It is rabbis like Brant Rosen of Tzedek Chicago’s synagogue who will lead Judaism back to a more prophetic understand of biblical faith. Over the last many decades as many Jewish critics have written. Judaism has been suborned by Zionism, a historic Abrahamic faith co-opted by a nationalist ideology. Often at the centre of the community’s life was Israel, a modern state not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Lest Catholics begin to point any fingers, Roman Catholicism in advanced capitalist countries have settled for the Constantinian arrangement where our critical biblical justice faith has been too easily linked with the flag and predatory capitalism. Even last night on Bill Maher’s TV show, this aggressive atheist, raised a Catholic and commenting on Pope Francis, wondered how could Republicans call themselves Catholics. Instead of Israel at the centre of their spiritual life right wing Catholics have raised the free market as their god and abandoned the poor and the environment. But I digress.
Rabbi Rosen on the holiest day of the Jewish liturgical calendar, Yom Kippur (this year on September 22) dared to lead a Confession Communal Complicity. Every year on Yom Kippur that gem of the Hebrew scriptures the Book of Jonah is read as it challenges the whole community to rethink its values.
Rosen wrote a unique confession called the Al Chet which is part part of the Vidui – or Confession – in which the congregation stands up and publicly confesses the sins of their community.
The congregation rises and publicly confesses the sins of the community and since Israel is part of American Jewish landscape, you can see where this is going.
Al chet…we say together
For the wrong we have done before you…
for forgetting that we were all once strangers in a strange land;
for preferring militarized fences to open borders.
for supporting trade policies and murderous regimes that for drawing lines and turning away those who come to our country seeking a better life.
for demonizing migrants as threats to be feared;
for labeling human beings as “illegal.”
For all these, source of forgiveness, forgive us, pardon us, receive our atonement…
for buying into and promoting the ideology of American exceptionalism;
for oppressing other peoples and nations in the name of American power and influence;
for profiting off of weapons of death and destruction;
for contributing to the increased militarization of our nation and our world.
for expanding our military budget while we cut essential services here at home; for believing that militarism and violence will ensure our collective security.
for a brutal and crushing military occupation
for blockading 1.8 million Gazans inside an open air prison;
for repeatedly unleashing devastating military firepower on a population trapped in a tiny strip of land.
for wedding sacred Jewish spiritual tradition to political nationalism and militarism;
or rationalizing away Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.
This direct naming of Israel’s humiliation of the Palestinian occupation indicates to me that the prophetic is alive still, small though it may be, in the Jewish community. Rosen makes no bones about this. He is a virtual Jeremiah for our time.His target is idolatry, empire and arrogance.
May his numbers increase.