The Growing Tide of Reform Jewish Support for Israel

We are for Israel by Rabbi Kaufman

The dramatic increase in active advocacy for Israel in the Reform movement was obvious at the URJ’s recent Biennial Convention held in Washington DC. That convention featured a number of speakers whose speeches primarily focused on Israel and a number of others whose speeches contained significant references to Israel. All of the speeches delivered were supportive of a strong US-Israel relationship.

The conference as a whole was very comfortable to a regular attendee of the AIPAC Policy Conference featuring speeches from President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Former Israeli Prime Minister and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Ambassador Michael Oren and Natan Sharansky. In addition to those notable political figures, Rabbi Dick Hirsch delivered an inspiring speech about the importance of Israel advocacy and Zionism in the Reform movement and both Rabbi Eric Yoffie and Rabbi Rick Jacobs noted the Reform movement’s strong support of Israel’s security while hoping that it is able to eventually achieve peace along with it.

The Religious Action Center (RAC) held a “Day with the RAC” program that included lunch at the Israeli Embassy and a discussion with Amb. Oren as well as visits by several Members of Congress who all noted the importance of strong support for Israel. The conference even featured performances by Israeli artists David Broza and Rami Kleinstein. To say that Israel and Israel advocacy were prominent at the Biennial would be a major understatement. AIPAC held a reception at the Biennial for the first time ever and it was well attended by rabbis and congregants alike.

Just today, I received the following in an email from the Religious Action Center:

For the first time ever, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Religious Action Center will be hosting a Reform Movement reception during the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.

The Reform movement is now doing an excellent job of promoting Israel advocacy. Many of the signatories of the We Are For Israel mission statement have played no little part in the increased attention paid to Israel in the Reform movement and in the strengthened dialogue about our need to support Israel as it pursues both security and peace.

The Israel advocacy sky isn’t falling. In fact, in the Reform movement support for Israel is increasing both qualitatively and quantitatively. There is both more advocacy going on and better advocacy going on. But there remain problems. First, the children of uninformed or worse–misinformed–parents are much more likely to be uninformed or misinformed themselves. Second, the lack of good information leads directly to apathy and misinformation may even lead to hostility.

This is where We Are For Israel and you, those who care about Israel advocacy, come in. We cannot be complacent. We need to continue to speak out, to educate, and to advocate. We need to continue to raise awareness about issues concerning Israel and to provide good information on those issues. As events transpire in the region, We Are For Israel will provide through our blog, as best we can, a politically moderate view of the events and concerns.

Let us know, how we can better help you to advocate for Israel in your diverse and sometimes challenging communities.

February 15, 2012 | 15 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

Leave a Reply

15 Comments / 15 Comments

  1. I am terribly sorry to have to differ. Granted that Reform Judaism was started in Germany as a copy of Reform Christianity by a Jew who eventually converted and that there are many Reform Jews who are areligious. But so too are members of Orthodox congregations here in Sydney. There are many Jews of all streams who cannot reconcile modernity with stories mad up millenia ago, in fact two centuries ago the French Jewish sociologist opined that there is no need for religion in a scientific era. In fact it is difficult fof me, as a child survivor to accept the notion of a compassionate and just being who allowed the Shoah to occur. The Haredi response that God was cutting of a cncerous limb to save the body of Judaism is no more acceptable than it was after the Chmielnitzki massacres when Chassidism offered that response to unbelievable cruelty and suffering. And Reform Jews like me can more accept the rigid, unfeeling role of the Orthodox establishment in Israel as I can accept the left-wing political rabbis in the Diaspora. So where does that leave Jews like me? We are proudly and passionately Zionistic and we have the deepest respect for the Torah and strive to learn and apply it to our lives. That does not mean that I have to sit separately from a woman in a shul or try to observe even the most minor of mitzvahs. It does mean that there is so much beauty, justice and wisdom in Judaism that none of us should seek exclusivity, but rejoice in the joy that each Jew gets from his or her wonderful heritage. That heritage which kept us in for ages under persecution and which we have given to the world which, sadly observes by word what we observe by deed. Let all uf us Jews love each other as sisters and brothers.

  2. Ron,

    I appreciate your sincerity and your love for Israel. I get sort of surprized, though, when you struggle with understanding these Jews. Let me lay it out as simply as I can:

    1. Very few Jews are like Yamit, or like anyone on Israpundit.

    2. In the city where I live, there are presumably some 3000 Jews. We have four synagogues: One Orthodox, one Conservative, one Reconstructionist and one Renewal. On a typical Saturday, all four groups have difficulty coming up with a minyon. In fact, a few years ago there is a Cohen in town (someone descended from Aaron the priest) who was “borrowed” from time to time by the various groups for their special occasions; because their own cohens were too busy doing other things to show up.

    That’s it, Ron! That’s real, honest-to-goodness, street-level Judaism in America! Here’s another thing:

    3. Jewish men presumably are supposed to wear a head covering. This is pure tradition; there’s nothing in the Bible about it (This holds for most commonly practiced Jewish traditions, like not eating cheese with turkey). If you walk around my city and happen to spot an obvious religious head covering, the one wearing it is almost certainly (a) a Sikh, (b) a Moslem, (c) a Christian Zionist or Messianic (i. e. Jesus-following) Jew, or (d) my former Conservative rabbi, who usually hides his under a baseball cap. I also saw one Chabad Jew wearing one, once only. Otherwise, Jews in this town only wear head coverings while in synagogue.

    I have no idea what Yamit is talking about, when he compares Jews with Christians. You are a Catholic. My family are Catholics; and you know they are Catholics by the fact that they go to church every Sunday morning. Most of their children don’t go to church; but I can’t speak for them. I know that when I stopped going to church, I pretty much stopped calling myself a Catholic. It isn’t this way with the Jews: They keep on being Jews, no matter what they do on Sabbath, no matter what they think; it simply doesn’t matter.

    Protestants are pretty much like Catholics: You can tell who’s a Protestant, by what church he REGULARLY attends. JEWS, FOR THE MOST PART, DO NOT “ASSIMILATE” TO BECOME PROTESTANTS. They assimilate into nothingness; which is quite easy, seeing that their practice of Judaism is pretty much “nothingness” to begin with.

    Now, Yamit, please tell me it ain’t so. Maybe it ain’t so, somewhere in Brooklyn or Philadelphia or Miami Beach. I spent a few hours in the train station and the airport in Philadelphia; otherwise, I don’t know anything about those places. Maybe in those places, Jews are racing in droves to become Protestants. Please tell me about it.

  3. You know I have to believe G-d returning His people back to the Holy Land Israel is a sign He wants them to return to their roots and away from reform.

    It’s not by chance Jews have returned home rather Divine intervention.

    Reform is not the answer.

    It’s time to come home.

  4. They resemble Protestants more than traditional Judaism.

    Yamit, that sounds pretty cocklemaney to me. All the Protestants I know believe the Bible. How many Jews believe the Bible? Very few that I’ve known — most are atheists.

  5. Yamit (Uncle) I really don’t get it although this Reform Judaism just doesn’t get it done.

    I guess like we have so called “Cafeteria Catholics”, they pick and choose rules they feel they can handle while discarding all the others. So I guess you could call them “Cafeteria Jews”, you agree?

    I am kind of naive when it comes to Judaism, having said that, if I were Jewish I would prefer to follow the Torah and would concentrate on building the Temple.

    G-d in returning His people back to the Israel, the Holy Land for a reason and I am sure it has nothing to do with progressive secularism or reform.

    I support Israel because there is no good reason not to. They are not a terrorist nation, not bent on conquering any of their neighbors, a democracy and one of the first nations to respond to help others of the world during a crisis, all positives and no negatives. And this they are hated for????????????

    Stop the world I want to get off, its crazy.

  6. Paul Winter says:
    February 16, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Yamit, old bean, aren’t you just a wee bit harsh on Reform Jews,

    Don’t think I am Paul. This is not personal. I have close family and friends who define themselves as reform Jews. I believe one need not have to be Jewish to support Israel. I like to think Israel should be supported because it’s the right thing to do and not because some might think we are needy or so weak we can’t do without their support. We, when viewed objectively are neither.

    The major difference between orthodoxy and Reformism in our context is honesty. Orthodox rabbis main goals was the preservation of templeless Judaism after the destruction of the 2nd temple and while some may consider they were too extreme in their reforming of Judaism into a religion that could be carried into the exile their methods and practice were all Torah based. Since orthodoxy here in Israel is thriving I think one can safely say that they succeeded in preserving Judaism and thus might be considered true Jewish reformers.

    Reform Judaism, on the other hand, doesn’t seek to reform anything. It is a typical leftist movement which uses the sophistic device of redefining terms. Reformism dresses the atheism of its adherents in arbitrarily redefined Jewish terms rather than seeking the current meaning
    of the ancient terms.

    How many people in the average reform temple believe in G-d? None, including their lesbian rabbi. The enlightened audience cannot believe in the G-d who created the Earth and listens to our prayers. Liberal Jews cannot stand the concept of their own chosenness. Jews with analytical minds refuse to believe that G-d spoke to us from Mount Sinai and gave us every commandment. Even if they had believed in G-d’s existence, that would be of no practical consequence to them. If the Torah is not of divine origin, what should we make out of G-d’s existence? What laws should we follow? Reform Jews, therefore, fall into the comfortable position that they follow those commandments which fit their pan-human consciences. Here comes a vicious circle: they test the religion against their ethics, and consequently their religion is always narrower than even their ethics. And their “Judaism” is indistinguishable from the ethical maxims of a well-mannered Eskimo.

    Reformism has no firm values or doctrines, only the lack thereof. In reform “Judaism,” there is not a single value or doctrine which is specifically Jewish. Reform Jews explicitly reject Jewish uniqueness by their leftist outreach to gentiles. They talk of things too universalist even for Lenin, of repairing the entire world and of social justice for all. Never mind that social justice for some means unjustly robbing others, and repairing the world in Africa means neglecting the Jews in Shderot.

    Reform Judaism, a universalist religion, embraced universalist values—but the most universal values are those with the lowest common denominator. Reform Judaism reaches out to everyone by refusing to reject anyone. They embrace moral abominations in nihilist fashion, including lesbian “rabbis” and gay marriages.

    That WISE MAN (Steven.S Wise) Helped doom the Jews of Europe to the ovens, Never mind that they did all in their power to block the creation of Israel, never mind that a large majority and essentially all of their leadership when not openly Bashing Israel, our leadership and especially the Orthodox Religious community and their leaders continue to do so to this day. Never mind under the reform Jewish leadership America is rapidly losing 100 Jews per day to assimilation and still refuses to confront the reasons why?

    In Reform Judaism, there is no reason to remain Jewish; a Jew is no different from others. In fact, reform Jews explicitly promote interfaith dialogue meant to prove that Jews are similar to others. What possible reason is there to be Jewish, to bear specifically Jewish children?

    Reform Jews have set the 11th commandment above all others: Thou Shalt melt!!!

  7. Yamit, old bean, aren’t you just a wee bit harsh on Reform Jews, say like me? True, I don’t live in Israel, but I wholeheartedly support Israel and those of my people who live there. And I am not an lone solitary such Zionist. It is also true that while there are many Reform Jews who weep buckets for the Fakestinians, there are also a number of Orthdox Jews who regard Israel as being unkind to the poor, poor fellas. May I respectfully suggest that you distiguish between USA Reform and Reform in Europe or Eurasia. May I inform you as well that I am distressed as much as anyone else by the pro-Fakestinian utterances of Rabbi Eric Goofy and J-Street groupie Rabbi Dick Jacobs, a real dick if there ever was one. Just as Israelis must make a stand against power-hungry, rigid, compassionless Haredi, USA Jews must make a stand against political rabbis, particularly those who who demand that Jews behave the way that Christians preach, but rarely practise toward the implacable, vengeful, violent, supremicist mohammedans. It is important too, Yamit, that we distinguish between friends, even if we sometimes disagree with them and our enemies, with whom we must never agree, even if some of those claim to be Jews.

  8. The RAC. Religious Action Center is now standing firmly with Israel? You’ve got to be kidding. They’re standing firmly with Obama and his gang of Jew hating Marxists, Islamists Leftists and gangsters.

  9. Reform Jewry is what they are, Mostly un-Jews and Jewish traitors. There is little difference between them and the J Street bunch.

    Their pro-Israel stance is tactical not ideologically or religiously based. They are as anti Zionist and anti Judaism as they ever were in America.

  10. The reality is–most Jews know little or nothing about their homeland Israel,

    Most American Jews don’t consider Israel as their homeland. They consider America to be it. Silly Jews!!

    nor do they care–a great many Jews are self hating and Israel hating Marxists working to undermine Israel and support the enemies of Israel;

    There are many but still a small minority. I don’t think you can find or name today many Marxist Jews anymore.

    the same kind of pathetic fools who voted for Obama–the same kind of pathetic fools who believed–stood and cheered Obama at CPAC 2008–when he lied and said he supported Israel! [It was easy to know Obama was lying!]

    Obama spoke at CPAC?

    That a very small number of Jews are wising up–does not change the fact that most Jews are not–and there is no evidence they ever will wise up!

    Funny those Jews: Being such a small minority they like to be included with indigenous MAJORITIES, makes them feel wanted and belonging. I guarantee you that if a large majority of their Christian peers would be against Obama they too would be against. They usually follow the Christian leads. Always pays to be on the winning side.

  11. As much as I welcome this new trend from Reform Judaism, I was taken aback by this particular statement which figures prominently in their Mission Statement:

    We believe that any resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will require Israel to cede sovereignty over most of the West Bank and will need to address the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians concerning Jerusalem, a city that is holy to three religions.

    Needless to say that, under those conditions, not much of Israel will be left, and certainly very little in terms of the “historical connection”, which is THE pillar of the reconstituted State.

  12. It will be a wonderful day, when American Jews finally realize that Israel is their homeland. I’m getting tired of this whole anti-Zionist song and dance. If all the Jewish lawyers were forced to leave America for Israel, I doubt that it will be long before the Arabs are sent packing after them. We have enough trouble with Americans trying to figure out who they are, without all these foreigners coming here to beat each other up in our press and on our college campuses. Israel for the Jews, Arabia for the Arabs and America for the Americans. That sounds simple enough for me. And while all these disgruntled people are boarding ships, I would like to see the UN go with them. They can even take the building, if they want. Maybe they can relocate in Doha. Enough is enough! I want my country back!

  13. The reality is–most Jews know little or nothing about their homeland Israel, nor do they care–a great many Jews are self hating and Israel hating Marxists working to undermine Israel and support the enemies of Israel; the same kind of pathetic fools who voted for Obama–the same kind of pathetic fools who believed–stood and cheered Obama at CPAC 2008–when he lied and said he supported Israel! [It was easy to know Obama was lying!]

    That a very small number of Jews are wising up–does not change the fact that most Jews are not–and there is no evidence they ever will wise up!