Reform Leaders Defend Jacobs In Face Of Charge He Is Not Pro-Israel

Pushback is hard as anti-Jacobs group threatens another ad.

05/03/11
Staff Writer
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Responding to an ad from a small but vocal group of critics who insist that the president-designate of the Union of Reform Judaism is not sufficiently pro-Israel, the movement and its supporters pushed back hard this week with a series of statements and opinion pieces this week defending him.

The ad was signed by 40 Reform Jews from around the country and placed in several Jewish newspapers by a group calling itself Jews Against Divisive Leadership. It urged the URJ to reconsider appointing Rabbi Richard “Rick” Jacobs president next month. His involvement on the rabbinic cabinet of J Street and board of New Israel Fund, two dovish groups, “does not represent the pro-Israel policies cherished by Reform Jews” and “does not represent us,” the ad said.

In response, three Reform leaders, including Rabbi David Ellenson, president of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, called the ad a “distortion” employing “tactics of witch-hunting and demagoguery.” The leaders asserted that Rabbi Jacobs is “a model of constructive engagement.”
The rabbi is spiritual leader of Westchester Reform Temple and describes himself as a passionate Zionist.

But a member of the temple’s Israel committee, Richard Aronow, said he believes Rabbi Jacobs “is not strongly pro-Israel and many of his decisions are not supportive of Israel.”

He declined to elaborate.

A statement organized and signed by another congregant, Harold Tanner, a former chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, praised Rabbi Jacobs as “a visionary rabbi, a dynamic leader, a true ohev Yisrael (lover of Israel), a communal activist on Israel’s behalf and a passionate supporter of Israel.”

It noted that “the pro-Israel community, like the Jewish community, is diverse and eclectic” and expressed concern about the narrowing definition of “support for Israel.”

Nine prominent Jewish leaders, including former Conference of Presidents Chair Seymour Reich, Jewish Council for Public Affairs President Rabbi Steve Gutow, and Rabbis Steven Wernick and Julie Schonfeld, leaders in the Conservative movement, signed the pro-Jacobs statement.

In addition, Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, wrote an article for JTA in which he called Rabbi Jacobs a “lover of Israel” who “not only supports Israel in words but in deeds and has made Israel and living here an integral part of his Jewish life.”

Rabbi Jacobs is a senior fellow at the Hartman Institute and has a home in Jerusalem.

Addressing the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center (RAC) on Monday, Rabbi Jacobs did not address his critics directly but said leaders of the movement “must never be defined by membership in outside organizations but rather by the longstanding policies of our movement — policies that are fully in consonance with those I have held for decades.”

Ironically, the woman behind the ad campaign, Carol Greenwald, of suburban Maryland, said she did not sign the ad because she is not a member of a Reform congregation.

She identified herself as a “pro-Israel activist and a refugee from the Reform movement” who belongs to a Conservative congregation in Potomac, Md.
Greenwald is treasurer of a small group called Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art, which has protested performances of the theater connected with the Washington JCC, saying they are highly critical of Israel. She says she also founded Holocaust Museum Watch, which opposes some of the national museum’s policies.

The one rabbi who signed the ad criticizing Rabbi Jacobs is Joshua Segal of Congregation Betenu in Amherst, N.H.

He said his efforts to learn Rabbi Jacobs’ views on Israel went unanswered by URJ.

After the ad was published, Rabbi Segal said a board member of the URJ, Alan Warshaw, wrote to the sponsors of the ad calling it “unfair and divisive.”
“Your ad and your names won’t be forgotten by myself and others,” Warshaw wrote. “Your words will reflect on your reputation and will be remembered when you write a paper, present a lecture or look for a position on a committee or employment.”

Rabbi Segal said he believes those words were directed at him, and he added that other rabbis who have concerns similar to his refused to sign for fear that it could hurt their careers.

The rabbi said his synagogue of about 85 families might withdraw from the URJ if Rabbi Jacobs is appointed president at the June meeting.
At his Monday address to the RAC in Washington, Rabbi Jacobs said he would continue to speak out on issues he holds dear.

“I believe that Israel’s security and well-being require that Israel must become a more tolerant and pluralistic society. … Working for the rights of Israeli Arabs makes Israel more secure. Working for the rights of Russian-speaking immigrants to convert to Judaism without coercing them to ultra-Orthodoxy makes Israel a home for all Jews.”

Rabbi Jacobs added: “I will not back away from my commitment to a two-state solution, living side-by-side in peace and security. As the leader of the largest movement in Jewish life, I intend to work every single day to build up the ranks of those who share my Zionist passion.”

Carol Greenwald did not seem swayed, saying her group now has about 100 people to sign on and that there is a “high probability there is going to be another ad.”
 

Last Update:

05/11/2011 - 08:31

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Conservative Jews are too laid back as well, when it comes to Israel.

J Street is the baby of George Soros, a radical billionaire who blames Israel for everything while blaming Arabs and Muslims for nothing.

George Soros wants to see Israel wiped off the map, and his deceptive J Street is designed to sabotage the pro-Israel efforts of American Jews.

Is Reform Judaism moving away from Klal Israel, from the rest of the Jewish people, within and without the nation-state of the Jewish people?

All indications are, sadly, that this is the case.

The losers will be all of us, Jews, be it in North America, Israel, Europe, Latin America, and beyond.

Do the Reform movement care?

It appears it does not.....

What are we to make of Rabbi Jacobs’ distinction between BDS against Israel and BDS against “Jewish communities in the West Bank” (quoting your article above). In Rabbi Jacobs’ mind, do “Jewish communities in the West Bank” include the Jewish portions of Jerusalem, including the Kotel, which was only recaptured in 1967? Is the URJ President-designate advocating for the division of Jerusalem? He demonstrated with the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity movement which aims to remove the Jews from East Jerusalem. So now is the URJ in support of the removal of Jews from East Jerusalem, including the Kotel?
Sorry to repeat this but I added it to an old chain previously.

As an Israeli living in America and a member of a Reform Temple I want to express my view that anyone that belongs to the anti Israel groups like the J-Street and the INF let along being on the board of those anti-israel organization shouldn't be in a position at the URJ, if I knew there was going to be an ad like this in the newspapers I would've contributed money for that cause.

I don't know why the reform Jews feel such an affinity to the "Palestinians" i guess maybe because they didn't suffer all their atrocities and suicide bombing day in and day out like me and my Family.

Why do so many reform Jews fall to the propaganda machine of the "Palestinians"? do they really believe that if we give them land they will live side by side in peace with us? didn't they see what the "Palestinians" did with every piece of land we gave them? they turned it into bomb factories and suicide belt factories, all the billions of dollars that the Americans and Europeans gave them didn't go to built schools and universities and factories rather they used it for bombs and missiles and katiusha rockets, every piece of land we give them will turn into Hamastan and Hizzballastan.

Richard Aronow was courageous to give that quote. Many people in Rabbi Jacob's syagogue are afraid to confront him about his extreme anti-Israel views. The Rabbi is exaggerating his support for Israel and lying about his role in New Israel Fund and other anti-Israel incitement.

The problem is that J Street has among its members, supporters, and even leaders both true peace-loving Zionists (like Rabbi Jacobs) and post-Zionists, even anti-Zionists. Supporting a two-state solution is fine (most Israelis do, as has, in some form, every Israeli government for the last 20 years), but objecting to sanctions on Iran, promoting Richard Goldstone (before his recent about-face), and asking the U.S. to support an anti-Israel resolution in the U.N. makes the organization's "pro-Israel" claims murky or worse. If there's anybody out there who's REALLY and unequivocally supporting Israel (not necessarily every one of its government positions or policies, but the essence and the security of the Jewish state), WITH a strong liberal and pro-peace stand, I would love to join forces with them. J Street, unfortunately, isn't it.

I want to clarify that in no way was I threatening in the email that was referred to… just highlighting what happens when one commits Lashon Hara ("It is forbidden to speak disparagingly of one . Even if the information is entirely truthful, it is called Lashon Hara.") And as I understand it, when one does commit Lashon Hara, it can reflect unfavorably on the person who committed Lashon Hara…. and that is only what I meant. And I don't know Rabbi Segal but he is taking credit where it wasn't intended. Besides Lashon Hara, trying to embarrass the Union for Reform Judaism and Rabbi Jacobs isn't constructive. If JADL wants to be taken seriously, they should address their concerns privately with Rabbi Jacobs and URJ executives.

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