So sad to have to write a letter like this, and praying that our people can heal their divisions…
We, the undersigned rabbis serving in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, condemn the current campaign to vilify our colleagues, Rabbis Eric and Jennifer Solomon. We know them both to be true ohavei yisra’el (“lovers of Israel”). We deplore the tactics being deployed against them, which have no place in our communal discourse. We call upon the small group of people waging this campaign to cease their efforts immediately, and to apologize unequivocally.
This we know to be true: Eric and Jenny are deeply connected to the Jewish State, visiting frequently and instilling a love for our Land and People in their congregants and their own children. Eric is a graduate of the Shalom Hartman Institute’s Rabbinical Leadership Initiative and Jenny is a Wexner Fellow; this places them solidly within the mainstream of American Jewish leadership. We also know them to be deeply committed to their vision for the State of Israel: a state where equality and pluralism are the norm, where justice is abundant, and where peace flourishes. They, like many American Jews and many Israelis, advocate for two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and her Palestinian neighbors. And they, like many American Jews and many Israelis, deplore the continued military occupation as inconsonant with Jewish and Zionist values.
Locally, nationally, and within the State of Israel, Eric and Jenny are recognized for their work in the service of this vision. Ironically, they are being attacked for precisely the things that make us most proud to be their friends: their leadership in T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, where Eric serves as national co-chair, and their cutting-edge educational work, specifically their engagement with Mejdi Tours. Eric and Jenny also spent some of their most recent trip to Israel learning about Breaking the Silence, an organization that inspires vigoruous debate within Israeli society (for example, MK Itizik Shmuli (Zionist Union) calls Breaking the Silence’s activities “subversive operation[s] to collect sensitive and classified information” while Brig. Gen (res.) Amiram Levin, former Northern Command chief and deputy Mossad chief calls Breaking the Silence “a patriotic group [that] opens the cracks in the wall of damages that the occupation has caused the IDF and Israel”). There is nothing “anti-Israel” about planning a congregational trip to the region that explores the multiple, competing narratives and brings travelers into dialogue with Israelis and Palestinians holding a variety of political perspectives, or hearing from controversial voices within Israeli society. Jews ought never be afraid of ideas. To condemn the Solomons for bringing their colleagues and congregants into dialogue with Palestinian people and different sectors within Israeli society is evidence of their detractors’ gross misunderstanding of Jewish values.
We wish to underscore that this is not about left versus right. Indeed, among the signatories of this open letter are rabbis all along the spectrum of opinion about the Middle East. Some of us share the Solomons’ organizational affiliations and others do not. We are united in our rejection of sinat chinam (“groundless hatred”), and we recognize in the ugly campaign to discredit their rabbinates the very embodiment of that trait. We celebrate the Triangle Jewish community’s long history of respecting our varied opinions and honoring each other’s voices and work, and we reject all attempts to bully others into silence.
We are proud to call Rabbis Eric and Jennifer Solomon our colleagues.
Rabbi Larry Bach
Rabbi Leah Citrin
Rabbi Lucy Dinner
Rabbi Ariel Edery
Rabbi Jen Feldman
Rabbi Frank Fischer
Rabbi John Friedman
Rabbi Daniel Greyber
Rabbi Brian T. Nelson
Rabbi Steven Sager