Local Rabbis Urge Orange County to Choose Speakers Who Unite

Linda Sarsour will be the keynote speaker on March 31 in Hillsborough, NC at an event sponsored by Orange County’s Department of Human Rights & Relations and The Orange County Human Relations Commission (HRC) of NC “in honor of women’s history month.” 

Many community members have voiced concerns including Orange County Commissioner Earl McKee who said, “She [Sarsour] will be paid $5000 plus expenses. I only know that I had no part of any of this and am sure that many other well-qualified women could have been asked to speak…This type of conduct will continue until folks rise up and put a stop to it, either through public pressure or at the polls.”

Four prominent local rabbis wrote the public letter below.

Dear Members of the Orange County Human Relations Commission,

We appreciate the mission of the Orange County Human Relations Commission “to promote the equal treatment of all individuals; to protect residents’ lawful interests and their personal dignity; and to prevent public and domestic strife, crime, and unrest within Orange County,” and all the work the Commission has done in the past in service to the community.

We are concerned, however, about the upcoming Women’s History Month “Courageous Conversations” event featuring keynote speaker Linda Sarsour. The Commission has announced that this is an event “… about community unity and bringing people together…” Yet by inviting Ms. Sarsour, whose statements on Zionism and Israel alienate many in the Jewish community, the Human Relations Council is dividing rather than uniting us.

In the wake of the Christchurch and Pittsburgh attacks, and rising Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, it is essential for us to stand united in opposition to all forms of hatred and bigotry. We fully support the Commission’s desire to address women’s history, Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims; we urge that speakers be chosen who bring all of us together to strengthen our community.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Jen Feldman, Kehillah Synagogue

Rabbi Daniel Greyber, Beth El Synagogue

Rabbi John Franken, Judea Reform Congregation

Rabbi Zalman Bluming, Chabad of Durham-Chapel Hill

Beth El Synagogue: UNC and Duke Plan Unbalanced Conference on Gaza

Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill have planned an anti-Zionist and anti-Israel conference camouflaged as a conference on Gaza, March 22-24. Several scheduled speakers have compared Israel to Nazis and many others promote boycotting Israel. One of the opening speakers refers to Israel as a “terrorist state.”

The letter below was sent by Rabbi Daniel Greyber and President Debbi Goldstein of Beth El Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Durham-Chapel Hill. 

Other letters are archived at Israeli Under Attack at UNC and Duke.

March 20, 2019

Dear Leadership of Duke and UNC,

Beth El Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in Durham-Chapel Hill with over 400 member families including many students, faculty and staff at both Duke and UNC. We are writing to express concern about the upcoming Gaza Symposium March 22nd through March 24th. Beth El members have been troubled by the recent uptick in antisemitic acts which have occurred at Duke, UNC, and around the Durham-Chapel Hill area. In addition to this, while criticism of Israel is, of course, legitimate and important in a democratic society, portraying Israel only as an oppressor and Palestinians only as victims functions to demonize Israel, and neither leads to constructive dialogue nor advances rigorous academic thought.

Based upon the current composition of invited speakers, the conference program fails to meet Duke and UNC’s high academic standards because it lacks both presenters to articulate a mainstream Israeli perspective and anyone who can suggest actions that might improve relations between the two from an Israeli perspective. The program imbalance, recent antisemitic events in the Triangle, including on Duke’s campus, and the scheduling of the conference on the Jewish Sabbath (which precludes participation by observant Jews) are fueling concern in the Jewish community that the conference will contribute to an atmosphere in which an exchange of perspectives is unwelcome and where Israel will be demonized.

We are concerned about the deleterious effect the conference will have on our local communities on and off campus. We urge Duke and UNC to create forums and opportunities that meet your own highest educational ideals, to take stronger steps to encourage dialogue and relationship building, to reject antisemitism and Islamophobia, and to avoid contributing to further division in our community.

Sincerely,

Daniel Greyber, Rabbi, Beth El Synagogue

Debbie Goldstein, President, Beth El Synagogue

Be like Beth El Synagogue and Make Your Voice Heard!

Contact the following UNC and Duke leaders to voice your concerns about this unbalanced and biased conference against Israel.

Duke President Vincent Price (919) 684-2424 vincent.price@duke.edu

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz 919-962-1365 chancellor@unc.edu

Duke Chair, Board of Trustees, Jack O. Bovender, Jr. boardchair@duke.edu

UNC Board of Governors, Chair Harry L. Smith, Jr. public@bog.northcarolina.edu

It is a privilege to be a Jew, my son

Daniel Greyber, Israel, Judaism

Rabbi Daniel Greyber wrote the following letter to his son, Alon, before he went off to college. Voice4Israel is honored to share it with our readers. 

"I wish that I could tell you that Jews are safe in a world without Israel, but I cannot."

Rabbi Daniel Greyber

A Letter to My Son

I wish that I could tell you that Jews are safe in a world without Israel, but I cannot. A few weeks ago, we watched Schindler’s List. Your ima and I have given you a Jewish identity without a lot of focusing on the Shoah (the Hebrew word for the Holocaust). We have given you Shabbat and Jewish prayer and holidays and Hebrew and Torah study and mitzvoth as the foundation to your Jewish identity. While we never hid the Holocaust from you, we waited until you turned 16 to show you Schindler’s list. It is not until this summer, after many previous summers at Ramah, when you will travel to Poland that you will learn more deeply about the crimes that were committed against our people just 75 years ago. We did not hide these things from you, but waited to introduce them to you because there is a downside to sharing this history with you: the darkness of the Shoah can be so powerful that it overwhelms light and hope. I hope that as you learn about the Shoah, you never lose hope in God and hope in the capacity of the world to be redeemed. But I also hope that you learn that Israel must exist if the Jewish people are to be safe from genocide. I wish I could tell you that America will always be safe for Jews; I cannot. Germany was a progressive, enlightened society; people thought it could never happen. It did there. It can here.

Israel is important though, not only as a refuge. Your abba is a rabbi who loves the Jewish tradition of study and prayer but I accept the Zionist critique which the rabbinic Judaism the developed in the diaspora left us with enormous intellectual gifts but deprived us of wisdom that only comes with the responsibilities of self-governance. Rabbi David Hartman wrote: “Israel expands the possible range of halakhic involvement in human affairs beyond the circumscribed frameworks of the home and synagogue. Jews in Israel are given the opportunity to bring economic, social, and political issues into the center of their religious consciousness.” Only because of Israel do we now have modern music, and television, and film and literature in Hebrew. Only because of Israel are the Jewish people able to send help after an earthquake in Haitii or to advise California on how to solve its water crisis. A sovereign Jewish state is the great religious and moral challenge the Jewish people have embarked upon in thousands of years. In 1762, more than a century before Theodor Herzl launched political Zionism, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, writing in Emile, said, “I shall never believe I have heard the arguments of the Jews until they have a free state, schools and universities, where they can speak and dispute without risk. Only then will we know what they have to say.” He was right. If Israel disappears, much more will be lost than just a refuge. It is a blow from which I do not know the Jewish people can recover again.

"Judaism’s most audacious idea may be that, in God’s eyes, we are not small. We matter."

Rabbi Daniel Greyber

Of course, this begs the question, why should the Jewish people matter to you? You are a scientist, my son. I believe God blessed you with a great mind, even if, in your mind, you are not sure you believe in God. You, better than I, sense how big the universe is – that we launched a spacecraft to Jupiter in 1989 and, after traveling at a speed equivalent to flying from Los Angeles to New York in 82 seconds and using “planetary gravity assists,” Galileo finally arrived — six years later! Our solar system is one of 100 billion star systems in the Milky Way, and the Milky Way is one of about 30 galaxies in what astronomers call our “local group.” We are small. Judaism’s most audacious idea may be that, in God’s eyes, we are not small. We matter. “The greatest sin of man,” wrote Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “is to forget that he is a prince — that he has royal power.” I cannot prove to you your life’s worth, my son; I can only bequeath to you the knowledge that you matter a great deal, that within you is an entire world of potential and goodness. I cannot prove to you that the Jewish people matter; I can only bequeath to you my faith that the people of Israel matter a great deal, that we have brought knowledge and love and faith and light into the world. It is a privilege to be a Jew, my son. We are no better, no worse, than other peoples. We are a small, fragile fragment in a sea of human life. Our task is eternal – to bring God’s light into the world. We matter. You matter. And because these things are true, Israel matters as a place to keep us safe, as a society within which the Torah can be most fully brought to life, as a culture through which our people can most fully know ourselves and the world. She is not perfect. Nothing is. But she is ours, and she matters more than we can know.

Love, Abba.

Daniel Greyber is rabbi at Beth El Synagogue, a Conservative and Orthodox synagogue in Durham, NC that welcomes many intermarried and gay and lesbian families and is home to a politically involved population with widely divergent opinions on everything. Greyber is the author of Faith Unravels: A Rabbi’s Struggle with Grief and God, was ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles and received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Communications from Northwestern University. Most importantly, he is married to Jennifer, and is the proud father of their three sons, Alon, Benjamin, and Ranon.

Jewish Values and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Series

Thursday, September 27 at 6:00pm at the Levin JCC (Mandatory Introductory Session)

Taught by Rabbi Daniel Greyber

Through the study of Jewish narratives about Israel and the unpacking of the complex meaning of peace in the Jewish tradition, participants are invited to explore the ideas and values that animate different attitudes toward the conflict and how these values shape their own political understanding. This introductory session at the Levin JCC will be followed by 12 course sessions, beginning October 11 at 6:30pm.