The Most Staggering Deception and Hypocrisy
Should the Kotel have an area for egalitarian prayer services? Should Conservative and Reform and unaffiliated Jews have a space to pray in a way that they feel comfortable and to which they are accustomed?
Most people have a knee-jerk reaction to this question, but there are in fact complicated issues and reasonable arguments to be made. I'm not going to get into them here, but what I'd like to marvel at is the sheer dishonesty of the organization spearheading the fight against any change.
If you're going to argue that there should be no change, that the site should follow traditional Jewish forms of prayer, that the authenticity/ historical power of tradition should carry more weight than pleasing relatively recent movements, and it's irrelevant if people in those movements are delegitimized and will not feel at home at the Kotel, fine. You can call your organization "Defenders of Tradition" or "Guardians of the Temple" or something like that.
Incredibly, however, the organization taking on this cause calls itself "Am Echad - One People"!
Their tagline is an extraordinary accomplishment of dishonest talk: "Am Echad aims to unite Jews from the Diaspora and Israel around the goals of preserving our 3,000-year-old heritage, deepening cooperation among our communities, and upholding Jewish interests in Israel and around the world." Of course, what they are actually doing is trying to prevent any cooperation between the Orthodox community and other communities. The only "unity" that they want to promote is that of the Orthodox community, and only so that they can fight together to delegitimize other communities.
It's obvious why they decided to be deceptive in their description of themselves - unity is a much more appealing motif than being exclusionary. But the dishonesty is galling. And take a look at how they describe the first of the areas in which they operate, "Religious Freedom":
Freedom of religion should be an unalienable right of every individual. For Jews, religious practice has been the bedrock of our national existence for over 3,000 years. Our rich tradition informs every facet of Jewish individual and communal life. Preserving the ability of every Jew to observe the laws and customs of our tradition freely is a critical goal of Am Echad. We work with local Jewish communities around the world to stem attempts to infringe on religious liberties.
In other words, when they speak about the importance of "Religious Freedom," they mean the exact opposite! They mean that Orthodox Judaism is the only legitimate expression of religion, and any other expression is not be legitimized!
And it gets even worse. This organization is not just dishonest - it's extraordinarily hypocritical.
At the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly (JFNAGA) several years ago, Am Echad was furious that Orthodox voices did not receive sufficient representation. They campaigned about this as follows:
"As the the rift between different sectors of the American Jewish community widens and points of identification become no longer in common, we find it vital that all Jews be represented at the #JFNAGA, because after all is said and done, we are still One Nation."
"Anybody purporting to be the voice of an entire nation should have representative voices from all sectors of that nation."
The hypocrisy is simply staggering!
Am Echad should either live by their own stated principles or admit that they don't actually believe in them.
(If you'd like to subscribe to this blog via email, use the form on the right of the page, or send me an email and I will add you.)