Speaker: Conservative rabbi seeks the center on Israel | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Speaker: Conservative rabbi seeks the center on Israel


The Conservative rabbi slated to speak at the annual Edie Adelman lecture series on March 19 believes it’s time to find the “sane center” for politics regarding Israel.

Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove, Ph.D., of the 1,700-family Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City, is to speak at the free event at Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun in River Hills. The event is sponsored by Women’s Philanthropy and Israel Center of Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the Edie Adelman Political Awareness Fund of the Federation’s Jewish Community Foundation.

Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove

Cosgrove expects he’ll speak about the relationship between American Jewry and Israel.

“I feel as a Conservative rabbi, regarding the future of a two-state solution, and (supporting) Israel as both a Jewish and Democratic state, and as an ardent Zionist, it’s critically important to me that the liberal streams of American Jewry are fully supportive of the state of Israel,” he said.

But he added, “I think our moment is a very curious one.”

The Midwest is not unfamiliar for Cosgrove. After growing up in Los Angeles, he did his undergraduate work at the University of Michigan, earned a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago Divinity School and served at Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago.

Cosgrove was ordained at The Jewish Theological Seminary and he is currently a member of the national Council on Foreign Relations. He’s published collections of selected sermons and sits on the chancellor’s cabinet of the Jewish Theological Seminary, but his main role is pulpit rabbi for his synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

“To what degree can the historic relationship between Diaspora Jewry and Israel continue to strengthen for the next 70 years?” he said. “There are some challenges.”

Cosgrove believes we’re living in a very delicate and very important moment.

“On the one hand you have a Trump administration who has visited Israel, affirmed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, called out … terrorism, taking the UN to task on anti-Israel rhetoric and yet because many of his policies are antithetical to the Torah of American liberal Jews, we’re having a hard time voicing our gratitude,” he said. “On the other hand American Jewry is watching very nervously what appears to be the unraveling of a two-state solution.”

He feels a toxicity has developed in political discourse, with people on the left labeled self-hating Jews and people on the right getting called colonial oppressors.

He said he seeks to find the “sane center” for Israel-oriented politics.

“It’s our obligation to model how to have the discourse that serves to both strengthen the Jewish people and to demonstrate what the next 70 years of American Zionism could and should look like,” he said. “This is a momentous year. I think that the North American Jewish community needs to both celebrate the miracle of the state of Israel on its 70th birthday and also recommit itself to the next 70 years.”

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How to go

What: Rabbi Elliot J. Cosgrove speaks, “How do we love Israel without liking all its policies?”

When: Monday, March 19, 7 p.m.

Where: Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, 2020 W. Brown Deer Road, River Hills.

Cost: Free.

RSVP: By March 15 at MilwaukeeJewish.org/Edie or contact Ashleigh Lund at 414-390-5741 or AshleighL@MilwaukeeJewish.org.