19 April 2010

Here comes the judge


According to the New York Times today, "Richard Goldstone, one of South Africa's most eminent jurists and head of a United Nations investigation that said it found evidence of war crimes during Israel’s invasion of Gaza. Many of his countrymen not only took issue with the findings, they called the judge a traitor who had sold out his Jewish brethren.

"Next month, Judge Goldstone’s grandson is to celebrate his bar mitzvah at Beth Hamedrash Hagadol, an Orthodox synagogue in Sandton, a Johannesburg suburb. Ordinarily, this would be nothing but a joyous event, signifying the boy’s ascent into manhood. But Jewish leaders here recently began to speak darkly among themselves of threatened disruptions to the ceremony. Their concerns were taken to the synagogue, and the anxieties of its leadership were then shared with the family.

"In an e-mail message on Friday, Judge Goldstone, who is a visiting professor at Georgetown University Law Center, said, ‘Because of the threat of protests at my grandson’s bar mitzvah, I agreed in discussion with leaders of the Sandton synagogue that in the interests of my grandson, I would not attend the services.’ "

Years from now, when the Bar Mitzvah boy is long a man, he will want to have a look at his photos and other mementos of the day. He will share those photos and those memories with his wife and children, the great grandchildren of Judge Goldstone. And missing will be the judge. And that's something that should not be. Blood is thicker than international issues, don't you reckon?

The Times report continues, “The South African Zionist Federation has been among the most vocal critics of the so-called Goldstone Report on the war in Gaza. On Friday, Moonyeen Castle, the chairwoman of the organization’s Western Cape Council, said the anger at Judge Goldstone was so great that it would “result in an almost certain barrage of protesters” on the day of the celebration.”

My own family did not attend my wedding some 33 years ago. And throughout the decades, one by one, different members of the family told me of their regrets for missing that occasion. Why had they not attended? Religious differences were the only factor. I'm a Jew who is also a follower of Jesus. That sat poorly with my orthodox Jewish family and as a result, they boycotted the festive celebration. That was a pain then, and is today when I really think about it.

I wish only the best for the Goldstone family and all at the shule in Sandton. Regrets will certainly come down the road. I say, ‘let him attend.’ I say, tell the protesters to find another occasion or another venue to protest. They will certainly be Jewish people and they will certainly know the respect due the grandson and to his becoming a man that morning. Let the judge attend!

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