A few weeks ago, the school I am currently teaching at, Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan, had the honor and pleasure of receiving a brief visit from the Israeli government minister Naftali Bennet.
In honor of Bennet’s visit, the school gathered for its Rosh Chodesh shira b’tsibbur, a public singing of songs of the Jewish people, songs of Israel, songs of our heritage. No pretentious shows are put on at Schechter even if a government minister comes to visit. It’s not the school’s style. The school embodies Jewish values that we all aspire to, including modesty.
We sat and sang together and Bennet, flowing with the warm informality of the school, joined in. He didn’t see himself as above anyone. Bennet sat right on the floor, joining the students in their singing, even high-fiving some in the hallway.
Just as Bennet was about to leave he turned to the students. His parting words were something along the lines of, “I just want each and every one of you to know that no matter where life takes you, you have Jewish brothers and sisters in the land of Israel. Know, you always have two countries, your United States of America, and your home in the land of Israel.”
It was a heartening moment.
Unfortunately, it has been marred by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau’s public criticism of Bennet. What’s to criticize in the above scenario?
Rabbi Lau says that Bennet should not have visited a Conservative Jewish day school. His reasoning is that the Conservative education distances Jews from Judaism, from tradition, from the past, and from the future of the Jewish people.
As someone who has been profoundly inspired by Rabbi Lau’s father, the beloved and distinguished child Holocaust survivor, the former chief rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Meir Lau, I feel disappointed in his son.