By Rabbi Yael Splansky.
Last summer’s Gaza War was an intense battle to protect the body of Israel; this summer has sparked an internal battle for Israel’s soul. In June, Jewish terrorists set fire to the Galilee Church of Loaves and Fishes. In July, a woman was arrested for carrying a Torah to the Kotel and David Azoulay, Israel’s Minister of Religious Services, questioned whether Reform Jews are Jews at all. Early August brought news of murder. One Jewish terrorist slashed his way through Israel’s Pride Parade, killing 16-year-old Shira Banki, while others set fire to the Dawabsha family home in the West Bank village of Duma, killing baby Ali and father Saad.
We may wish to distance ourselves from these hateful words and shameful acts, but we cannot. We may wish to say: “Them,” but no, they are ours. The circumstances, which led to these events and the perpetrators of these crimes are our responsibility. The “Not in My Name” slogan doesn’t work for us. “Jew” and “Israel” are our very namesakes. We cannot separate ourselves from one another even if we tried. We are Am Echad, One People – for better AND for worse. There is no distancing, no denying or divorcing. There is only a heavy responsibility.
It has been said that when North American Jews do not see their own values reflected in Israel, we distance ourselves. We must reject this impulse and draw closer instead. We must rise to meet this challenge head on. The future of the Jewish People depends on it. Now is the time to join with the majority of Israel, which is rising up to reclaim the Jewish character of the Jewish State. Thousands are protesting and we should join them in common cause. With our help liberal Jewish values can take root and flourish in a way that resonates with the majority of Israelis today.
Three years ago, Shmuel Rosner analyzed a poll, which indicated that 8% of Israeli Jews identified as either Reform or Conservative. Just a few weeks ago, he revisited the subject upon the publication of updated polling and shared that today 12% of Israelis define themselves as Reform or Conservative. The ultra-Orthodox population is now at 9%. This new data comes at a time when no Conservative or Reform rabbi in Israel can officiate at a legally recognized wedding, non-Orthodox conversions are not fully recognized, nor do our synagogues and rabbis receive state support like Orthodox synagogues and rabbis do. How is it possible that liberal Jews have less religious freedom and less protection in the State of Israel than in any other democracy? And why does the silent majority allow for it?
What can we do?
- Become a member of ARZA Canada. One of the optional “check-off” boxes included in your HBT Membership package invites you to be counted among the Reform Zionists of Canada. Monthly updates will let you know how Reform Jewish values are expressed in Israel as well as upcoming educational and motivational events hosted by ARZA Canada right here at home.
- Get to know our sister congregations throughout Israel, including two remarkable kibbutzim. Today they are 45 strong and growing. When you are in Israel make a point of visiting them on Shabbat. They will welcome you like family.
- Take pride in our sister organizations like Hebrew Union College, The Israel Religious Action Centre, and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. Under the leadership of Rabbi Michael Marmur, HUC is training the next generation of Israeli Reform Rabbis. IRAC is the legal arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, which under the leadership of Anat Hoffman, defends the cause religious pluralism through Israel’s courts and media. And the IMPJ is the umbrella organization for the Reform Movement in Israel, under the leadership of Rabbi Gilad Kariv.
- Come see for yourself with HBT Social Justice trip to Israel, May 5-15, 2016. Join President Joan Garson and me for Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzmaut in Israel. We’ll meet champions of justice throughout the country, learn the complexities of the issues, and delight in their stories of Israel-still-in-the-making. Click here for more information and contact.
It seems we have reached a critical moment in Israel’s history. The choice is in the hands of the citizens of Israel. We Diaspora Jews do not have a vote, but we do have a voice. We celebrate Israel’s cutting edge technology and health care. We know Israel to be a world-leader in arts and education. Israel must also be creative and forward-facing when it comes to religious expression. Politics have stunted this advancement for too long. Now is exactly the time to lean in.