An open letter to the Union for Reform Judaism’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs

‘The State of Israel has had, and will have, only one eternal capital, Jerusalem’

December 9, 2017 21:26
3 minute read.
DAVID BEN-GURION reads the declaration of Israel’s independence in Tel Aviv in 1948.

DAVID BEN-GURION reads the declaration of Israel’s independence in Tel Aviv in 1948. (photo credit: KLUGER ZOLTAN/GPO)

My name is Leor Mann from Toronto, Canada. I was raised in the Reform Movement, had my Bar Mitzva in a Reform Synagogue, went to Elementary school at Leo Baeck, a Reform Hebrew Day school, and spent 13 summers at Union of Reform Judaism’s (URJ) Camp George, including 6 years as staff. I was raised on the ideals of religious pluralism and even defended the Reform movement from criticism during my time in the IDF. I served in the 932nd Battalion of the Nahal Infantry Brigade as a sharpshooter.

I have grown more and more disheartened with the direction in which the current leadership is attempting to steer the Reform Movement, with regards to Israel policy. In my view, the Reform Movement has put a “progressive” political agenda ahead of our progressive religious ideals. It is increasingly difficult to simultaneously be a political conservative and a religious progressive in the Reform movement today. The recent decision to oppose the US President’s formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital is embarrassing. You are the Leader of the largest Diaspora religious community; it is a stain on our movement that you and the rest of the reform leadership would take such a morally vapid position.

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It is good to hear that you recognize, “Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and of Israel, and that the embassy should eventually be moved to the holy city.” However, your refusal to welcome the US President’s announcement because it is, “ill-timed”, and will “exacerbate the conflict” shows your lack of commitment to the profound importance of Jerusalem.

Almost 69 years ago to the day, former prime minister David Ben-Gurion addressed the Knesset in Tel Aviv, regarding his government’s intention to move the Knesset to Jerusalem: “In the heat of the war, when Jerusalem was under siege, we were compelled to establish a temporary seat for the government at the Kirya, near Tel Aviv. But the State of Israel has had, and will have, only one eternal capital, Jerusalem. This was the case 3,000 years ago, and so it shall be, as we believe, until the end of time.”

The position of the URJ in this instance is a cowardly attempt to hide behind the well-rehearsed, overused, vicious threats of violence, which have become a predictable tactic of the Palestinian and Arab leadership.

There is no question that Israel has been an exemplary steward of the religious sites in the Old City, making your insistence that the move be “conceived and executed in the broader context reflecting Jerusalem’s status as a city holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike” are obvious and irrelevant.

I shudder to imagine a hypothetical scenario, wherein you, Rabbi Jacobs, were a leader of American Jewry at the time of US President Harry Truman’s recognition of the State of Israel. Following your own logic, you would have considered the recognition an “ill-timed” move, that would “exacerbate the conflict” between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine.

Even the CIA and State Department at the time warned against the move. They too feared it would inflame tensions and cause violence. Thank God Truman remained stalwart in his fidelity to his principles, and thank God for the men and women of the IDF, and other underground fighters, who defended the land from an unprovoked attack.

I wonder if you, Rabbi Jacobs, had any moral misgivings at any wedding that you have officiated when you recited Psalm 137:5, like millions of Jewish men before you: “If I forget thee, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.”

It seems that your political position on Jerusalem has overshadowed your religious one, which is exactly the problem with the URJ today.

The writer is an entrepreneur living in Toronto Canada. He is a former sergeant in the 932nd Battalion of the Nahal Infantry Brigade.

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