"Israel should never be a Jewish style caliphate", Dale Jeffries, President of the Porto Synagogue

"Looking at Zion, a Jewish perspective on Israel” is an online project that aims to present a more comprehensive look into the Israel- Diaspora relationship. In order to reach this goal we present a series of questions to members of Jewish communities around the world, asking them to articulate their thoughts and feelings towards Israel.
The interviewee - "Dale Jeffries, born in NYC 1954. I Grew up in Woodmere, New York and lived in Portugal for 27 years. Currently I'm in Miami. I’m a musician with a degrees in music in Boston and Paris. The president of the the synagogue Kadoorie Mekor Haim (Oporto Synagogue) in the northern Portuguese city of Porto."
The Jewish Community of Porto was founded by Captain Barros Basto in 1923 and by Jews from Central Europe who lived in the city. Kadoorie Mekor Haim synagogue was inaugurated in January 1938, during the Nazi period. 

In your opinion, what importance, if any, does the existence of a Jewish state has to you personally and to Jewish people in general?
“The world already has theological countries, most practice self justified racism based on religion. Israel exists 70 years on a little dot of land trying its best to live in peace and I will always support my people wherever they are defending themselves. However, the Jews existed thousands of years unified everywhere by the Torah. Having a nation has not convinced me it would guarantee survival. We are a people of the book not the land, I support the people of the book wherever they are.”

Do you feel committed in some way to defend the future existence of Israel?
“Yes, but I do not believe the land of milk and honey Moses chose is the same path as my quest for the land of milk and honey, we must all find our own. Moses did not know the earth is round with plenty of alternative lands of milk and honey on the other side. In fact when Moses fled Egypt, if he had a map the first 40 years he might have turned left instead of right for the Saudi oil.”
Do you feel morally responsible for Israel’s actions (such as its management of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict)?
“I think a deal was struck for borders and building settlements beyond agreed borders is wrong. The recognized nation of Israel unfortunately has the diplomatic responsibility of taking the upper road, always displaying the justice of a society governed by modern laws and civil rights unlike their neighbor. Israel is a modern democratic nation in the world, and should never be a Jewish style caliphate. That in mind, I support Israel in the modern world.”
In your experience, are Jewish people sometimes held morally accountable for Israel’s actions by their non-Jew fellow


In your opinion, what is the main thing Israelis fail to understand about the reality of being Jewish outside of Israel?
“The Jewish religion is almost 6000 years old, Israel is only 70. The Jews are the people of the book, not the people of the land. In contrast to widely held views that all Jews belong in Israel, I totally disagree. Hitler and other tyrants would have wiped us out if we were all in one place. Jews are certainly not born loved so being everywhere, leading, achieving, contributing and sharing ideas in all societies is our greatest strength. Judaism can be open arms and minds, not closed fists.”
How would you describe Israel’s policy (formally and in practice) regarding its relationship with the Diaspora?
“Israel is a modern nation dealing with present day problems in the world and among its citizens, food, guns, security a roof overhead are protected by the state of Israel. The diaspora and its ideas are thousands of years old contained in a book as old as mankind that is revered throughout the world. If you burn the book the diaspora is still there. In fact even if Israel disappeared the diaspora would still be there. If the diaspora disappeared there would be no reason for Israel.”

In your opinion, does Israel have an obligation to defend and help Jewish communities in need?
“Israel should defend itself and its people toward the ends of peace in the world. If it can help Jews in other nations it should as all Jews should help each other with respect toward the rights of all lives and individuals. I am proud to be a part of a movement doing just that.”

Have you ever been to Israel?
“Yes. I was Bar Mitzvahed in Israel in 1967, through the right of return and my son is doing the same right now!”

Do you have family relatives in Israel?
“Most have died or lost contact. But I have friends in Haifa and Jerusalem even closer and dearer to me than most family.”
If an Israeli tourist should ever come across your hometown, which experience should he/she not miss?
“If they are Kosher they should visit the Porto synagogue which has a remarkable history and guidance for restaurants and accommodations. I love Porto and traveling up the Douro River is a fantastic experience. Great scenery, accommodations, wine and food along the way. Portugal generally likes Jews.”
Anything you would like to add?
“My father fought in WW2, got a veteran grant to go to Harvard. He was not religious but helped build industry in Israel (Amreal Corp., Neca Cosmetics). In my opinion the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights of the US are the greatest documents ever written by men. I live in the world among Jews and non-Jews by these principles which encompass and support Israel’s right to exist.”

For more interviews with prominent members in Jewish communities around the world go to - lookingatzion.com