Letters to the Editor: David Friedman, BDS and Transgender Bathrooms

David Friedman testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on his nomination to be U.S. ambassador to Israel, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 16, 2017.

U.S. Jews oppose David Friedman

For someone who is the head of the major U.S. and Canadian fundraising organization for North American and Israeli Jews, and who claims that he sees his responsibility as “bringing the community together,” the Jewish Federations of North America’s chair Richard Sandler certainly acted foolishly and irresponsibly in voicing support for David Friedman, Trump’s nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Approximately 75 percent of the American Jewish community voted for Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump, and has been repulsed by Trump’s words and actions as president. Friedman’s crude, undiplomatic words and deeds over the years, including calling liberal Jews “kapos,” speaking derisively about a two-state solution, and raising and donating money to one of the most extreme, illegal settlements in the West Bank, totally disqualifies him from representing anyone other than himself. 

Friedman has no experience or qualifications that would justify JFNA supporting him to represent the diversity and range of opinions that the American Jewish community embodies. Whatever remorse he expressed at his Senate Foreign Relations Committee required him to repudiate his beliefs and connections, and was transparently fraudulent. Donors do not give to local federations and JFNA to see Richard Sandler support the likes of David Friedman.

JFNA should demand that Richard Sandler immediately resign, and apologize to the vast majority of American Jews and friends of Israel who believe that Friedman is a disastrous, cynical choice. Sandler has no right to speak in my name or any other, and by doing so he damages the nonpartisan obligation and reputation of JFNA, along with the programs, advocacy and community-building it oversees.

Ricki Lieberman

In face of new law, support BDS 

I find it ironic and tragic that Israel has for years been calling on Palestinians to take up nonviolence in their struggle for nationhood, and has today banned supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement from entering the country. Forget for a moment the anti-democratic nature of this new law. Forget for a moment that a blacklist of human rights supporters is being drafted at this moment. Israel maintains its grip on Palestinians through a simple principle: demonize them as sub-human, paint them as savages, say they are anti-Semitic. And when they mobilize peacefully and call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, keep demonizing, keep the rhetoric going. And go one step further now – ban all supporters of BDS from entering Israel at all. As an Israeli-Canadian Jew who loves Israel, I have one simple thing to say. Please boycott, divest and support sanctions on Israel.

Avi Zer-Aviv

Transgendered bathrooms and Conservative Judaism 

I always thought that the Jewish Theological Seminary was a bastion of Conservative Judaism, and that from its noble halls there would be innovative reinforcement for Judaism. Unfortunately, it has become irrelevant. Now it is engaged with the problem of transgendered bathrooms. It seems a very foolish problem and outside of Judaism to be engaged in such causes. What is important is raising generations of Jews. By taking up this cause, the JTS has not fulfilled any of Rabbi Solomon Schechter`s dreams. It has not fulfilled its mission in America. It has succeeded in building huge, empty edifices in various cities across the United States, but it has not filled them with the young generations. So many Jews have gone astray and left Judaism because the synagogues that were built were empty of Judaism, and people were bewildered by rabbis whose causes were not theirs.

Toby Willig