November 18, 2010

I decided years ago that I would use local Jewish institutions to stimulate my intellect and LDS temples and chapels to nourish my spirit. When I attend Jewish events in Los Angeles, I am always amazed at the intellect, energy and passion on display in this most dynamic of communities. There is always someone willing to pitch an idea, and I am usually willing to listen. Often my main motivation for attending a given Jewish event is to see which new ideas, proposals, and ventures are being touted by my friends and contacts. I went to the StandWithUs conference at Temple Beth Am last weekend fully expecting to hear a few novel pitches, and I did not leave disappointed.

The most original (and promising) idea addressed a subject that is very close to my heart. At lunch a Jewish liaison to the Evangelical community and I were joined by Moti Gur, an LA-based financial advisor and prominent Israel activist. After lamenting the lack of Jewish education among young and unaffiliated Jews, Moti shared with us his solution: the Moses Project, which envisions the erection of a 40- to 60-story monument of Moses holding the two tablets. The “Moses Monument and World Center for Jewish Leadership” in Israel would also feature a “Museum of the Miraculous” to acknowledge Jewish contributions to the world, beginning with the ethical monotheism of Abraham [Latter-day Saints believe that Adam and Eve were the first ethical monotheists, but I digress]. Moti and his partner Dr. Donald Salem (a Brentwood dentist) have set up a website that accepts contributions and are actively pitching the idea to Jews, Christians, and anyone else who will listen. If I had the money, I’d fund the whole thing.

People who want to know why Jews have remained in the Holy Land for millennia should look to Moses, through whom God revealed laws that forged a united, holy people and commanded them to build an ark to house His presence.  In the same way that the Statue of Liberty serves as a national symbol of an important American value, a massive Moses in the Land of Israel would silently proclaim to one and all just why there are a Jewish people and an Israel today. What visitor to the country wouldn’t want to be photographed with Moses? If ever there were a project in Israel that could unite Christians and Jews, this is it. I have no doubt that Mormon tourists would visit the statue, which for them would also commemorate the revelation of both orders of God’s priesthood (like many Jews, we believe that the second set of tablets differed from the first) and the modern-day gathering of Israel, which we believe Moses facilitated. 
Like any religion-themed project in Israel, there will be many hurdles to overcome – not least, the Orthodox objection to statues that could be perceived as idols. However, it is my fervent hope that somehow this project will get off the ground – at least 40 stories, anyway. Moti and Don have no idea that I’m writing this essay, and I am not affiliated with the Moses Project in any way. That said, my readers will readily understand why I applauded while reading this statement on the project’s website: “It is evident that a need for renewed, informed, educated and motivated Jewish leadership is essential for leading the Jewish people down a path that insures their continuity, and preserves their heritage and culture.” I’m sure that Moses would agree. L’shana haba’ah b’Yerushalayim.


I will be speaking at the Jewish Community Center in Salt Lake City on January 12. I will also be speaking with Rabbi Alan Cohen in Kansas City on January 16.

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