The war in Gaza has been going on for six months

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“I pray every day that Israel finds its way out of this war,” Katz told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The Israeli strike that killed the seven World Central Kitchen workers — after which Israel apologized, fired officers and changed its policies — has exacerbated international anger at Israel.
For many American rabbis, the World Central Kitchen killings have fueled a crisis in confidence.
(Israel announced on Sunday that it was withdrawing most troops from Gaza but would continue the war with targeted raids and strikes.)
Hundreds have donated nearly $60,000 to a fundraiser for World Central Kitchen initiated by US rabbis.
“I have a congregation that is sophisticated and knowledgeable enough to know that this attack [on World Central Kitchen’s convoy], unfortunate as it is, is an aberration and not indicative of normal procedures,” he said.
He also said he remained confident not only in the virtue of the war but in how Israel is fighting it.
“Israel has to pursue its war aims with urgency and it should pursue its humanitarian aims with comparable urgency,” he said.

NEUTRAL

Every Friday, the synagogue led by Rabbi Marc Katz recite a prayer for Israel that, since October 7, has included mention of the Israeli government, prayed for God to grant both Israelis and Palestinians dignity, and expressed hope for the release of the hostages held by Hamas.

Katz, the spiritual head of Bloomfield, New Jersey’s Temple Ner Tamid, prays for the end of the war every day.

“I hope that Israel manages to escape this conflict on a daily basis,” Katz expressed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He claimed that the Israeli strike last week that claimed the lives of seven aid workers only made that desire stronger.

He stated, “I need to pray even harder for this to be the case because this is just one more piece of evidence.”. “Despite how awful this was, it doesn’t make a difference in my opinion. It merely highlights how terrible war is in reality. “.

“It doesn’t mean that the war becomes more unjust because those seven people died,” he cautioned. “.

When Katz talks about the war, he advises his Reform congregation to find a place in the “messy middle,” which is this idea that you can hold a lot of things at once and still have empathy for both the Israeli and Palestinian people. Being compassionate is not a zero-sum endeavor. “.

As their communities commemorate six months since October 7, rabbis across the United States and beyond are facing similar problems to those that Katz is facing. After the Hamas attack that day, Jews around the world organized rallies, prayer sessions, and donation drives as they grieved for the 1,200 people that had died in Israel—mostly civilians—and started to come to terms with the fact that there were roughly 253 hostages in Gaza.

More than 130 Israelis are still being held captive six months after Hamas suffered severe damage but is still in control of portions of Gaza. Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis that international health experts say is resulting in famine, and over 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, the majority of them civilians, according to unconfirmed reports from the Hamas-run health ministry. The seven World Central Kitchen workers were killed in an Israeli strike. Israel later apologized, dismissed officers, and changed its policies, but this has not lessened the outrage directed towards Israel.

The World Central Kitchen killings have exacerbated a crisis of confidence for numerous American rabbis. Six months later, they told JTA, they and their congregation are struggling with yet another reality: a war that is still going on, the isolation of the Jewish state, growing suffering for the Palestinian people, and antisemitism that is happening closer to home.

Some who had previously rejected calls for a ceasefire have now issued their own, while others have steadfastly supported Israel, feeling as most Israeli Jews do that the war must continue no matter the cost. Israel declared on Sunday that it would continue to wage targeted raids and strikes in Gaza while removing the majority of its troops from the area. A World Central Kitchen fundraiser started by US rabbis has received close to $60,000 from hundreds of donors. Without any simple solutions, they are all attempting to guide their students or congregations through a difficult situation.

“Many Jews in my community, who up until now were very concerned about Israel’s right to defend itself, really felt like Israel crossed a line,” said Elliot Kukla, a teacher and grief counselor at Svara, a yeshiva serving queer Jews in Chicago.

“I feel like I have that conversation on a regular basis — of American Jews asking questions they’ve never really asked before. People that we serve [are] beginning to question and say: Wait a minute, what’s going on? “.

Kukla is a member of Rabbis for Ceasefire, an organization that was started a few weeks after October 7 by the former head of Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist group; at the time, the pro-Palestinian left was primarily associated with these kinds of demands. Calls for a ceasefire have proliferated in the months that have followed, even among rabbis. One of the liberal Zionist organizations that called for a bilateral ceasefire and the release of hostages one month ago was the rabbinic human rights organization T’ruah.

In support of the T’ruah stance, Rabbi Amy Schwartzman of Reform Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia, said, “I believe we must hold many truths at the same time right now, and that is very hard.”. “My arms hurt from carrying so much weight.”. I have many reasons to be afraid for my dear Israel, but one of my main concerns is that the world is growing more and more divided from Israel. “.

Although he added, “I generally refrain from trying to use synagogue as a time for op-eds,” Rabbi Jeremy Kalmanofsky of the Conservative Ansche Chesed synagogue in New York City stated that he too supports a negotiated ceasefire. In an effort to express his disapproval of Israel’s right-wing government, Kalmanofsky changed the State of Israel prayer from the custom during his congregation’s services last year. He claimed that the duration of the conflict had surprised him.

“I never could have imagined that it would take six months,” stated Kalmanofsky. My daily goal is to maintain my connection to the unimaginably suffering people of Gaza, despite my strong emotional, religious, ethnic, and political support for Israel. “.

Ceasefire demands are not shared by all. Leader of the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition and rabbi of Potomac, Maryland’s Conservative Congregation B’nai Tzedek, Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt, along with twenty of his congregants, went on a mission to Israel when the World Central Kitchen strikes occurred. There, they heard from Israelis urging them to combat “fake news” that denigrated Israel’s actions in the war.

Weinblatt said he and his congregants support Israel’s war goals and applauded the changes the country made after the aid workers were killed. He declared, “Israel must keep working until it defeats Hamas.”.

He declared, “This attack [on World Central Kitchen’s convoy], unfortunate as it is, is an aberration and not indicative of normal procedures. My congregation is sophisticated and knowledgeable enough to know that.”. “They understand that this is not who Israel is and, as a result, they remain committed to being supportive of Israel despite their concerns that people receive the wrong impression about Israel. “.

Since Orthodox communities, including their rabbis, lean more politically conservative, support the war effort overall, and skew to the right of non-Orthodox communities on Israel-related issues, their outrage over the length and humanitarian cost of Israel’s war seems to be less intense. Recently, several Orthodox rabbis have voiced their displeasure at the pressure the US is putting on Israel.

The senior rabbi of the Florida Boca Raton Synagogue, Efrem Goldberg, stated on Facebook that he thought the Biden administration was incorrect to demand changes from Israel in the wake of the World Central Kitchen killings.

He wrote, “Wouldn’t you want and expect your President to make ultimatums to those torturing you, not those fighting for your release?!” if he or a loved one were held captive.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin, who works at the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor and is the leader of Detroit’s Kehillat Etz Chayim, expressed his distress on Facebook in response to the Biden administration’s growing lack of tolerance for Israel’s war effort. He added that he continued to believe in Israel’s ability to win the war as well as its morality.

On Facebook, Lopatin posted, “As we sadly know from the recent tragic death of seven humanitarian aid workers (and the preliminary Israeli investigation), not every soldier is perfect.”. Nevertheless, I firmly think that the IDF is the world’s most moral army in light of all the evidence. “.

Rabbis of many ideologies and denominations have expressed concern over the notion that the war is making Israel a pariah state, or perhaps has already done so. A proponent of a ceasefire and professor of religion at Fordham University, Rabbi Barat Ellman, stated that such a reality is “very scary for Israelis and it’s very scary for Jews.”. “.

Katz thinks the world’s hostility toward Israel made that particular situation inevitable.

Israel is already viewed negatively. This might not make a difference, I’m not sure. “It has been appalling to witness Israel’s decline in global standing,” he remarked. “From the moment that October 7 occurred, I knew that this would occur. And while this [the aid workers’ strike] accelerated the process somewhat, it was unavoidably going to happen eventually. “.

We still have hope for the war, according to Kalmanofsky. “Israel should pursue its humanitarian goals with comparable urgency to that with which it pursues its war goals.” he declared. Additionally, his congregation offers a prayer for Israel, just like the great majority of synagogues in America. However, he also adds something original.

“I never let a week go by without also bringing up the suffering that the Palestinian people endure,” he declared. “We don’t say a formal tefillah [prayer], but I make sure to bring up that every Saturday.”. “.

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