Rabbi Brant Rosen, 47, remembers vividly the night he met his future congregant, Boris Furman, 58.
He was applying for the position of rabbi at Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston and attended a party thrown by the search committee. Rosen sought Furman’s advice about the local schools, but as the night progressed they discovered a shared sense of humor and a love of goofball comedy like the Three Stooges. The two became friends, important Furman says because “we don’t just have to be a Rabbi and a congregant.”
Although Rosen and Furman have a rapport and friendship based on humor there is one serious issue on which they disagree. It is also one of the most politically charged topics for American Jews: Is Israel essential for the future security and well being of the Jewish people? And is it essential that Israel remain a Jewish state?
Furman grew up the son of Holocaust survivors in a community of immigrants who had fled Europe and the war. He feels that Israel is essential for the future survival of the Jewish people, and that when it comes to future persecution, it’s not a matter of if but when.
Rosen, on the other hand, grew up feeling the kind of safety and security afforded to Americans raised in the post-war boom. He feels that state building is a less worthy endeavor for Jews than is the struggle for justice and human rights evoked by the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians.
You can hear an edited version of their conversation in the audio posted above. Both Rabbi Rosen and Mr. Furman express their own opinions; their comments are not meant to reflect the policies or positions of their congregation.
Ask Me Why is produced in collaboration with the Illinois Humanities Council, and was made possible by a grant from The Boeing Company. If you and someone you know are interested in participating in this series, you can download the application form here.