This month, the Reform Movement is poised to throw away decades as part of
mainstream Zionism by its short-sighted appointment of Rabbi Richard Jacobs as
president. Jacobs has promised to improve Reform fundraising and
congregation building. The board has ignored his activism on Israel – activism
which focuses on Israel as a human rights abuser and occupier.
the Jacobs appointment spread through the internet – a Facebook revolution in
the grey-haired set of Reform congregants. I put my name on an ad asking our
leaders to choose a more mainstream candidate. The ad read: “We are Reform Jews
Who Want the Reform Movement to Stand with Israel. The Union for Reform
Judaism’s nominee for president, Rabbi Richard Jacobs, does not represent the
pro-Israel policies cherished by Reform and American Jews. He does not represent
Our message is simple. The presidency of Rabbi Jacobs will hurt
those Reform congregants who care most about Israel.
Ellenson, president of Reform’s rabbinic college (HUC-JIR), recently told the
: “The ad was... the most despicable thing I’ve ever encountered
in my life in the Jewish community. This brings great shame to the Jewish
community... they fail to reflect on the humanity and integrity of people who
have different views.”
Jacobs is openly to the left of mainstream Reform.
He says so himself; he is an Israel activist of the sort that makes other Jews’
heads explode. No declarations of how much he loves Israel will change
What is mainstream for Reform? In my congregation, we are members
of AIPAC and Hadassah and believe Israel is a decent, indeed, an admirable
country. We want a Reform leader who understands Israel’s outstanding moral
record, as past president Rabbi Eric Yoffie did.
We respect Rabbi
Yoffie’s words of leadership, said during an address to the J Street Convention
in 2009: “Reject the trap of false moral equivalence, and to never, ever,
express contempt for the state and its people. And... avoid like the plague the
self-haters in the Jewish community who defend the rights of every group except
IN MY congregation, “mainstream” is being worried over Iran,
and feeling sickened by the anti-Semitism prevalent in the Palestinian
Authority. Unlike J Street, we are grateful that Congress respects and supports
We support the written guidelines of the Reform movement: “Oppose
efforts to demonize and delegitimize Israel and its leaders in domestic and
international forums; commend the governments of the United States and Canada
for their continued and unconditional support of Israel; Help end the Iranian
Rabbi Jacobs shares none of these emotions. He defended
the New Israel Fund’s promotion of the Goldstone Report, which falsely accused
Israel of war crimes during Operation Cast Lead. He serves on the rabbinic board
of J Street which, several months ago, called on Obama to allow a UN resolution
condeming settlements to go through by not using the veto. Jacobs also intimates
support for boycotts of Israeli products from over the Green Line. By contrast,
Yoffie condemned those boycotts as a threat to Israel’s survival.
Yoffie also called J Street’s Gaza policy, “morally deficient, profoundly out of
touch with Jewish sentiment, and appallingly naïve.”
With Rabbi Jacobs as
president, we will probably never hear such words defending Israel.
read the sermon Jacobs gave his congregation this Yom Kippur. It is a call to
change. He feels the “true pro-Israel community is frighteningly
He mentions the threat Iran poses in half a sentence. He
disses Eli Wiesel for promoting a united Jerusalem. He mentions a statement by
former MK Effi Eitam who in 2006 talked of “expel[ling] the overwhelming
majority of West Bank Arabs from here and remov[ing] Israeli Arabs from [the]
political system” and declared that if that’s what it means to be pro-Israel, he
wants Jewish college students to “run the other way.”
He had not one word
of sympathy for Israel’s plight, or for his congregation’s anger about Arab
WORST OF all in my eyes, Rabbi Jacobs personally
demonstrated with the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement last year, an
organization that holds weekly protests in the east Jerusalem neighborhood
against Jewish families in the City of David. He has given interviews and
sermons supporting his actions. The organization wants east Jerusalem to be free
Jacobs says he disagrees with 99 percent of what the group
espouses, but he seems to agree with their idea that Jews in east Jerusalem are
settlers, ruining prospects for peace.
Mainstream Jews have some bedrock
principles. Rabbi Jacobs has a different moral compass.
congregation is typical, according to a May 2011 poll by CAMERA. Seventy-four
percent of the poll respondents voted for Barack Obama; 70% were Reform or
The polls showed only 12% of American Jews think settlers are
the obstacle to peace. Seventy-seven percent supported the Israeli incursion into
Gaza to stop the missile attacks.
Seventy-seven percent think the
Arab-Israeli conflict is caused, not by Israel, but by the Palestinian “culture
That is why my congregation at a recent meeting about Israel
mentioned only three groups – AIPAC, CAMERA and the David Project. The only
concerns voiced were on Israel’s behalf – Israel’s safety, and the unfairness of
our press and college campuses.
We don’t want Rabbi Jacobs as president
of Reform because he has expressed support for groups which attack and vilify
Israel. Jacobs calls this vilification “critical work shaping Israel... building
a more just and inclusive Jewish state.”
I don’t want to be told by Rabbi
Jacobs that it’s okay to lobby Congress against Israel. It’s not okay. It’s not
okay to selectively boycott Israel. None of that is the least bit okay with me
and with thousands of other Reform Zionists.
Rabbi Jacobs, the New Israel
Fund and J Street represent maybe 5% of American Jews.
Rabbi Jacobs does
not represent me.
The writer is part of Congregation Beth Israel in
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