Inside the synagogue, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who mindlessly called Israeli settlements obstacles to peace, was going to speak. Outside B’nai Torah, in Boca Raton, Florida, members were anxiously pointing out Alan Bergstein, writer and pro-Israel activist, to the reinforced law enforcement detail. Bergstein and other anti-Obama Jews were denied entrance and told by law enforcement to leave the property.
How far and how shamelessly some in the Jewish community have sunk in their embrace of Obama is ineradicably seen in this action. A Jew being denied entrance to a synagogue brings to mind Germany in the 1930s. This is a poignant and symbolic imagery written in infamy, an image that one would think Jews would avoid at nearly all costs. But this Jewish congregation gave it not a second thought.
What would Bergstein and the others have done? Would they have detonated suicide bombs? Created a physically threatening disturbance? Of course not! They would most likely have asked Rice some difficult questions. They could have pointed out that Rice and Obama adviser Samantha Power have a long history of being anti-Israel. Power, in fact, advocated using American troops to create a Palestinian state that would be forged with American firepower pointed at Israelis. The anti-Obama Jews might have noted that Obama has been so pro-Palestinian that he carved out positions on limiting the expansion of Jerusalem that exceed the demands of both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Arafat.
Days later, just down the road in Miami, in another Jewish congregation, Temple Israel, a conflict was stirring over the planned speech of Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, one of Obama’s strongest and most vocal supporters. Schultz’s speech, which was clearly partisan electioneering on behalf of Obama for the Jewish vote in Florida, was met with objections from synagogue members who did not believe that being Jewish was synonymous with being Democrat. Moreover, religious institutions are tax exempt and are not supposed to be forums for clearly partisan activity, even though all denominations breach this behavior in excess and both partisan camps are represented in the breach.
Stanley Tate, an eighty-five-year-old Republican activist, was denied time to offer a rebuttal to Schultz. A six-decade-long member and strong financial supporter of the congregation, Tate resigned. Soon the synagogue found that it had “security” issues and cancelled Schultz’s appearance, giving one pause to consider that, perhaps, Bergstein was seen on his way to Temple Israel armed to the teeth with difficult questions.
The people who instituted these events call themselves liberals and Jewish. In fact, Temple Israel prides itself on its agenda geared to social change. But these people are neither liberal nor Jewish in any real meaning of the terms. Liberalism is supposed to be open to the broad challenge of ideas, the clash of positions, in a stirring environment ensconced by the free market place of ideas.Liberals traditionally extol process as much as outcome. It is not only necessary to do what is right. For traditional liberals, it is also necessary to do what is right the right way.