Rabbi Michael Lerner

The north Berkeley home of the editor of the liberal Jewish magazine Tikkun was vandalized early Monday morning after the magazine announced it would present an award to Judge Richard Goldstone, the controversial South African magistrate who oversaw a report that accused Israel of human rights violations during its winter 2009 incursion into Gaza.

Vandals affixed posters to Rabbi Michael Lerner’s door and around his home, either later Sunday night or early Monday morning, according to a statement from Tikkun.  Some of the posters attacked Lerner personally. Other slogans said “fight Islamo-facism,” apparently criticizing progressive Jews who criticize Israel.

“They posted a printed bumper sticker saying ‘fight terror — support Israel’ next to a caricature of Judge Goldstone whose UN report on Israel’s human rights violations in its attack on Gaza last year has been denounced as anti-Semitic and pro-terror by right wingers in Israel and the U.S.”, according to the magazine’s statement.

“The caricature has Goldstone talking about his being kept from his grandson’s bar mitzvah, and the caricature of Rabbi Lerner responds by saying “any enemy of Israel is a friend of mine.”

While the offices of Tikkun have received many threats during its 24 years of operation, this is the first time that Lerner’s house has been targeted. Just last week the liberal Jewish magazine announced it would present its Tikkun Ethics Award to Goldstone in 2011 for his report on the Gaza incursion and bravely facing his detractors.

Many Jews were uncomfortable with Goldstone’s United Nations report. While Goldstone reported that Hamas, as well as Israel, had committed war crimes, many construed the report as anti-Semitic. Tikkun, however, had defended Goldstone’s report.

When news got out that Goldstone would be returning home to South Africa to attend his grandson’s bar mitzvah, many Jews announced that they would picket the synagogue and try to disrupt the event. For a time, Goldstone was even barred from attending the event. Lerner apparently offered to host the bar mitzvah in San Francisco.

Richard Goldstone

That offer prompted prominent attorney Alan Dershowitz on April 29 to accuse Lerner of using the bar mitzvah controversy “to make virulently anti-Israel claims, including the blood libel that Israel deliberately targeted innocent Palestinian civilians without any military purpose.”

But Lerner speaks out against against oppression wherever he sees it, not just against Israel, according to the statement released by the Tikkun.

“He regularly critiques Palestinian acts of violence when they occur, including the shelling of Israeli towns by Hamas, just as he critiques the violence of the Israeli occupation, and as he critiques the U.S. war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the occupation of Chechnya by Russia, the occupation of Tibet by China, the human rights violations against their own people by the rulers of Iran, the acts of violence of those resisting the U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, the violence against women and homosexuals in many Arab and African countries (and in the U.S. and Israel as well), the genocide in Darfur, the violence against Jews in some parts of Europe, and the list goes on.”

Berkeley police are investigating the vandalism.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. maybe I’m expecting too much, but i’d kinda hope a rabbi might make a statement about love and forgiveness and bridging gaps, rather than cry victim.

    An Oakland synagogue suffered an arson attack a few years ago, And that rabbi spoke about reconciliation and healing.

    Yeah, Lerner was probably rattled, but I wish he’d be more , well rabbinic about this

  2. jjohannson: I think you missed some sarcasm there. Andrei is highly critical of Rabbi Lerner and *also* describes the vandal as a “moron”.

    That’s a whithering, sarcastic “thanks”.

  3. Thank you so much for vandalizing this man’s home?

    Good grief. To borrow from Mr. Rogers, don’t you be my neighbor.

  4. Fantastic, thank you so much, whoever did this.

    Most in the Jewish community-whether liberal or conservative know Rabbi Lerner as an attention hungry populist (for example he was accused by past Tikkun editors for posting fabricated letters to the editor, which he admitted, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Lerner_(rabbi)). The controversies he is involved in have often more to do with his personality than his opinions. Now some moron is going to make a martyr out of him. Great, thanks a lot.

    “Judge Goldstone whose UN report on Israel’s human rights violations in its attack on Gaza last year has been denounced as anti-Semitic and pro-terror by right wingers in Israel and the U.S.” – very few people ever called the report anti-semitic or pro terror. There has been a lot of criticism about the political environment in the UN that helped to produce this report (even judge Goldstone refused initially to take on this mission, because it seemed to him that the UN had a slant against Israel and wanted him to investigate only Israeli war crimes). There has also been criticism of the methodology of the report, which collected very little data in Israel and did not verify the stories told by the Palestinians interviewed. To say that many construed the report as antisemitic is to ignore the legitimate criticism of the report and to focus on the silly criticism by a fringe minority.