his real home, he should surely act on this belief. Does Washington Jewish Week share this idea? If so, it should make its position clear. If not, why promote the view that American Jews are in exile in their own country?
                                                  ALLAN C. BROWNFELD,
                                                            Publications Editor,
                                                            American Council for Judaism
                                                                      Alexandria, Virginia.

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