Peace, Justice, and Jews: Reclaiming Our Tradition is part of a growing body of literature written by progressive Jews, Christians, and Muslims seeking to articulate alternative visions to those of the Religious Right, the Republican Party, and other conservative forces. This burgeoning literary subfield includes works by Michael Lerner, Obery Hendricks, and Omid Safi.
The book includes a brief introduction by the editors and 46 essays, poems, prayers, and photographs by an eclectic group of religious and secular Jews (and one non-Jewish contributor) from North America and Israel (and one from England). The majority of the pieces deal with issues of war and peace—with a particular focus on Israel/Palestine—and various forms of nonviolent political action.
Among the pieces I found most compelling were Yitzhak Frankenthal’s “To Be a Free Nation in Our Land” and Arthur Waskow’s “Violence and Nonviolence in Jewish Thought and Practice.” Frankenthal describes how the abduction and murder of his young son, Arik, by Hamas terrorists led him on an impassioned journey to become a peace activist. A religious Jew and avid Zionist, Frankenthal believes that the occupation is, in fact, the “worst form of terror” perpetrated in the region. He speaks with pain and embarrassment about the ways in which the Israeli government (including both left- and right-wing leaders) has degraded the Palestinian people over the last four decades and has contributed to the creation of a culture of violent resistance among young Arabs. While sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, Frankenthal also makes it clear that he does not support their attacks on Israeli civilians: “I am opposed to violence of all forms, be it Israeli or Palestinian. I am unwilling to justify the Palestinian logic of despair, as I am an Israeli—and it is my family and [me] that these attacks are aimed at.”