National Voices Discuss ‘Battle For Israel’s Soul’ at Beth Jacob

What does support for or criticism of Israel mean within the Jewish community? It has been a debate that has raged on for decades. Two of the most prominent national voices on that front will be at Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights.

Forward” newspaper editor-at-large J.J. Goldberg and Jonathan Tobin, “Commentary Magazine” senior online editor will be debating “The Battle for Israel’s Soul: From Left to Right” on Jan. 19.

“They are well known to people who spend a lot of time on American-Jewish life as it relates to Israel,” said Beth Jacob Rabbi Morris Allen. “They are both very well-known figures who speak to different parts of the Jewish community. That they are speaking together the night before the inauguration is important to civility.

“I think it’s really necessary inside the Jewish community to hear legitimate disagreements with the Israeli government in its current iteration. I think that at the end of the day, while the two of them may both be pro-Israel, they have profound differences with what that definition means today. They may question the pro-Israelness of each other, but not the sincerity.”

There is no charge for this event, which is underwritten by the Beth Jacob Pertzik Special Programming Endowment Fund, Mt. Zion Congregation, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. It’s and co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul, Hineini, Temple of Aaron and By The Rivers.

Allen expects that the event will start with the two laying out where they agree: The importance of Israel as a Jewish state. They will, he said, disagree on the way to achieve that.

“I think when it’s all said and done, it’s going to be the great contribution they will make that evening,” Allen said. “The result will hopefully be a commitment moving forward of people who are present how they can continue this process to create opportunities with us to talk together about difficult issues.

The event is part of a nationwide tour the two journalists have been on for several months and will continue with stops into the spring. Allen said it was scheduled long before the United Nations Security Council’s controversial vote on Resolution 2334.

“Clearly, this event is more important after the vote,” Allen said. “You have people who will be there who have profound disagreements with the government of the U.S. moving forward. It only adds to the significance of the event the night before the inaugural.”

In a time of political turmoil and difficult political conversations that have been taking place locally as it pertains to the United States political process. Allen said this event is important to help demonstrate how two people with very different views on Israel can still have a civil conversation about something as nuanced and complicated as that.

“It’s so polarized now that we live in a situation where, if you don’t support all that Israel does, you’re not pro-Israel. If don’t oppose it, you aren’t sufficiently anti-Israel,” Allen said. “I think both sides are necessary to speak about. Particularly to some people in certain demographics. People are so committed to their thinking, if they violate the orthodoxy of their position, they are turncoats. It’s a serious issue we have to face in the Jewish community.

“We have responsibility to start modeling how to make [civil conversations] happen right now.”