The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV) today criticized as “partisan and divisive” a resolution of the Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) Board of Trustees claiming that Israel’s policy decisions on religious issues could “undermine the Zionist vision and the State of Israel’s sacred role as a national home for the entire Jewish people.” The CEO of JFNA, Jerry Silverman, even said that the promise of Israel as a refuge and permanent home for persecuted Jews around the world remains “unfulfilled” due to Israel’s continuing acknowledgment of traditional Jewish standards.
“These needless, partisan and divisive statements are extremely harmful to Jewish unity and the Jewish future,” said Rabbi Pesach Lerner, President of the CJV. “By every measure, attachment to Judaism and Jewish tradition is growing in Israel, and, unfortunately, collapsing in America outside of Orthodoxy.”
The CJV response is backed by surveys performed by The Pew Research Center, both in America and in Israel, which determined that Israel’s “secular” Jews more frequently engage in Jewish observances than non-Orthodox Jews in America, and that among the latter group the intermarriage rate now exceeds 70%.
The vast majority of rabbis in America today are Orthodox, and aware of the damage that would be caused in Israel were its government to buckle to the JFNA demands. By relying upon a baseline standard for Jewish conversion and identity, Israel ensures the Jews from diverse communities can marry without detailed investigation of each participant’s Jewish heritage. This is now impossible in America due to the nullification of all traditional Jewish standards, misportrayed as “pluralism.”
“The Pew Survey documented the tragic reality that most children growing up in Reform Temples will ultimately marry non-Jews and have children who are not Jewish,” said Rabbi Dov Fischer, Western Regional Vice-President of the CJV. “The Temples are nearly empty on Saturday mornings, unless a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is scheduled.”
Rabbi Lerner pointed out that the JFNA has placed politics over prayer. “During the recent High Holy Day season, over one million Jews visited the traditional Western Wall plaza, while the current Robinson’s Arch section, the area provided for mixed American liberal services, was empty. Their demand for a larger space cannot be motivated by sincere religious interest.”
He concluded, “I don’t recall hearing a tumult from the Federations over assimilation, intermarriage, or lack of Jewish education or experience for the typical American Jewish family. Why would the Federations ignore real, local problems to create new ones overseas?”