The Conservative (Masorti) and Reform (Progressive) movements are home to the overwhelming number of Jews in North America. Our communities have long been the backbone of support for Israel. For example, experts estimate that more than 80% of AIPAC supporters are affiliated with our movements.
In light of those facts, it is painful to describe the anger, frustration, disillusionment and disappointment throughout our communities concerning the most recent developments with regard to the Kotel, conversion and the authority of the Rabbanut (Chief Rabbinate of Israel). These developments, offensive as they were, unfortunately do not stand in isolation but are only the most recent manifestations of a lack of respect for non-Orthodox Jewry both in Israel and in the Diaspora.
It is not our purpose today to recount a litany of betrayals of the religious ideals and values on which the State of Israel was founded, a State meant to be the homeland for all Jews. We know, and you know, that we are speaking of more than just what has transpired over the last few weeks; nonetheless, to embrace what, in some ways, is a Middle Eastern metaphor, these straws have broken the camel’s back.
It is not a hollow statement when we say we love Israel. We visit Israel often. Many of us have family in Israel, and we all have friends there. It is precisely our strong bonds with Israel that now compel our candor, bluntness perhaps more typical of our Israeli friends than that of North American groups.
It is important for you to understand, and therefore we emphasize it, that this is not some pro forma protest which can be air-brushed away. This is not a debate about geo-political issues. Rather, it goes to the heart of whether Israel perceives non-Orthodox Jews as legitimate. It is beyond absurd that Israel is the one democracy in the world where Jews cannot freely practice their faith in accordance with their beliefs.
The government’s actions risk dividing the worldwide Jewish community at a time when it must remain united. We count on you to make clear to the Prime Minister, the Israeli Government and Members of Knesset, that a few soothing words or exhortations for patience will not fix this. We expect concrete actions. It should matter to you that we care about all of this not only because of our own commitment to Israel but also because we want our children and grandchildren to share that love for Israel – and we are at risk of that not happening.
David Lissy, The Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel
Rabbi Joshua Weinberg, ARZA
Sarrae Crane, MERCAZ
Hazzan Alisa Pomerantz-Boro, Cantors Assembly
Carol Simon, Women’s League for Conservative Judaism
Rabbi Marla Feldman, Women of Reform Judaism
Steve Portnoy, Men of Reform Judaism
Allan Gottesman, Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs, Inc.
Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ), founded in 1913, is the women’s affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism, the central body of Reform Judaism in North America. WRJ represents tens of thousands of women in hundreds of women’s groups, strengthening the voice of women worldwide and empowering them to create caring communities, nurture congregations, cultivate personal and spiritual growth, and advocate for and promote progressive Jewish values.
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