Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Renting in Israel and the Simon Wiesenthal Center

On the front page of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network is a small article entitled, “The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s perverted stance on ‘tolerance’” by Martha Reese. One of the issues the author is decrying is that the Simon Wiesenthal Center has nothing to say about the Rabbis in Israel who published a letter forbidding their people to rent to non-Jews. At the beginning of the article the author asks:

Why does the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) have nothing to say about the rabbinical edict circulating in Israel—currently signed by more than four dozen rabbis—forbidding the sale or rental of homes to non-Jews?
This is a rather complex issue, but in a manner of speaking there has been a statement by a leading member of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It can be found at Cross-Currents, and is written by a friend, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Director of Interfaith Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, as well as holder of the Sydney M. Irmas Chair in Jewish Law and Ethics at Loyola Law School.

What should be understood here is that the issues have to do with Jewish law and the kind of complexities that only those qualified to speak on such matters can address. My posting concerns two articles and I have read both. But it would be dishonest of me to say I understand everything. They are very interesting and very difficult. But the important point I want to make is that the issue has been addressed and the Rabbis’ edict found faulty by a member of the SWC.

The first article is by Adlerstein, “How To Respond to the Renting Ban – And How To Fail At It.” In the article he refers to another article as the proper way to address the problem. That article is, Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein's Response to the Letter Banning Sale of Homes to Gentiles in Israel. This latter article is much easier to read for a Gentile like myself.

Adlerstein is calling for kindness, use of all the legitimate literature on the subject and he is pointing to Lichtenstein’s response as the good example. Lichtenstein’s last paragraph is:

I conclude with what should be self-evident. At stake are key questions that involve meta-halakhic [the Jewish body of law] considerations. The willingness and ability to consider and assign appropriate weight to wide-ranging components related to halakhic content and its connection to both historical and social realities mandates a much wider discussion. We, who dwell in the beit midrash, remain committed to our belief and desire “to proclaim that God is upright, my rock in whom there is no wrong.”
If that sounds like an interesting read, please go and read. Just know that there is concern about the Rabbis’ edict.

The problem here is that secular people with a definite ideology are demanding that all of the Rabbis, both orthodox and otherwise conform to their way of making statements. That is not the way one listens to the other.

So while I hopefully have the readers attention, the IPMN wants Presbyterians to go and vote on a different issue so please do: 'Israeli War Crimes' signs to go on Metro buses (There is no longer voting on this issue.) Instead read, Metro considers changing policy over anti-Israeli bus ads.


Anonymous said...

I can't help but find it amusing that the IPMN wants to skewer the SWC for supposedly not denouncing the rent ruling, but will not itself so much as blink at the daily barrage of absolutely disgusting anti-Semitism that pours through the Palestinian media and educational system (both in violation of the Oslo Accords). It's long past time for the IPMN to open its eyes to the ugliness in Palestinian society and confront it.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Presbyman said...

Not to mention the fact that even under the "moderate" Fatah party, Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza who sold property to Jews could be punished by execution.

John Erthein
Erie, PA

Pastor Bob said...

I read through the articles by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein and Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. I found both fascinating if a bit obscure as a Christian. Halacha is certainly not my forte. That all rabbis will not automatically agree with those who would deny rental of an apartment owned by a Jew (in fact most, it seems, do not) to Gentiles should not surprise. The Halacha is made up of debates between rabbis.

Nevertheless despite my ignorance of things halacha there are some Torah references that I think are relevant: those concerning the sojourner.

Having said that I am more than a little surprised IPMN finds no comment by the Simon Wiesenthal Center on the subject as Rabbi Alderstein works for the SWC! Maybe they spoke too soon? And they seem to have missed something rather significant: the outcry in Israel against the proposal to refuse rental to Gentiles. If the IPMN sounds upset about the issue (although their outcry is used for political means) one should read comments by a wide swath of Israeli society against the statement against rental by a limited number of rabbis. Some writers in Haaretz want to sack all the rabbis who signed the anti rental document. Others want the originator of the idea, the Chief Rabbi of Sfad arrested.

So the IPMN has it in for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and doesn't care if they tell the truth the Center or not? Why am I not surprised?

BTW following the winding paths of both Rabbi Adlerstein and Rabbi Lichtenstein through the Halacha is well worth the labor. Following the ways of making moral and economic decisions by those of another religion is always helpful.

Greg Scandlen said...

If you haven't seen it, this article describes the complicity of the Palestinians in the Holocaust -- http://dailycaller.com/2010/12/22/thedc-analysis-yes-virginia-the-palestinian-arabs-do-have-a-deep-connection-to-the-holocaust/print/

Apparently it is based on a new report from the National Archives, which I haven't yet reviewed.

But, then, IPMN will probably dismiss such information as being Zionist propaganda planted by the world-wide Jewish conspiracy.

Viola Larson said...

I am no longer expecting IPMN to understand their own intolerance, but I am hoping that other Presbyterians will begin to see this.

John that and a lot of other prejudices, and there is no one in leadership to correct the problem.

Bob I thought of you as I was posting this and thought you would read the articles. They are interesting.

Greg thanks for the information-yes I think to many in the Middle East are infected with a virus and are unaware of it and its origins.