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B’nai Jeshurun’s semi-retraction on U.N. Palestine vote

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So the rabbis of B’nai Jeshurun are now expressing some "regret" over their email endorsing the U.N.’s Palestine statehood vote.

The three rabbis shared their regrets in a followup email to congregants sent out today (and first reported by The New York Jewish Week). Here’s the gist: They don’t regret the sentiment the expressed, but they do "regret the feelings of alienation that resulted from our letter” and say that the original email wasn’t supposed to be sent in the form that it was.

“While we affirm the essence of our message, we feel that it is important to share with you 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,” the rabbis wrote.

The three rabbis also say that the original email was supposed to be from them and that the synagogue’s cantor, board president, executive director and director of Israel engagement were listed as signatories inadvertently.

The timing of the correction is curious. After all the original email was sent out six days ago, on Friday. (One might have thought that the shul would have moved more quickly to correct the inadvertent inclusion of four synagogue officials on an email about such a hot-button issue.)

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But the followup email only came after a backlash among some angry congregants (including sometime-attendee Alan Dershowitz, who challenged the shul’s rabbis to a debate) and a front-page(!) story in The New York Times (a paper that is often accused of giving short shrift to local news but apparently puts a premium on such news when it overlaps with Israel issues and Upper West Side Jewish liberalism).

Incidentally, B’nai Jeshurun’s home page at one point on Thursday morning featured the following quote attributed to the three rabbis: "As rabbis, our job is… to court controversy and to raise disturbing questions many would be more content to leave in the background — and certainly outside the synagogue."

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