One of the greatest joys of working as a freelance editor is having the freedom to choose projects that move you. As a longtime social justice activist, I love working with authors whose work changes the world for the better. That’s why I’m excited to be working with Rabbi Brant Rosen on a new blog-to-book adaptation based on his popular, challenging, and always thoughtful blog Shalom Rav. The book will be published this spring by Just World Books, a Virginia-based publisher of works that promote peace in the Middle East.
Shalom Rav is a pun: the literal Hebrew translation is “abundant peace,” but in conversation it can also mean “Hello, rabbi!” Rabbi Brant, who is part of (but does not speak for) the left-leaning Jewish Reconstructionist tradition, is a congregational rabbi in Evanston, Illinois, a prominent member of Jewish Voice for Peace, and a founder of Ta’anit Tzedek–Jewish Fast for Gaza. He’s been blogging for several years, but things got really interesting in late 2008, as Israel’s Operation Cast Lead rained death onto the besieged Gaza Strip. As the war began, Rabbi Brant took an unusual stand in a post declaring that he could no longer rationalize or apologize for Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
What Israel has been doing to the people of Gaza is an outrage. It has brought neither safety nor security to the people of Israel and it has wrought nothing but misery and tragedy upon the people of Gaza.
There, I’ve said it. Now what do I do?
The book provides an answer to that question, following the dialogue between Rabbi Brant, his congregants, the Palestinian solidarity movement, and the rest of the Internet as they struggle to square the events unfolding in Israel and Palestine with their ethical and religious values and political beliefs. The quality of this ongoing argument is several levels above most of what you’ll find in the blogosphere in terms of both writing and civility, reflecting the fact that many participants are members not just of the “imagined community” (as the theorist Benedict Anderson would have it) of American Jews online, but of a local, personal, face-to-face community in Evanston. Their interactions are sometimes infuriating, sometimes deeply moving, and always mediated by Rabbi Brant’s earnest, thoughtful reflection and skillful writing.
You won’t agree with everything in this book, but in a way, that’s the point. Whatever your politics, you’ll find much to challenge, surprise, and move you. I consider myself a fairly well-informed supporter of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, but I have much to learn– and I’m learning a great deal as I edit and curate this fascinating text. I can’t wait to share the finished product with you.