We wanted to share the following correspondence with you as a demonstration of love and partnership in these challenging times.
For many years, you have stood by our side. In the struggle to have the State of Israel recognize our Reform rabbis, in the struggle over equal recognition of non-Orthodox conversation, in the struggle to establish an egalitarian platform at the Kotel, in the struggle for freedom of religion and conscience, in the struggle for the basic idea that there is more than one way to be Jewish. In recent years, you have been standing by our side also in the effort to ensure Israel’s democratic character and the values inscribed in Israel's Declaration of Independence.
No less, and perhaps even more important, you have been with us in moments of crisis and national distress. During the Second Lebanon War, during the operations in Gaza, during the fire in the Carmel and in numerous other moments of mutual responsibility and solidarity. More than once did you ask us about Israeli politics and about worrisome deeper trends that are shaping our political discourse. This did not prevent you from continuing to educate children, youth and congregational members towards the love of Israel and a deep commitment to the relationship between the diaspora and the State of Israel. This did not prevent you from coming in the thousands to visit Israel every year, to place the Israeli flag on top of the bima at your synagogues and to recite the Prayer for Peace for the State of Israel.
In recent days, you are beginning your own struggle over what you see as a serious questioning of part of America’s basic values. Loyal to the legacy of Reform Judaism, you do not hesitate to speak up and act. The Reform Movement in the United States, was one of the first religious organizations to speak up against President Trump’s recent executive orders, with an emphasis on the order regarding immigration and refugee absorption and the order impacting organizations and agencies promoting women’s health and family planning.
Like the Israel Reform Movement, the Reform Movement in the United States does not affiliate with any particular party and leaves its synagogues’ doors open to all Jews. Yet your movement is based on values, beliefs, deeds and a deep commitment to the idea of Tikkun Olam. Just as the Reform Movement was one of the first Jewish movements to sound a clear Jewish voice in the 1960’s as part of the civil rights movement, so you do not hesitate to sound a clear Jewish and universal voice this time around. The vision of the Prophets mentioned in the Israel Declaration of Independence is also the vision which stands before YOU, our friends in the United States.
We know you, our friends across the ocean. You did not hesitate in the past to take out the Torah Scroll into the city streets and to march with it alongside Dr. Martin Luther King. You did not hesitate to walk with us and the Torah scrolls a few months ago at the Kotel. You will not hesitate to take it out this time as well, if doing so becomes necessary.
Now it is our turn to say to you: “Be strong and of good courage; be not affrighted, neither be thou dismayed” (Joshua 1; 9)
Together we stand stronger in promoting justice, equality, inclusion and tolerance.
Yours in friendship and solidarity,
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, IMPJ President and CEO
Reuven Marko, IMPJ Chairperson
Anat Hoffman – Executive Director, IRAC
Rabbi Na’amah Kelman – Dean, HUC-JIR Jerusalem campus
Rabbi Prof. Yehoyada Amir – Chair, MARAM-The Israel Council of Reform Rabbis
Rabbi John Rosove's ARZA president Response
Dear Gilad, Reuven, Anat, Naamah, and Yehoyada:
Waking up to your remarkable, touching and moving letter of solidarity with us in the United States is something I will never forget. All I can say as one of the recipients of your letter is "Thank you!"
Your outreach was unexpected and so well received. Please know this.
Again - thank you. Your letter is like water on parched earth.
With love and gratitude,
ARZA Supports the State of Israel’s Dismantling of the Illegal West Bank Outpost Amona
ARZA strongly supports the Israeli government’s dismantling of the illegal outpost of Amona and the evacuation of its 40 families, a difficult endeavor that ultimately will strengthen democratic institutions and the rule of law in Israel.
The Amona outpost was established in 1995 on privately owned Palestinian lands, and has come to represent the flagrant disregard of Israeli law by certain far-right radicals in the settler movement. On Tuesday, the Israeli Supreme Court gave Amona’s 200 residents 48 hours to leave in advance of a February 8 deadline for the outpost to be dismantled. Subsequently, radical voices have called upon border police and soldiers to disobey the Court’s decision and officers’ direct orders, and one far-right MK abhorrently compared Israel’s police to rapists. Statements like these are beyond the pale of decency and should be condemned by every responsible leader in Israel.
ARZA congratulates the government on its willingness to adhere to the rule of law, a fundamental principle of civilized society to prevent descent into anarchy. At a time when we repeatedly have expressed concern about the government’s commitment to certain democratic institutions in Israel, this is a healthy sign.
As lovers of the Jewish people, we are distressed and upset to witness confrontations between Jews such as those that are occurring at Amona. However, it is not the border police who have invited conflict, but rather the occupants of the illegal outpost and their enraged supporters who promote disobedience to the rule of law and order. We wholeheartedly condemn those—including a handful of radical rabbis—who value illegally seized land over the authority of Israel’s democratic institutions, including the court and the military.
We also recall the failings of the government after the successful evacuation of Israeli settlements in Gush Katif in Gaza in 2005. We urge the government to anticipate and appropriately provide for those who are evacuated from Amona, especially those who agree to leave peacefully.
As we honor the government’s determination to see law and order carried out, we must likewise express our dismay about the Regulation Bill in the Knesset that would retroactively legalize and legitimate West Bank outposts (similar to, but not including, Amona). The bill has currently passed a second and third reading in the Knesset, and is due for a vote on Monday, February 6. ARZA vigorously supports a rejection of the Regulation Bill, which would be a huge step backwards in light of the endorsement of Israeli democracy at Amona.
Israel’s High Court requires a “good cause” argument why a woman cannot read Torah at the holiest site in Judaism
Wednesday 11 Jan 2017
PostedRZA president Rabbi John Rosove
In a landmark High Court decision Wednesday 11 Jan 2017, the State of Israel was given 30 days to find “good cause” why a woman may not read aloud from a Torah scroll as part of prayer services at the Western Wall.
A year ago the Israeli government coalition made an agreement with a wide range of Jews from around the world that included the Reform and Conservative movements, the North American Jewish Federations, and the Women of the Wall to create an egalitarian prayer space in the Southern Kotel Plaza under Robinson’s Arch that is equal in size and in access to the Northern Kotel Plaza that would be overseen by non-Orthodox Jewry and not the ultra-Orthodox.
This was a landmark decision that affirmed Israel as the great democracy that it is and that Jews around the world ought to have the right and freedom to pray according to their custom at the holiest site in Judaism.
The agreement was led by Prime Minister Netanyahu who had appointed Natan Sharansky, the Director of the Jewish Agency for Israel, to forge a consensus agreement that included the ultra-Orthodox administrator of the Wall and the non-Orthodox liberal streams of Judaism.
It took 3 years to reach a compromise agreement, and once that was done, the ultra-Orthodox members of the Israeli government dug in their heels and aggressively sought to undermine it that would essentially disenfranchise 80% of world Jewry that is non-Orthodox. These Orthodox politicians backed by their Haredi rabbis threatened to bring down Netanyahu’s government if the agreement was implemented.
At last – the Israeli High Court has ruled that egalitarian prayer and the rights of women to read Torah at the Kotel ought to be their democratic right. These reactionary forces have been given 30 days to make their case.
This is a limited victory and not the end of the struggle – stay tuned.
“Jerusalem is Broadway and
the United States is off-Broadway.”
Recently, Rabbi Richard (Dick) Hirsch, one of the key Reform Movement leaders of the 20th century, gave a talk summarizing his life and role in building and widening the reach of the Reform Movement in the US, Israel and the world at large.
Rabbi John Rosove, Chair of ARZA – the Association of Reform Zionist of America, gave tribute to Rabbi Hirsch in his December 25th blog:
Rabbi Richard (Dick) Hirsch turned 90 this past year. One would think that at that age Dick’s physical strength, sharp mind, and passion would be diminished.
Though he has his share of aches and pains, there is nothing diminished about Rabbi Dick Hirsch. He remains after more than half a century of activism the vital Zionist and social justice giant of the American and Israeli Reform movements.
Dick is the founding Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) in Washington, D.C. He is responsible for moving the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) offices from the United States to Jerusalem, raising the money and overseeing the construction of the WUPJ Center and Beit Shmuel that house the central offices of the Israeli Reform movement on King David Street only steps from the King David Hotel. And he is a founder of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the pre-eminent social justice advocacy organization in the State of Israel.
Dick argued before the leaders of American Reform Judaism in the late 1960s and early 1970s that for the Reform movement to earn its rightful place in Jewish history we would have to build an institutional and broadly-based presence in the State of Israel. This would include building synagogue centers all over the state, progressive Jewish schools, a rabbinic and cantorial seminary for Israeli-born leaders, kibbutzim, a youth movement, and a social justice movement that helps to grow and transform not only Israeli society but the character of world Jewry.
Fifty years ago Dick told the Board of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism) that for Jews “Jerusalem is Broadway and the United States is off-Broadway.” He also said to them soon after the ’67 war, that “Without Zionism, there is no Judaism!” The reaction of the then American Reform leadership was strong and negative. But, Dick carried on, at times by himself, and succeeded in igniting and inspiring others to join him in transforming progressive Judaism in the State of Israel.
Dick didn’t just talk the talk. In 1972, he and his wife Bella picked up their four children and moved to Israel. I met him for the first time the following year when I was a first-year rabbinic student at HUC in Jerusalem.
ARZENU is pleased to make this historical video available to our members and followers.
The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) is critically concerned about the appointment by President-Elect Donald Trump of David Friedman as the next United States Ambassador to Israel.
As a progressive Zionist organization, ARZA regards Mr. Friedman’s support for the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, his opposition to a two-state solution, and his open hostility and use of slurs like "kapo" towards other Jews as inappropriate for the American representative to the Jewish State.
Last year, ARZA led the Reform Movement in a campaign for the World Zionist Congress, running on a platform championing the two-state solution as the only viable way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is a position supported by both the U.S. and Israeli governments, as was recently reiterated this week by Prime Minister Netanyahu on 60 Minutes.
Mr. Friedman’s lack of diplomatic experience and extreme views are cause for great concern. We believe that Mr. Friedman's intemperance and hostile rhetoric are deeply disturbing. The United States-Israel relationship is of critical importance, which is why the Ambassador to Israel must be someone who can garner the most broad support for Israel, not someone who has the potential to alienate a majority of the American Jewish community through their behavior.