Hours after the bodies of three murdered Israeli teenagers were found in the West Bank last week, Rabbi Ronald Androphy, the spiritual leader of the East Meadow Jewish Center, sent an email to his congregants.
“It is with sorrowful hearts, tearful eyes, and anger that we react to the murder of the three Israeli teens,” Androphy wrote on June 30. “We hope — and even demand — that all people with even an ounce of righteousness in their hearts, as well as the all-too-silent nations of the world … condemn this heinous crime. Children should never be victimized in any conflict.”
More than a week later, Androphy said, members of his congregation, who had been praying for the teens’ rescue since they were abducted on June 12, remained heartbroken. “All of us were grief-struck,” said Androphy, who has been at the EMJC for 35 years. “When the news came out, I saw tears in people’s eyes.”
The deaths have attracted extensive media coverage worldwide. Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, were making their way home from school when they were kidnapped, and it is widely suspected that the murders were committed by Hamas, a Palestinian organization whose charter calls for establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel.
On July 2, a Palestinian teen, 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir, was found murdered in Jerusalem, the victim of a suspected revenge killing by Israeli extremists. If true, Androphy said, “That’s totally forbidden in the Jewish religion. It’s right there in the Torah.”
Rabbi Daniel Bar-Nahum, of Temple Emanu-El in East Meadow, said he, too, is deeply concerned about those who are demanding revenge. He and some colleagues, he said, are working on text studies to show that vengeance is not acceptable in the Jewish faith. “That’s not what Judaism asks us to do in response to things like this,” he said.