The Rabbis link the skin disease, tzara’at, mentioned in this week’s Torah portion Tazria, to the evil of speaking negatively about another. In their teachings they highlight the immense harm done to both the subject of the slander, as well as to the entire community, through the destruction of another’s reputation. Last week I traveled to Washington DC for the annual AIPAC Policy Conference. There, policy maker after policy maker from each party emphasized the need for the pro-Israel movement in America to educate lawmakers and decision makers on the true nature of Israel and the dangers it faces. They told us that our efforts make a significant difference in combating the bad name that others falsely, but unfortunately effectively, spread about Israel throughout our society on social media, on college campuses and even in Washington DC. The harm created through the disseminating of negative stereotypes and fallacious accusations about Israel is real and has manifested itself in particular in politics as a threat to bi-partisan support for Israel. We are fortunate that this crucial support for Israel from both parties is still very strong, but we cannot afford to let such support erode in any way. The financial, diplomatic and military assistance Israel receives from the United States is critical. It is therefore the job of the pro-Israel community, the foundation of which is the Jewish community, to educate and advocate for Israel and spread instead the good name of our incredible Jewish state, which shares so many core values with the United States of America. I want to thank all those who came to DC with me to AIPAC and, as well, thank anyone who does advocacy work for Israel in the many other wonderful ways that this can be accomplished.
It is also noteworthy that almost every politician at AIPAC spoke about the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism, which expresses itself through the dissemination of negative stereotypes about Jews that give the Jewish people, writ large, a bad name. This Shabbat we have the opportunity to hear from our own congressman and member, Brad Schneider, as well as an expert on Jewish relations in America and abroad from AJC, Dan Elbaum. I encourage you each to come and to join in our discussion about how we can best respond to anti-Semitism here in America. As our Sages wrote, the crown of a good name is precious and we must all do what we can to champion the truth about who we are as a people and what the State of Israel stands for as loudly and effectively as possible. Shabbat Shalom!