When synagogue talk goes nuclear, Part 2

The Iran nuclear program's heavy-water reactor at Arak. Credit: Nanking2012/Wikimedia Commons.

My colleagues Sean Savage and Alina Dain Sharon have been asking pulpit rabbis around America about the dilemma of whether or not they should publicly comment about the Iran nuclear deal in synagogue, and if the answer is yes, how they should frame their remarks. The resulting story can be read here.

Alas, two rabbis' perspectives came in after we had already filed the article, but are still worth mentioning. 

Rabbi David Lyon, the leader of Congregation Beth Israel in Houston, offers the following take on this hot-button issue for local communities:

“Rabbis have an obligation to talk about Iran in their sermons. But, we have a double-burden. We carry in our heads and hearts a passion for the Jewish people and Israel. This is little different than the passions of other Jews and supporters of Israel, including political pundits and politicians. However, we also carry the unique duty to convey what is in our heads and hearts with deft skill to focus our communities’ responses around central Jewish tenets and hopes. There is no black and white in most matters, even the Iran deal; therefore, our burden is to use religion as we’ve been taught to do and find meaning in the gray areas so we might work together for a future no one can predict, but we all have the responsibility to build. No one will envy the rabbis as they take their places on the pulpit this High Holiday season.”

Indeed, Rabbi John Rosove, senior rabbi of Los Angeles-based Temple Israel of Hollywood, called the matter "a complex question that I am actually struggling with right now." 

But in line with his 2011 blog post titled "The Torah is Political - Rabbis Can Be Too," Rosove is in fact comfortable with being open about his opinions on the Iran deal. 

"I am neither a scientist nor a policy wonk—I am an American Jew, a strong progressive Reform Zionist, who loves the state of Israel and the people of Israel," he said. "What I offer are Jewish values based on what experts tell us is best not only for Jews, the Jewish people, and the state of Israel, but also for America and the cause of peace and justice. I believe that should I speak during the High Holidays, I will argue that the agreement, though flawed, does address for the next 10-15 years and maybe longer, the matter of Iran being denied the nuclear bomb with a break-out time of one year, far superior to what is the current status-quo."

Rosove continued, "What deeply concerns me, however, I would add, is the money that will flow potentially from Iran to Hezbollah and Israel’s enemies, and that the best way to secure Israel is not only through this agreement, but through a two-state solution and continuing security support for Israel that may or may not include more Iron Dome defenses and possibly American bombs that can attack deep bunkers in Iran where nuclear bombs are being made."

Posted on July 27, 2015 .