City Rabbis Tackle the Israel Conversation


A rabbi is the spiritual leader of a congregation. They provide guidance and support to members of the community on lots of different issues, such as birth, parenting, marriage, and funerals.  


But at the moment, their jobs include another role: helping their congregants consider their connections to Israel. That’s difficult this year because of the protests against the Israeli government. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been protesting for months. Protestors say Israel’s democracy is at stake as the country’s right wing government pushes laws to change the balance of power and weaken the powers of the courts. And these protests have spread all over the world, including to Washington Square Park in New York City. 


Amichai Yehuda Lau-Lavie is a rabbi and activist. He says members of his congregation at the Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn don’t all agree on the issue. During a recent discussion, one congregant stood up to say that she is disappointed in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Another congregant raised a different issue: the Palestinians who were displaced and exiled from their homes as Israel declared its independence. Today, many of their descendents remain stateless. 


As rabbi, it’s Lau-Lavi’s job to lead his community through difficult and confusing times. So, he, and other rabbis are making a point to discuss the issue, even though it’s a thorny one. 


“How do we honor the Fallen who have died in the wars and in all the violent attacks, and then we celebrate Israel’s independence, and we’re pro Palestine. How do we do both?”

About the author(s)

Henrietta McFarlane is a journalist and masters student at Columbia Journalism School. She specializes in audio and international reporting.