fbpx Israel | Reconstructing Judaism

New Progressive Israel Network Launched By Ten Leading Jewish Organizations

News

Today, ten leading organizations representing Americans who are committed to pursuing democracy, equality and peace in Israel announced the launch of the Progressive Israel Network. The new coalition will provide a strong, unified voice in support of its members’ common goals: democracy and equal rights, religious freedom and pluralism, and a two-state solution that would secure a peaceful future for Israel and end the 52-year-long occupation.

The Network will weigh in on the significant challenges that face Israel and the US-Israel relationship. It will coordinate campaigns designed to mobilize the majority of American Jews who share its progressive values and goals, support the work of Israeli progressives, and urge the US government to adopt policies that further Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Network will fight against US and Israeli policies that promote annexation, entrench occupation and undermine liberal democracy in Israel.

With Israel heading into another round of contentious elections and the Trump administration advancing a dangerous so-called peace initiative in the region, the Network will cooperate closely to defend the core principles of democracy and diplomacy. The Network will also run a joint list for the upcoming elections to the 38th World Zionist Congress, because the time has come for our institutions to reflect our values.

The network’s founding members are Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Hashomer Hatzair, The Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, The New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism, and T’ruah. The organizations have chosen this moment to launch — as Israelis go once again to the ballot box — because of the extreme peril that far-right leaders and parties pose to the fundamental values on which the State of Israel was founded and that American Jews hold most dear.

In its Statement of Principles, the Network writes, “Our values and commitments make us proudly progressive and proudly pro-Israel and speak for the majority of Jews around the world.” These values aredeeply rooted in the spirit of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, which enshrines the Israeli government’s sacred duty to provide “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants.”

The full Statement of Principles is below.

This group of organizations has worked together for a number of years on an ad hoc basis. Some of its joint work includes a post-election message to President Donald Trump demanding that he reject anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination; a letter denouncing Israel’s Nation State Law sent to twelve members of the Israeli opposition; a pledge for American Jews to ask Knesset members who voted for this discriminatory and undemocratic law why they voted for it; and a letter to the American Jewish community affirming that the racist Kahanist party does not belong in Knesset and asking other Jewish community leaders to do the same.

Founding members of the Progressive Israel Network released the following statements:

Kenneth Bob, President of Ameinu: “Ameinu is proud and excited to be a founding member of the Progressive Israel Network. As the current policies of both the Israeli and the US administrations diminish the possibility of Israel and the Palestinians reaching a mutually agreeable and durable solution to the conflict, it is vital for progressive, pro-Israel organizations to band together to amplify our voices in support of peace and co-existence. As our organizations represent the viewpoint of the majority of American Jews, it is time for our voices to be heard.”

Aviva Meyer, Acting CEO of Americans for Peace Now: “A unified American Jewish voice that stands for a progressive, democratic, peace-seeking Israel, is crucial, both for our US activists and for the Israeli supporters of our sister-organization, the Israeli peace movement Peace Now.”

Oren Zukierkorn, Secretary General of Hashomer Hatzair World Movement: “Hashomer Hatzair is proud to be adding its voice to this network of progressive communities. We are excited to work with this incredible group of partners to build a strong and courageous movement for a just peace and a bright future for Israel and all those who care for it.”

Eitan Goldstein, Director of Habonim Dror North America: “In accordance with Habonim Dror’s longstanding commitment to upbuilding the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic society at peace with its neighbors, we see the Progressive Israel Network as a significant development in making it more possible to achieve these aims. We look forward to working alongside our partners in the Network, to amplify our efforts and those of our Israeli partners, and to call upon the American Jewish public, young and old, to join us in our ongoing work to pave a better path for Israel and all of its citizens.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J Street: “At a time when the far-right agenda of Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Trump and their backers is imperiling Israel’s future and undermining its democracy, it’s absolutely vital that pro-Israel progressives stand together in defense of our shared vision and values. I’m deeply excited for this new network to help coordinate and amplify the work of organizations that are promoting peace, fighting occupation and supporting our progressive Israeli partners.”

Arieh Lebowitz, Executive Director of the Jewish Labor Committee: “When progressive, liberal, open and democratic forces within the State of Israel are under attack, it’s crucial for those of us who are struggling to defend a progressive, decent and caring society in the U.S. to support our sisters and brothers who live and work within Israel. Today, the JLC joins with our colleagues in the Progressive Israel Network in affirming that we’re all in this together. To our counterparts within the State of Israel – and there are many – we say‘you’re in there for us, and we’re out here for you.’  Isn’t that the essence of solidarity, especially in the troubled days?”

Daniel Sokatch, CEO of the New Israel Fund: “Progressive values – that everyone should have an equal say in a democracy, that all people deserve equality – are mainstream, majority values among those of us who care about Israel. Yet policies in the U.S. and in Israel are now being driven by narrow-minded politicians and supremacist ideologues who are fundamentally opposed to a shared and peaceful future for all Israeli and Palestinian people. I am honored to help launch the Progressive Israel Network, which will build connections between progressive supporters of Israel in a political environment that so often serves to divide us from each other and from our progressive Israeli colleagues who share our vision of a future free of occupation and with democracy and equality for all.”

Paul Scham, President of Partners for Progressive Israel: “Partners for Progressive Israel is very pleased that progressive American Jewish groups are now aligning themselves in the Progressive Israel Network so as to pool our efforts for the common purposes towards which we have struggled for so long: a peaceful end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on a Palestinian state next to Israel as well as equality, civil rights, and religious pluralism for all Israel’s citizens. We look forward to working with our partners in the Network towards these goals.”

Rabbi Deborah Waxman, President of Reconstructing Judaism: “Beginning with Mordecai Kaplan’s writings and teachings, Reconstructionists have long dedicated themselves to a Zionism of ethical nationhood and to a vision of Israel where multiple expressions of religious, cultural and civic life flourish. The increasing dominance of extremist religious and nationalist ideologies in Israeli society threaten the dream of a Jewish and democratic Israel like never before. We look forward to adding our voices to those of the other worthy organizations in this coalition.” 

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of T’ruah: “At this critical juncture it’s essential that our organizations come together to bring a more powerful moral voice and the strength of our collective networks to standing up for the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, and to recommitting to the long path toward peace, one that ensures the self-determination of both people. We are unified in our refusal to concede to those in our communities who are pushing a far-right agenda that entrenches occupation and threatens Israeli democracy, and that runs counter to the vision and values of the vast majority of American Jews.”  

 

Principles of the Progressive Israel Network

Grounded in our Jewish and democratic values, the Progressive Israel Network calls to action all those who are committed to Israel’s future as the national homeland of the Jewish people and as a democracy that lives in peace and security with its neighbors.

We are inspired by Israel’s Declaration of Independence – establishing a state “based on freedom, justice, and peace,” that ensures “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race, or sex.”

We are alarmed by the threats to that vision from the increasingly extreme actions, policies, and ideology of the Israeli far-right with cover provided by its supporters in the Diaspora.

Our commitment is to peace for Israel and its neighbors – through a two-state solution to the long and destructive conflict with the Palestinians and an end to the occupation and the expansion of settlements.

Our commitment is to Israel’s security – understanding the many and real security threats Israel faces and that Israel does not bear sole responsibility for its conflict with the Palestinians or other regional powers.

Our commitment is to democracy and the rule of law – believing that all citizens of Israel must be treated equally, and their civil and human rights protected.

Our commitment is to religious pluralism – and the belief that all forms of Jewish practice deserve equal protection and recognition in the state of the Jewish people.

Our values and our commitments make us proudly progressive and proudly pro-Israel and speak for the majority of Jews around the world.

We call on Jews who share our values to join us as we work to shape opinion, policy and discourse.

Together, let’s ensure that the Israel we leave to future generations best reflects the values and traditions we have inherited from those who’ve come before.

 

Endorsement of House Resolution in Support of Two-State Solution

Endorsement

 

Reconstructing Judaism joins nine other Jewish organizations in endorsing House Resolution 326, which reaffirms longstanding bipartisan support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and opposes any US actions that would encourage or endorse unilateral Israeli annexations in the West Bank. 

Invitation to Support Israelis Opposing Kahanists in Knesset

News

The Israeli grassroots social action organization, Zazim – Community Action, is mobilizing Israelis to call on the Central Elections Committee of Knesset to protect the Knesset from Kahanists. Over 13,000 Israelis have already signed onto Zazim’s petition expressing their conviction that Kahanists have no place in the Knesset and represent a fundamental threat to Israel’s core democratic values.

Zazim and the New Israel Fund have now launched a parallel petition for Jews living outside of Israel to sign as a show of solidarity and support for their efforts. We invite members of Reconstructionist communities to read it and consider signing on to it if you agree. To do so, click here. While Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association do not advocate for or against any candidate or party in any election, we do stand in solidarity with Israelis who believe that Kahanists have no place in the Knesset, and who are working hard to protect Israel’s democracy. (See our recent February 21, 2019 statement, “Kahanists are a danger to Israelis and Israeli society.”)

We invite you to consider adding your name to this statement of solidarity, which will be accepting signatures until March 28, the deadline for Israeli organizations to approach the Central Elections Committee of the Knesset. Clicking this link will take you to a New Israel Fund (NIF) sign-on web page. NIF is coordinating this effort, whose co-sponsors currently include Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, as well as Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, the Jewish Labor Committee, the National Council of Jewish Women, Partners for Progressive Israel, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and the Union for Reform Judaism. 

Thank you for considering this call to action.

Public Statements, Israel

Kahanists are a Danger to Israelis and Israeli Democracy

News

Addendum, March 4, 2019: We invite you to consider adding your name to this statement of solidarity, which will be accepting signatures until March 28, the deadline for Israeli organizations to approach the Central Elections Committee of the Knesset. Clicking this link will take you to a New Israel Fund (NIF) sign-on web page. NIF is coordinating this effort, whose co-sponsors currently include Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, as well as Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, the Jewish Labor Committee, the National Council of Jewish Women, Partners for Progressive Israel, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and the Union for Reform Judaism. 

Following the Otzma Yehudit agreement, eight organizations call on the American Jewish Community to affirm: Kahanists have no place in the Knesset.

This week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, keen to shore up his electoral position, orchestrated the unification of the extreme right-wing party Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish Power”) with the National Union so that it could enter the Knesset in a consolidated right-wing bloc. This is dangerous and deeply concerning. Otzma Yehudit is the latest iteration of a political party based on teachings of racist demagogue Meir Kahane.

For decades, the consensus in Israel was that these racist extremist organizations should have no place in the Knesset. We are outraged that right-wing political parties and their leadership have reversed course and opened the door for Kahanists to enter into the Israeli political mainstream.

Our organizations do not advocate for or against any candidate or party in any election. We stand together for the principles enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Kahanism, empowered in government, represents a clear and present danger to those values.

Kahane’s party, Kach, was banned from the Knesset in 1988, was outlawed as a terrorist organization in Israel in 1994, and still appears on the US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Modern day Kahanists are working to divide Israeli society by stoking racial fears. They seek to strip all non-Jewish Israelis of basic rights; many encourage violence toward Arabs and LGBTQ Israelis. These Jewish supremacist organizations often use incitement to violence to promote their racist agenda. That’s why the US State Department, the EU and the Canadian government all list Kahanist organizations as terrorist groups.

Today’s Kahanists have been convicted numerous times for support for terror organizations and incitement to racism. Michael Ben-Ari, a leader of Otzma Yehudit and candidate for Knesset, was denied a visa to enter the US due to the State Department’s “prerogative to ban terrorists from entering the country.” 

As Americans, we have seen the devastating effects of elected officials embracing white nationalist groups. In America, deadly right-wing extremism poses a clear and present danger to our democratic society. In Israel, it is Kahanists — and the political mainstream that embraces them — that pose the most direct threat to Israel’s democratic fiber.

We call on our colleagues in the American Jewish community and Jewish organizations to stand for democracy and equality and join us in affirming that Kahanists have no place in the Knesset.

Signed,

New Israel Fund

T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

Partners for Progressive Israel

Americans for Peace Now

J Street

National Council of Jewish Women

Reconstructing Judaism

Ameinu

Public Statements, Israel

Statement on Recent Events in Israel

News

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn and are saddened by the recent terror attacks by Palestinian extremists against Israeli soldiers, police and civilians in the West Bank and Jerusalem. In the past week, two attacks near the settlement of Ofra have claimed the lives of two Israeli soldiers and a prematurely delivered infant, and have wounded nine Israelis. We mourn those who have been killed and we pray for speedy and thorough healing for all those wounded. Terrorism is never justified, and attacks like these increase the potential for escalating violence as Israeli forces respond with intensified measures in the West Bank. We urge the leaders of all parties to prioritize the sanctity of human life, to deescalate the current flaring of violence, and to seek pathways back to good faith efforts to negotiate a just and lasting future of dignity and peace.  

 

Statement on October 7th Terrorist Attack

News

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn the terrorist attack that killed two Israeli civilians, Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, 29, and Ziv Hajbi, 35. May their memories be a blessing.  The attack took place in a factory at an industrial complex in the West Bank, and was carried out by a Palestinian young man. Our condolences are with the family and friends of the victims, and we hope for a full recovery for the wounded. Terrorism is never justified and will not help end the Occupation of the West Bank, nor will it pave the way to a lasting, fair peace agreement. May those who work for peace, justice, and reconciliation throughout the region be strengthened in their work and their ideals.  

 

Response to Murder of Ari Fuld

News

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn the stabbing attack carried out by a Palestinian youth that killed Ari Fuld, an American-Israeli father of four, at the Etzion junction in the West Bank. Our condolences are with Mr. Fuld’s family and friends. We appreciate press reports of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s condemnation of the attack.  At this moment, when Jews around the world are focused so intently on the question of how we can live our lives so that our most sacred hopes and aspirations can be realized in the year ahead, we join in President Abbas’s recognition that  “Everyone loses from violence.”  May Israelis and Palestinians alike have the strength and courage to fulfill our dreams of peace, mutual respect and shared prosperity in Israel and Palestine, and the wisdom to recognize that escalating violence will never be the means through which those dreams can be fulfilled.

Statement on Israel's Passage of Nation State Law

News

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association strongly oppose the Nation State Law that the Knesset has now established as one of Israel’s Basic Laws, which carry constitutional weight.

Israel’s Declaration of Independence states:

The State of Israel … will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations… .

We appeal … to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

The Nation State law undermines the democratic commitments of the Declaration of Independence by 1) terminating the status of Arabic as one of Israel’s two official languages; 2) strengthening the Orthodox monopoly on Jewish religious life; 3) impeding the ability of Israeli elected officials to negotiate a peace agreement that includes any form of compromise on Jerusalem; and 4) creating a legal basis for potential discrimination favoring Jewish over non-Jewish citizens of the state in matters of housing and community development.

Defenders of the law argue that it simply asserts the Jewish right to self-determination in Israel. However, Israel’s Declaration of Independence, its Law of Return granting Jews everywhere the right to emigrate to Israel, and the 1947 United Nations resolution establishing the partition of Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian Arab state all make it abundantly clear that Israel is the sovereign homeland of the Jewish people. Furthermore, Israel already devotes tremendous resources to supporting, serving, and settling its Jewish citizens, including new Jewish immigrants, and it does so both within Israel-proper and in West Bank settlements.

This law isn’t a benign restatement of long-established Jewish identity markers in the State of Israel, nor is it a course correction designed to protect Jewish Israelis from non-Jewish hegemony. Rather, it is the legislative product of groups that seek a more theocratic and nationalistic Israel, and the weakening of Israel’s democratic character. That vision of Israel stands in stark contrast with the vision of the signers of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, who struggled to establish a state that would always carefully balance its Jewish national character with a vigorous commitment to democracy.

We hold out hope that this law, which was passed with 62 votes out of 120 in the middle of the night, will be reconsidered. Meanwhile, we will continue to stand for the ideals of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, lending support to the many Israeli organizations and individuals who share this vision and advocate for it in Israeli society every day.

Correction: An earlier version of this statement incorrectly stated that Israel had three official languages, which in fact it only had two. English, while widely used in Israel, has never been an official language of the State.

 
Israel

Statement on Recent Events in Israel and Gaza

News

A message from Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association:

The events of the past two days in Israel and Gaza have been intense and overwhelming. First and foremost, we feel shock and sorrow over the killing of approximately 60 Palestinians and the wounding of over 2000 during demonstrations near the border fence between Israel and Gaza. Rabbi Benjamin Weiner of the Jewish Community of Amherst writes, “As I sift through the various media reports, it has repeatedly occurred to me that only a true sage, or a fanatic, would know exactly what to make of them —would be able to boil it all down to an absolute and incontrovertible judgment of right and wrong. Being neither sage nor fanatic I find myself instead stuck in a quagmire of competing perceptions and interpretations, feeling grief and shame at the horrendous loss of Palestinian life, anger and frustration at the failure of many to recognize the explicit threats of violence against Israeli civilians, and, fundamentally, despair that as Jews we are enmeshed in an evolving historical tragedy that lays atrocity so frequently on our doorstep, when all we really want is to thrive.” (For Rabbi Weiner’s full remarks, click here.)

While it can be hard to know which sources of information to rely on, one thing that’s clear is that hopelessness in the lives of Gazans is driving people to desperation. Whatever uses Hamas or other groups have made of the protest marches, they began as a nonviolent demonstration by people living in intolerable conditions, trying to raise awareness about their situation and to exert a new kind of leadership. 

Meanwhile, many of us struggle to reconcile different strands of emotion over the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem. On the one hand, we have long advocated for the day when a negotiated peace agreement ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would lead to the formal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, not only by the US, but by all nations. Many of us have envisioned that day as one in which the international community would even be celebrating the establishment of two capitals in different parts of the Holy City – one of Israel and one of Palestine – ushering in a new era of coexistence and mutual recognition. On the other hand, so much about the inauguration of the new US embassy is painful. For many in our movement, it is painful that the US administration being lionized in Israel is one that has emboldened racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and xenophobic forces in America. It is painful to see pastors who are leaders of the Christian Zionist movement, closely aligned with dangerous, apocalyptic, end-times theologies, offer public prayers at the event. And it is painful to see the US walk away from its role as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians.

And yet, there is still hope. There are still millions of Israelis and Palestinians who want to live side by side in peace, and who believe the conflict is not a zero-sum game. We can still work for a day when we’ll be able to celebrate a two-state peace agreement, in which Israel and Palestine each have their respective capitals in different parts of Jerusalem. And there is always the possibility of diplomatic or political surprise, and good reason to continue to advocate for a diplomatic breakthrough, with every US administration and every leader in the region.

As Rabbi Toba Spitzer of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek puts it, “At moments that feel as demoralizing and hopeless as this, I try to make it my practice to remind myself of those doing the hard work on the ground of building relationships, rather than destroying them; those working to transform hatred and grief.  … There are over one hundred organizations on the ground – in Israel, in the West Bank – working to transform the conflict, empower those most affected by the occupation, and foster the relationships that will be necessary to build any kind of alternative future for both Israelis and Palestinians.” (For Rabbi Spitzer’s full remarks, click here.)

May we be blessed with the courage, the openness, and the faith that our deepest Jewish values and hopes – for peace, for justice, for safety, for dignity – will be borne out, and may our labors help bring us closer to that reality.

Israel

An Open Letter Concerning the Safety and Future of African Asylum Seekers

Endorsement

 

In an open letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Reconstructing Judaism and the other undersigned organizations urge him to pursue a humane solution for the 39,000 asylum seekers currently within Israel’s borders.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Israel