Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer founded the Department of Multifaith Studies at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Then she led it for more than 30 years.
Though she is retired now, she retains an emerita title at the Wyncote-based RRC. Fuchs Kreimer devoted her career to helping students open their minds to people from different backgrounds and with different perspectives.
So after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, she wanted to do the same.
The rabbi attended the Shacharit on Nov. 13 outside the U.S. Capitol organized by Rabbis for Ceasefire. Then she went to the March for Israel rally in Washington, D.C., the next day.
The first event prayed for a cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and Hamas and the release of hostages. The second gathering was a general show of support for the Jewish state.
Fuchs Kreimer felt it was important to show up for both.
“The first one I went to because I wanted to pray for everyone. The second one I went to because I am a Jewish leader, and I wanted to be with my people,” she said. “I think a lot of Jews are feeling lonely and abandoned.”
The rabbi, who still belongs to two Philadelphia synagogues, Mishkan Shalom and the Germantown Jewish Centre, recognized the uniqueness of her position. After she attended both events, she made a Facebook post to explain it to her friends.
Both gatherings had three goals, “two of which they shared,” Fuchs Kreimer said. Those were “concern for the release of the hostages” and “opposing antisemitism.” The only goal on which they differed was “cease-fire or no cease-fire.”
“I went to both because I am concerned about the two goals shared by both groups,” she wrote. “As for the one where they disagreed — ‘negotiated settlement is the only path’ versus ‘first we must vanquish Hamas’ — I am not an expert in international relations. I do not know the answer. Even less do I know which strategy is likely to bring the hostages home. Very smart experts disagree on both of these issues. I read them all. It is not my lane.”
Fuchs Kreimer recalled how “each time a speaker at the (March for Israel) rally mentioned how much Jews are hated, the crowd applauded.” She also recounted how the prayers at the cease-fire gathering “led me to the heart of the Judaism I love, to the God who created us all in God’s image, to my fierce commitment to keep all the chambers of my heart open.”
She understood the Jews at both events.
Those at the March for Israel rally seemed to believe that “we should retreat to our quiet place where we can take care of each other,” the rabbi said.
“It’s easy to feel that way,” she added. “That’s why I wanted to be there.”
But those at the Shacharit wanted to emphasize the importance of remaining open to your neighbors.
“I also wanted to be there with my sign saying, ‘You should love your neighbor as yourself,’” Fuchs Kreimer said. “We have neighbors. They may be Arab. But they are our neighbors.”
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” she continued. “If I am only for myself, what am I?”
The rabbi came away from the events wanting to only attend future gatherings that “recognized the humanity of all people,” she said. She liked the Shacharit’s emphasis on praying for “safety, security and flourishing.”
“I want that message out there,” she added.
At the March for Israel rally, “there were some mentions of innocent Palestinian lives lost,” she continued. “But the overall tone of the thing was our suffering, our pain, our concerns.”
At the same time, Fuchs Kreimer is not going to show up at a pro-Palestine rally where they “wave flags and talk about ‘from the river to the sea.’” But she also will not attend a pro-Israel gathering unless it mentions the more than 14,000 lives lost in Gaza.
“But if they do that, I’ll be there and I’ll be praying for peace,” she said. “We’re all humans. We have to live together.”