By Rabbi Danny Rich
We are in the midst of reading Deuteronomy, that great speech(es) of Moses as he contemplates that he will never enter the Promised Land. Leadership is never easy and its rewards are often unknown – leading the Jewish community even more so.
As British Jews read in a headline: ‘63 percent say there may be no future for Jews in the UK’ and underneath: ‘Communal leaders attacked over Gaza’, it is perhaps even more important to emphasise the value of leadership.
Now is the time to call for an end to attacks by the self-appointed ‘representatives’ of the community on its elected leadership, and its replacement with a mature, gentle and humble dialogue about the experience British Jewry is undergoing.
It hasn’t been easy to be a Jew recently. We’ve seen vile raw anti-Semitism, been victims of mindless and ignorant words and deeds and we’ve been assailed by anti-Israel sentiment. It is important to distinguish between the three and it’s on the third that many of us are conflicted.
Friends and family in Israel tell us they’re scared and that they’ll support their government in ‘ending the threat of rockets’, but any decent person is anguished by the death, destruction and humiliation inflicted on the Palestinians.
It is therefore unsurprising that around 90 percent of Israelis support their government’s actions or that Hamas receives heroic press from Palestinians and others.
Fear breeds hate and ignorance nurtures extremism, and, despite calls for ceasefires, recognition and reasonableness, both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships are caught in a cycle of mutual fear and impractical rhetoric.
Britain’s Jewish community is geographically removed from the terror and pressure. While its leadership should consider ways to encourage moderate voices in the region, its more important task is to consider the future of British Jewry.
Part of the success of the British Jewish community lies in its ability to nurture talented professional and lay leadership. Those leaders require many attributes, including vision, tenacity, and skill – and they will need to combine this with a sense of humour and a robustness.
For as God warned Moses about the Jews (Exodus 32:9): ‘I see this is a stiff-necked people’ by which God meant perhaps: ‘These Jews are hard work, but it may well be worth it!’