Queen Esther and the ‘distancing’ of liberal Jews

A new edition of the Book of Esther does much to explain liberal Jewish attitudes toward Israel.

February 24, 2014 17:36
esther scroll

Illuminated Esther scroll. Ferrara, Italy, ca. 1615.. (photo credit: Courtesy Ardon Bar-Hama)

It’s become fashionable in certain circles to say “the occupation” and Israel’s “right-wing” government are distancing liberal Jews from Israel. But a new edition of the Book of Esther published by the Conservative Movement’s Israeli wing offers a truer explanation for liberal discomfort with Israel.

The new edition includes an introduction that seeks to explain parts of the story liberal Jews find problematic – first and foremost, the killing at the end. “We felt it was important to explain what happened in the context of that period,” the Israeli movement’s executive director, Yizhar Hess, said in a media interview last week. “For that reason, the introduction we’ve written takes both a loving and critical approach.” In short, such bloodshed would be unacceptable today, but norms were different then.


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