Rabbi James Rosenberg

Rabbi James RosenbergThis past Sept. 18, AT&T Connect Event Services sent the following confirmation to my inbox: “You have registered to attend Annual POTUS High Holiday Call with Rabbis on Sept. 22, 2014, at 3 p.m. Eastern time.” POTUS: President of the United States. Such power, such potency in the acronym.

On the Monday afternoon before Rosh Hashanah, I was one of about 900 American rabbis who spent 30 minutes on the phone with Barack Obama in what was his sixth annual non-partisan High Holy Day conference call with American rabbis.  Once again, Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C., coordinated the complex logistics.

As was true of a similar POTUS call for which I was registered two years ago, only four rabbis were given the opportunity to speak: leaders of America’s Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist movements.

Rabbi James RosenbergIn March 1973, Rabbi Samuel Korff delivered a eulogy for Charles Shumrack, a longtime member of Congregation Kehillath Jacob who was murdered in his first-floor apartment in the Boston neighborhood of Mattapan. In the course of his remarks, “Korff then challenged future historians to determine ‘how it was possible for a Jewish community of 40,000 souls to be emptied in the course of two years and how so much crime was concentrated in the short space of 40 blocks.’ ”

Though not cited till near the end of the book, Rabbi Korff’s question haunts almost every page of Hillel Levine’s and Lawrence Harmon’s “The Death of an American Jewish Community, A Tragedy of Good Intentions” (The Free Press, 1992). Korff’s question sits at the center of a circle of additional questions. What happened collectively to the 90,000 Jews of Roxbury, Dorchester and, finally, Mattapan, the last of Boston’s contiguous Jewish neighborhoods to disappear? At one time Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan constituted the vital heart of Boston Jewry, with Blue Hill Avenue calling to mind the Bronx’s Grand Concourse.

Rabbi James RosenbergI confess that I am a liberal Zionist. I am proudly pro-Israel. Like almost all Israeli and American Jews, I am also pro-peace. Though I know that many of my fellow Jews disagree with me, I believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the best interest of the State of Israel, the world Jewish community and the community of the world at large.

It seems to me that only a two-state solution will ensure Israel’s survival as both a Jewish and a democratic state. By way of contrast, a one-state solution means that Israel will have to maintain its Jewish character by limiting the rights of its Arab citizens, who in the not-too-distant future are likely to become a majority in any proposed “greater” Israel bounded by the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Jordan River on the east. On the other hand, if the one state of Israel is to remain democratic – one vote for every Israeli citizen – then Israel will gradually lose its Jewish character since, under inexorable demographic pressure, Jews will ultimately be in the minority.

Rabbi James Rosenberg“I didn’t think he’d do it.

“I really didn’t think he would.

“I thought he’d say, whoa, hold on, wait a minute. We made a deal, remember, the land, the blessing, the nation, the descendents as numerous as the sands on the shore and the stars in the sky. You said: through Isaac you’d make my name great. I have kept my word. Don’t you go back on yours.”

James Goodman begins his book, “But Where Is the Lamb? Imagining the Story of Abraham and Isaac” (Schocken, 2013), by imagining Abraham’s thoughts after hearing God’s command to slay his son Isaac. The story, known in Jewish tradition as Akedah Yitzhak (The Binding of Isaac), is told in Genesis 22:1-19 and is read year after year in synagogues throughout the world on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

Rabbi James Rosenberg

Sholem Aleichem (Sholem Rabinovitch, 1859-1916), is best known as the man behind “Fiddler on the Roof,” the 1964 Broadway musical that – even after 50 years – keeps on keepin’ on.

Because of the worldwide success of “Fiddler,” Sholem Aleichem has been embraced as the Yiddish writer who almost single-handedly created a warmly nostalgic vision – I should say “version” – of the “Old Country” as embodied in the fictional shtetl of Anatevka in 1905 Tsarist Russia.