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Message From Our CEO – Protecting Our Own Anatevka

Of all the characters in our broad and deep Jewish narrative, why has Tevye become one of the most beloved… the most iconic? And not just Tevye alone, but within his community. His Anatevka.

Last week was a sad chapter in our own piece of the earth, our Anatevka. One of South Palm Beach County’s great spiritual leaders, Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, and his Boca Raton Synagogue community invited a noted author and speaker to speak there in an evening of education. The speaker, who happens to be a devout Catholic, was not coming to speak on any aspect of Christianity. He was coming to speak with busy parents on work/life balance, an area of his expertise.

So what happened? The voices of intolerance, bigotry and yes, hatred, came with the force of a hurricane and attempted to besmirch the good names of Rabbis Efrem Goldberg and Philip Moskowitz. Ugly, vile accusations and twisted interpretations of the Torah were used to sling filth here in our Anatevka, against community leaders who work every day to assist Jews of all streams through acts of chesed, education and chaplaincy. Their defamers, a small but vocal group of extremist Jews, went so far as to threaten the life of the speaker who finally cancelled his own appearance out of fear for his safety. They are no better than the Cossacks on horseback setting fire to a wedding party, or Haman or Arafat, or fill in the blank…. Being Jewish doesn’t make them an exception. It makes them exceptionally worse.

When we get to a point where one among us believes they are more Jewish then their neighbor, we must say ENOUGH!!! Of course, Tevye and his neighbors prayed the same way. But the story of our American Diaspora is different. We are diverse. We pray differently. Some of us may be more traditional, more observant, more secular, more learned. But not more Jewish.

This is our home. Our Anatevka. And we cannot allow incivility in any form to permeate our community that works together so well on behalf of our residents and our people. Rabbis Goldberg and Moskowitz are good, decent community and spiritual leaders. And they are not the first here to have been maligned. Some of our most senior local rabbis from other Jewish movements have endured smear campaigns and threats over what can be discussed and by whom in their synagogues. Our Jewish community and leaders stood strong with them as we do now with our colleagues at Boca Raton Synagogue.

These rabbis forge relationships with other rabbis in our community and build partnerships to expand Jewish life and living. For almost five years now, I’ve been hosting all of our community Rabbis four times a year to have lunch and discuss our community, our village, our Anatevka. From Reform, Conservative, and varied Orthodox traditions, they agree on much and disagree on some. But, throughout, they show a tremendous amount of respect for each other, and wear their love of our community on their sleeves. Each time I gather with them I am in awe of their ability to put aside the differences. They accept each other and accept me, never questioning their colleagues’ Jewishness. They speak out on incivility when they see it, and have become a “band of brothers and sisters” of sorts when dealing with concerns about Israel and so many important community topics.

We cannot let the riders on horseback come from within. We must be diligent in using our collective voice to say NO when they try these tactics in the future… and they will, for sure. We have enough to deal with when a car in one of our Boca Raton neighborhoods is painted with a swastika, when the purveyors of fear and hatred routinely call in bomb threats to our JCC’s and synagogues, and when our cemeteries are desecrated. We must stand vigilant to ensure that our Anatevka, our little piece of dirt, our beautiful caring community, remains a beacon of Jewish pluralism… a place where being Jewish isn’t measured by who we associate with politically or culturally.

Shabbat shalom,

Matthew Levin
President & CEO