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Temple Beth El

Offering Conservative Jewish worship since 1935

83 Chestnut Street/POBox 383
Oneonta, NY 13820
Phone: (607) 432-5522

President’s Column — March 2017

Life at Temple Beth El has been quiet lately. We continue to enjoy active participation in services, adult education, and Men’s Club, but have many empty seats at our monthly Israeli Film Series. The Board has been working hard to manage our finances and raise income, which is not a simple task. The Chai to Life campaign is helping, so please continue to make your monthly $18.00 donation. If you have not done this, it is never too late to begin! One simple and often overlooked source of income is donations to Temple Beth El made in honor or memory of a loved one. You can support the synagogue by making $18.00 or $36.00 donations (or more) for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, yahrzeits, bat/bar mitzvahs, graduations, etc. Donations will be listed in The Shofar (without the amount), so you will see the result of your generosity. This practice is the norm in all synagogues, and Temple Beth El is trying to revive it. We need and appreciate your generous support.

For American Jews, these are contentious times. The transition from President Obama to President Trump coincides with American Jewish divisiveness of unprecedented proportions. I would like to share what I believe is a cogent explication of the conflict American Jews are enduring. It comes from Yossi Klein Halevi of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Israel. His full-length article appeared in The Times of Israel on January 17, 2017, and is worth reading. Below is an excerpt from his study of our relationship with our presidents:

For American Jews, all the guidelines that once helped define their community have eroded. The generation of American Jews after the Holocaust was united around two commitments: support for Israel and opposition to anti-Semitism. American Jews have long since lost their ability to unite around Israel. And now, with this election, they have lost their final common ground – the ability to agree on anti-Semitic threat.

Obama’s legacy is a decimated Middle East, along with the unleashing of an imperial Iran that remains on the nuclear threshold. As for Trump, he has already created a legacy – a vulgarized politics, a society poisoned against itself. Candidate Trump declared war against precisely those pluralistic values that have allowed American Jewry to become the most successful Diaspora in Jewish history. Neither man is worthy of Jewish adulation.

While we are all shocked by the rise of anti-Semitism in America, there are signs of hope such as Muslim Americans taking a public stand to support the Jewish community in St. Louis. Thankfully, our synagogue has avoided the threats and harassment suffered by our Jewish neighbors in Binghamton, Albany, and Syracuse. I hope the hatred of increasingly vocal White Christian groups is not visited upon our members or synagogue. Now more than ever, we should gather for any and every reason. Please check Temple Beth El’s website, calendar, The Shofar, and emails so you remain up-to-date. We look forward to seeing you.