Analysis: Goldstone synagogue ban is dangerous

By Rabbi Reuben Livingstone, April 15, 2010
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I am no fan of Judge Richard Goldstone. As a lawyer, I consider his report on the Gaza campaign to be unbalanced, prejudicial and defamatory — certainly not a piece of work of which any professional jurist ought to be proud.

It has undoubtedly resulted in gratuitous political and moral damage to Israel and the IDF.

As a South African, I understand the outrage and sense of betrayal felt by a community which has always been exemplary in its loyalty to Israel and the Jewish people.

But as an Orthodox rabbi, I am very disturbed by the notion of excluding any Jew from synagogue — particularly a grandfather attending a barmitzvah.

Even someone under the religious ban of cherem, or excommunication — an extremely rare phenomenon which has not been officially invoked in Judge Goldstone’s case — is excluded from shul honours and participation in the service, but is not prevented from being present.

The implications of shutting the synagogue doors on any Jew are simply enormous and establish a dangerous and awful precedent.

Several years ago, while attending a grandson’s aufruf, Dr Louis Jacobs was denied a call-up.

Despite the lively debate that ensued on the halachic and humanitarian issues that this raised, not even those who viewed him as an arch-heretic suggested for a moment that he be excluded altogether.

It is a veritable cornerstone of Judaism that no Jew ought to be adjudged as being evil beyond repair.

According to the sages, even one who is unabashedly wicked may pray in the Temple in Jerusalem.

It follows that if Judge Goldstone has indeed been banned, a terrible precedent has been set.

Rabbi Reuben Livingstone is lecturer in Jewish Law and Social Ethics at LSJS/King’s College

Last updated: 12:27pm, April 15 2010