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Rabbi Says U.S. Jews Can’t Live As Jews ‘through Israel As Our Proxy’

American Jews must find their religious identity in the United States instead of vicariously through Israel. Rabbi Joshua Haberman, president of the Foundation for Jewish Studies, said last Thursday.

“We can’t live as Jews through Israel as our proxy,” Haberman told an audience of some 130 persons at the Washington Hilton after accepting the fourth annual Leadership Award from the Washington Jewish Week.

“We must never cease in our support and identification with Israel, but we must live as Jews here even as they must live as Israelis and Jews there,” he said.

Haberman, who is rabbi emeritus of the Reform Washington Hebrew Congregation, said he believes the nation is faced with a “spiritual malaise.”

“We Jews have an incredible advantage. In the Western world we have learned important lessons and gained deep insights in world-saving truths from our historical experience of nearly 4,000 years. But a time such as this, when we could be a light unto the nation, most of our people, so brilliantly educated in all the secular branches of learning, are Jewishly illiterate,” he said. “We are messengers who have forgotten the message.”

The Foundation for Jewish Studies, a private organization founded in 1983 with a $1 million donation by an anonymous donor, awards and creates different projects on Jewish issues. The Foundation also arranges for classes taught by visiting professors that are open to all Jewish denominations. Prof. Abraham Kaplan of the University of California, Los Angeles, is the Foundation’s current scholar in residence.

Haberman said he believes there is a renewed “quest for Jewish knowledge,” that will bridge gaps between different Jewish religious denominations. “We may not be able to pray together, but we can study together,” he said.

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