Forward Thinking

B'nai Jeshurun Rabbis Walk it Back

By Seth Berkman

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The saga at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun continues.

Nearly a week after rabbis at the Upper West Side synagogue sent a letter to their congregation, voicing their support for the United Nations’ decision to make Palestine a nonmember observer state, an email was sent on Thursday morning to clarify the impetus behind the statement.

Signed by rabbis Roly Matalon, Marcelo Bronstein and Felicia Sol, the letter claimed there had been clerical errors, but they continued to voice support for their message.

The rabbis wrote that, “through a series of unfortunate internal errors, an incomplete and unedited draft of the letter was sent out which resulted in a tone which did not reflect the complexities and uncertainties of this moment.”

Thursday’s letter does state however that the rabbis, “affirm the essence of our message,” from the original letter, which was sent on November 30.

The rabbis also apologized for including names of the congregation’s hazzan, Ari Priven, board president Jeannie Blaustein, executive director Steve Goldberg, and director of Israel engagement Orli Moss.

On Tuesday, the New York Times printed an article, “Cheering U.N. Palestine Vote, Synagogue Tests Its Members,” which drew a range of emotional responses from congregants. Fellow rabbis and individuals with historic ties to the congregation had letters to the editor published the following day.

On Wednesday, Alan Dershowitz, an occasional attendee at B’nai Jeshurun, wrote to “challenge the rabbis to debate this issue in front of their entire congregation,” in a story on the Forward’s website. Matalon, Bronstein and Sol, however, appeared to want to move forward from the controversy, writing on Thursday that they trusted the rabbis and its congregants “will find a way to live with our differences, challenging as that may sometimes be,” and that they are committed to “Israel’s security, democracy and peace.”


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