קישור שלום ~ Kishur Sholom

Staying Connected with the Temple Sholom Community

15 January 2024 ~ 5 Shvat 5784

Parashat Bo

Shalom, chaveirim - hello, friends -

Many years ago - probably during college - I learned about the Dreyfus Affair.  In short, the highest ranking Jew in the French army was falsely accused of espionage and summarily convicted and sentenced to Devil’s Island. Though ultimately found not guilty many years later, the case highlighted the long-standing antisemitism in France, which is still noteworthy today. See: “France sees 430% increase in opening of immigration files since Hamas massacre.” 

When I learned about the Dreyfus Affair, it was ancient history. A Jew from the 1890s accused wrongly because he was a Jew - that’s “so 19th century.” 

It turns out such libelous claims and falsehoods are so the Jewish story - no matter the century. 


Watching and reading about the proceedings this past week in The Hague have shown just how real world antisemitism works. If you can spare thirty minutes, I highly, highly recommend your viewing Tal Becker’s opening argument to the International Court of Justice.  (Be aware: graphic images and language used). 

For the full opening day of Israel's argument, see here, which is quite remarkable as well. 

Tal has been one of my teachers at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and he is one of the finest speakers, minds, representatives of Israel. He is a legal advisor to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has played an instrumental role in negotiations over the decades with foreign entities. Last Friday, he represented not just the State of Israel but quite frankly: the Jewish people. 

He represented the over 130 hostages who remain in Gaza. 

He represented the hundreds of the thousands of Israeli soldiers. 

He represented the 9,000,000 citizens of Israel. 

He represented people who believe in liberal democracy. 

He represented Western society and governments. 

He represented the highest ideals of Judaism and Israel. 

He represented you and me, who live in the Diaspora and are fighting for honesty in discussions and debates about Israel’s fundamental right to exist, to protect itself, and to live peacefully in the land to which we are indigenous and which has been rightly accepted into the nations of the world. 

In the “upside down world” which we live today, Israel is having to defend itself against charges of genocide when a genocidal, terrorist organization has committed the most heinous of crimes against Jews and humanity. 

Last week, I was at a meeting with fellow clergy from New Milford. It was a small group and a small sampling. Nonetheless, these five clergy could not have been more supportive. They recognize the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and they recognize Israel’s inherent rights to exist and defend itself. They attribute great blame to Hamas and hope that the fighting can end soon. They worry about what happens next for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and they also know that Israel faces a great threat from Hizbollah in the north. 

I was very grateful for their support and understanding, including from our temple’s next door neighbor, Riverview Baptist Church, who put up Israeli flags even before we had our signs up.

It should go without saying, though somehow I feel I need to: Israel is not blameless in this war. There are elements of the government - and those who are surely fighting - that are deeply disturbing but that does not mean Israel is guilty of the crimes for which it is be blamed. 

Israel is fighting a war for which it did not ask. The chants of “river to the sea” and the calls about “stop the genocide” began within 24 hours after Hamas’ murderous rampage through southern Israel. The motivations of Hamas’ supporters are far more suspect than Israel’s efforts to prosecute this war. 

Though the lies and libel of this moment are different than those from 130 years ago in France, the motivations remain the same. The pogroms of the late 19th century in central and eastern Europe plus the blatant antisemitism in places like France convinced Jews to undertake the greatest restoration of an indigenous population to its colonized land, this moment reminds us just how vital Israel remains and how consistently antisemitism remains for some in this world. 

We are not alone. Israel is joined by countries like the U.S, the U.K., Germany and Canada in this fight. I can only hope more will come along and I can only hope that the ICJ will find South Africa's accusation to be what it is: false. But in many ways, great damage has been done. Not for those who believe Israel is innocent and not for those who believe Israel is guilty but for those who are unsure, Israel looks - if nothing else - tainted by accusations. 

Dreyfus was restored to the French Army and went on to fight in World War One ... dying in 1935. I can only imagine what his life was like as he looked back on the events of which we still speak today. I can only pray that 130 years from now, people will be able to look back on this moment and see the lack of justice being raised in an international court that is supposed to be the very embodiment of justice. 


Rabbi Mark Cohn

To learn more:

Eve Barlow on her Substack, Blacklisted, "J'accuse" 

Rabbi Donniel Hartman & Yossi Klein Halevi of the Shalom Hartman Institute, "For Heaven's Sake, Israel at War: The Hague."

Recommended Resources from the Rabbi's Desk

Constant and important updates, podcasts, blogs, and articles from The Free Press, Times of Israel and Tablet Magazine.

ARTICLES for reflection on this day of commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday

"How would Booker T. Washington view civil rights and social justice," by Virgil Walker in Free Black Thought.

"MLK's former speechwriter: 'We are trying to save the Soul of America,'" by Francesca Block in The Free Press. 

"The Past and Future of Black - Jewish Relations." by Joshua Muravchik in Sapir, Spring 2021.

"Lunch & Learn" with Rabbi Mark Cohn

NOON - 1:00 PM


Jewish Priorities

Bring a friend! Bring lunch if you want (dairy only - no meat)!


January 16

February 6, 14*, 20

January 16th, Einat Wilf's essay: "Zionism as Therapy: How the Movement's Founding Texts Offer an Answer to Today's Bullies." Wilf effectively forecasted the December Congressional hearing with three major university presidents and their failure to acknowledge the dangers of anti-Zionism - let alone the illiberalism facing many campuses. In teaching college students, Wilf found Zionism as a balm to broken hearts.

NOTE: We'll explore the Table of Contents on January 16th and think about which essays to uncover in February.



Services & Study

Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday Evenings 6:30PM


January 19 - this week!

February 2, 16


January 26


Shabbat Morning Torah Study - 9:30am


January 20, 27

February 3, 10, 17, 24

Temple Sholom

122 Kent Road ~ P.O. Box 509

New Milford, CT 06776

(860) 354-0273

Temple Sholom Website (www.tsholom.org)

Temple Sholom Facebook