Rabbis Criticize Reform Movement for Endangering Israelis
March 10, 2017

The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV) castigated the American Reform movement today for “presuming to tell Israel how to protect the lives and livelihood of Israeli Jews,” and for its friendly meeting with Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas while the latter continues to incite and reward bloodshed.

Israel’s Knesset passed legislation on Monday that will bar entry to foreign nationals who publicly call upon the world to isolate and boycott Israel, or who represent an organization that calls for a boycott. In response, the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ), led by Rabbi Rick Jacobs, publicly denounced this law as being “anti-Democratic” — although it was approved by Israel’s democratic legislature by a large margin.

“Rabbi Jacobs’ statement is simply illogical,” said Rabbi Yaakov Menken, Director of the CJV. “Given the long and repulsive history of boycotts against Jews, his quoted claim that an anti-boycott law is tantamount to saying ‘don’t come unless you agree with everything we’re doing here’ is embarrassingly devoid of rational basis. But it is sadly typical for a movement that seems desperate to forget Jewish history and to pretend that familiar, pernicious anti-Semitic themes could never recur in the modern era.”

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“The condemnation of Israel today by the Reform movement tragically reflects this insulated American group’s extreme failure to grasp Israel’s reality,” added Rabbi Dov Fischer, a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the CJV. “When a non-citizen, non-resident of any country is engaged internationally in a hateful boycott of that country, it is appropriate for a free Western democratic nation to deny that hater a welcome mat.”

Indeed, it is common practice among Western nations to deny entry to foreign nationals considered undesirable. The United Kingdom banned many Westerners over recent years, including a French comedian and an American talkshow host. The United States banned entry to singers Boy George, Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), and Amy Winehouse, as well as former United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim.

The Reform movement has had a fractious relationship with Israel from its earliest days. The founding Reformers rejected the idea of a Jewish homeland in the historic Land of Israel, and the movement belatedly endorsed Zionism only after Israel’s miraculous survival in 1948. Even so, Reform has never actively encouraged its congregants to move to Israel — and during Israel’s wars, the Hebrew Union College abandoned the country, interrupting its “year in Israel” programs and moving its American students to New York.

Meanwhile, that same movement has repeatedly taken stances regarded by Israelis as unrealistic and dangerous to their safety. Just last Thursday, Jacobs and other URJ leaders met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, and joined his claim that communities of Jews living in Judea threaten peace. While the PA continues to encourage terrorism and reward its perpetrators, discussion of ongoing and hateful incitement was relegated to an afterthought. Following their meeting Jacobs praised Abbas, who has personally called for bloodshed in Jerusalem and honored murderers of children, for having “acknowledged that [incitement] was a real challenge” and suggesting that it would require an “anti-incitement trilateral committee” in order to cease referring to Jews “desecrating” holy sites “with their filthy feet.” PA representatives declared afterwards that they and Reform leaders “see eye-to-eye.”

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, also a Senior Rabbinic Fellow of the CJV, observed that “the Reform movement should not presume to decide how best to safeguard Jews living in Israel. The founders of Israel ignored Reform then, and Israel’s current leaders should ignore Reform’s harmful prescriptions today.”

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