Reform rabbis reject US youngsters' attacking IDF

High school, college students ask Reform Rabbi Yoffie to "condemn IDF."

eric yoffie 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
eric yoffie 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Reform rabbinical leaders are distancing themselves from a letter by members of the movement's youth leaders slamming the IDF's actions in Lebanon. Forty-eight American high school and college students wrote to Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, asking his organization to "condemn the Israeli Defense Forces' killing of unarmed Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, as well as its premeditated targeting of civilian infrastructure, which has put additional lives at risk and hampered relief efforts." The letter supports the union's positions against Hizbullah and Hamas rocket attacks and its stance in favor of "the principle of peace negotiations." Yoffie responded by welcoming their "passion and commitment to the State of Israel," but said he is "confident that the government of Israel has taken all reasonable precautions to avoid civilian casualties" and that "justice clearly resides with Israel." Tel Aviv-based Rabbi Gilad Kariv, associate director of the Israeli Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement, went further, saying that "the letter does not represent the position and the attitude of the Israeli movement for progressive Judaism" and calling it "unbalanced." But he praised the students for "moral sensitivity." "It's good that as young Jews they feel the need to express their moral views and their view on Israel," he explained, since many American Jews see events in the Middle East as not connected to their own lives. But the students have the support of at least one Reform rabbi, Arnold Jacob Wolf of Chicago, who is listed as a supporter in the students' letter. He described the youth participants as "more critical than their parents about Israel's move into Lebanon," and said he considered the war as "no doubt [having] helped Hizbullah." "The way I read in Haaretz, it was a mistake, a cruel mistake, and maybe worse, [that it perhaps] was purposely violent against civilians. There was apparently a theory that that would make them hate Hizbullah more than us," he said. Kariv assessed that those drafting the letter have an "understanding of the Israeli reality that naturally relies on what they see on the television screens in North America, and unfortunately we know the media does not reflect successfully the complicated situation in Israel." The official branch of the Reform student fellowship also objected to the letter. A group of them wrote a response in which they described themselves as "distraught" by their peers' position. "We are concerned about the equivalence made between the tactics of the Hizbullah and the Israeli Defense Forces," the students wrote. "Israel has shown that she cares about civilian life ... Hizbullah shows complete disregard for civilians, even their own, using non-combatants as shields while directly and indiscriminately targeting Israeli civilians."