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Efrat rabbi sees loss of faith among Israeli Jews
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Efrat rabbi sees loss of faith among Israeli Jews

The chief rabbi of a West Bank settlement is convinced a peaceful coexistence with the Palestinians can be achieved.

“We have very wonderful social relations with our Arab neighbors,” said Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin of Efrat in a phone interview from Israel with NJJN. “I very much believe peaceful co-existence is possible.”

Riskin will talk about prospects for peace negotiations and threats facing Israel on Nov. 19 during a program at Young Israel of East Brunswick. His talk is sponsored by the synagogue’s Israel Advocacy Committee in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County.

The lecture will cap off Riskin’s appearances at a Nov. 18-19 scholar-in-residence Shabbat at the synagogue.

Riskin said he plans to focus on several topics that all “touch on our right to be where we are: in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem, and in Efrat.”

That right includes land with historical and biblical ties to the Jewish people stretching back thousands of years.

“That is the big lie being perpetrated against us by the Arab world,” said Riskin. “It’s very important for Jews to understand Israel’s right to be. Unfortunately, Israel gets very bad press and the least we can do as Jews is understand the true historic history.”

The founding rabbi of the popular Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan, which he led for 12 years until making aliya in 1983, Riskin also is founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone, a network of colleges and graduate programs in Israel and the United States. He also founded the first and only program in the world training women advocates for the rabbinical courts. The author of five books, he writes a weekly Torah commentary column that is syndicated in newspapers worldwide.

In his Friday evening lecture at Young Israel, Riskin will touch on the joys of moving to Israel. On Shabbat morning he will discuss the Jewish link to Hebron, and at a lunch and lecture program Shabbat afternoon, he will discuss the sanctity of Jerusalem and Israel.

In his Saturday evening program, the rabbi said, he will focus not only on Israel’s outside enemies, but its internal adversaries as well. “Israelis that don’t believe in themselves,” he said. “They don’t believe in the right of Israelis to be where they are, including the territories.”

Riskin said he is “going to analyze what caused this loss of faith and how we can bring it back to encourage as many Israelis as possible to believe in the Jewish cause as strongly as Arabs believe in the Palestinian cause.”

American Jews can do their part by “standing up for Israel even if America seems to be faltering or the American president seems to be faltering.”

Riskin said he is especially looking forward to coming to the synagogue because of his close connection to its rabbi, Jay Weinstein.

“I’ve known his family for many years and was very close to his grandfather, who was a member of my synagogue in Manhattan,” Riskin said. “I also had the privilege of teaching Rabbi Weinstein here in Israel.”

Judy Goldrich, who cochairs the advocacy committee with Cheryl Shmulewitz, said it was launched in response to the international campaign to delegitimize Israel, particularly last year’s anti-Israel events at Rutgers University.

“We want to convey to shul members a heightened awareness of Israel and the challenges it faces,” she said. “We want to arm shul members with the facts to support Israel’s public image and to increase the emotional and religious connection of our shul members and Eretz Yisrael.”

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