As many of you are aware, approximately 18 months ago I withdrew from my public roles as a rabbi and leader in the Jewish community. I did so for several different reasons, the most important of which, to me as a Jew and as a rabbi, I will address in this letter.
This period has been very painful and difficult for me. I know that a good many of you have read articles or heard rumors or innuendos about me and my rabbinate; but it’s important that all of us remember that much of what is presented or disseminated as black and white is more complex and nuanced, and comprises many shades of gray. There are at least two sides to every story.
I have made it a priority over the last 18 months to remind myself that any response to what was being said or written about me must reflect my convictions as a Jew and as a rabbi. Guided by a core set of Jewish values that I hold sacred, I resolved that it was in the best interests and welfare of anyone involved or affected by the discourse and events of the last 18 months, including my own Jewish community and beyond, that I maintain self-restraint and refrain from responding. Just as importantly, I discouraged in the strongest way those who felt compelled to respond on my behalf. I believe that my decision has been the correct one and I have continued to maintain this self-restraint until today.
Two pivotal Jewish values, beyond all others that I considered, were decisive in many difficult choices I had to make during this anguishing time. Every Jew must take great personal care not to engage in gossip whether false or true, public or private, spoken or heard (Sh'mirat Ha-Lashon); All Jews are bound together, interdependent, and responsible for one another (Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Va-Zeh). To feed and amplify the erosive gossip that already existed at the time, and to risk alienating at all one Jew from another, would run counter to all of my beliefs and convictions as a Jew and as a leader in the Jewish community; thus, my silence.
As I re-enter my public rabbinate and commit my renewed service to this sacred calling, I take with me numerous lessons gleaned from my recent experiences. I chose the rabbinate in order to make the greatest positive difference I could for each and every Jew, for the Jewish People , and for the security and flourishing of the State of Israel. I will always remain committed to these fundamental aims; they drive me, impassion me , and compel me to speak out and act to make a Jewish difference for the better.
I hope that my public roles as a rabbi are never interrupted by distractions as those of the last 18 months. I hope most fervently that I am never put in a position in which I would be unable to uphold the Jewish values and imperatives that I have shared in this letter; I would have what to share if left with no alternative, all of which would be best served by my continued self-restraint and silence. With certainty, I hold the values that have guided me, and others that I considered alongside those mentioned above, to be critical to the continuity and welfare of every Jewish community and our People as a whole. I can only hope that all others involved or affected by events of the last 18 months have arrived at a similar understanding.
There are no words to express the deep gratitude that I feel toward those who have stood by me throughout this period and continue to do so. It is truly an honor and privilege to have been invited by you and others who have joined with you to lead Services and share my teachings with Ma’ayan Chai (A Fountain of Life) during the upcoming Yamim Nora'im (Days of Awe, referred to more commonly as the High Holy Days). My heartfelt hope is that Ma’ayan Chai will fulfill its unique mission as an oasis, now and long into the future, for all who thirst for inspired Jewish spirituality and purpose.
My prayer for us all is that the upcoming Yamim Noraim are a period in which we remember or discover our respective commitments to our most sacred purposes in life; strengthening our courage to face and overcome whatever challenges we encounter in the year ahead and enabling us to grow and learn from them as individuals, as Jewish communities, and as a People.
I join with you in the prayer that the New Year of 5774 will usher in an enduring security and peace for our People worldwide and for our brothers and sisters in the State of Israel.
B'Virkhat Shalom V'Khol Tov -- With every blessing for peace and all that is good,
Rabbi Isaac Jeret