News from the Middle East provided much food for thought during the week leading to Yom Kippur. Revelations regarding Iranian nuclear facilities and Iran’s testing of medium-range missiles, combined with the bellicose language of the Iranian President at the United Nations, reinforced Israeli fears of an existential danger emanating from Iran. The trilateral meeting between President Obama, Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas in New York reminded the world that more than robust US engagement would be necessary to achieve the goal of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. And, the reverberations from the Goldstone Commission report continue to provoke debate within Israel between those who seek to delegitimize the entire exercise as a typical UN bashing of Israel and others who believe that, regardless of whether the report was objectively fair, Israel should establish an independent commission to investigate the allegations of human rights wrongdoing.
Yet, my impression is that a growing number of American Jews, and not just on college campuses, feel increasingly disconnected from issues pertaining to Israel. They consider the issues too complicated or too frightening. Mentioning Israel requires participation in a discourse that is increasingly hostile and uncomfortable. And there are now many alternatives for either ethnic identification or political engagement.
Yom Kippur services provided an opportunity for reflection on these matters. I wondered how different communities include the issues confronting contemporary Israel into their liturgy and sermons, and whether this reflects a change from previous years. And so without pretending to conduct a methodologically sound survey, I would welcome feedback from our readers regarding their experiences and reflections on the place of Israel in their synagogue services during the high holidays.