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Statement on Use of Force Against Reform Leaders at the Kotel

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The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association stand in solidarity with the leaders of the Reform movement who were confronted with force by police and Western Wall security personnel as they attempted to carry Torah scrolls to the site. The Reform movement leaders were gathered to celebrate the recent ordination of the 100th rabbi through the Reform Movement in Israel. We condemn the actions of those who used force or the threat of force to attempt to block these Jews — Israeli citizens and visitors from abroad alike — from worshiping freely at the Kotel. We will continue to work side-by-side with Israeli and diaspora Jewish organizations seeking a new arrangement for Jewish prayer at the Kotel that affirms Jewish pluralism and the legitimacy of all of the major movements of Judaism.

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Statement on the Har Adar Terrorist Attack

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RRC / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn the terrorist attack that took place in the West Bank settlement of Har Adar. We mourn the murder of border police officer Solomon Gavriyah, 20, and civilian security guards Youssef Ottman, 25, and Or Arish, also 25, and we hope for a full recovery for an additional security guard who was seriously wounded in the attack. We are grateful that the swift action of those who gave their lives prevented what could have been a much larger number of casualties. We urge Palestinian leaders to refrain from praising the perpetrator of this violence, and we urge Israeli leaders to refrain from acts of collective punishment in response. There is a profound need for a renewed, vigorous and determined peace negotiation process. As many of our sages have taught, every act of violent cruelty, regardless of who perpetrates it, only serves to deepen hatred and build fear. May the shofar’s call stir all of us to renew our commitment to support the thousands of people of courage and compassion on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who struggle to carry on the deeply needed work to build a more just and peaceful future.

Statement on July Violence in Israel

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Yahrzeit Candle
RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association condemn the horrifying terror attack that took place this past Shabbat, in which a Palestinian man gained entry into the home of a family in a West Bank settlement and stabbed three people to death. We mourn the deaths of Yosef Salomon, 70, and two of his children, Chaya, 46, and Elad, 36. May their memories be a blessing. There is no justification for terrorist attacks. Our hearts and prayers are with the survivors, who include several children, in this time of shock and grief. 

We also are deeply concerned by the spiraling escalation of violence that has been taking place in the Temple Mount area following last week’s murder of Israeli Border Police and the subsequent decision by the Israeli government to install metal detectors at this holy site. We are deeply concerned that more people will be hurt or killed if tensions do not recede. We urge the leaders of all governments and religious communities to do all they can to try to avoid a further escalation of impassioned violence on the part of members of any of the religious communities who hold the site sacred. We hope that President Trump’s decision to dispatch U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt to the region to try to help restore calm will be successful.

Public Statements, Israel

Endorsement of Letter on Middle-East Peace

Endorsement

 

Reconstructionist leaders were among the 35 Jewish, Christian, and Muslim national religious leaders sending a letter to President Trump agreeing that Israeli-Palestinian peace is possible. 

Statement on Cancellation of Western Wall Agreement

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The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities jointly condemn Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to cancel an agreement that would have allowed for mixed and egalitarian prayer services at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.  

This agreement, carefully negotiated by representatives of several of the major streams of American and Diaspora Jewry, would have settled a longstanding dispute about access to one of Judaism’s most sacred sites.  While the Reconstructionist movement was not an official party to the agreement, we have been supportive of the efforts of Conservative and Reform Jewish leaders to find a compromise and are grateful for their tireless work. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reversal on this issue, followed by the Knesset’s passage of a bill placing authority for some conversions to Judaism in the hands of the Israeli Orthodox rabbinate, signals a serious setback in Diaspora-Israeli relations and a move toward a more fundamentalist and anti-democratic approach to governance on the part of Israel’s leadership.  As a movement committed to the ideals of Jewish peoplehood and the values of democracy and inclusion, we are deeply saddened and disappointed in this turn of events.  We continue to call on Israel’s government to look toward its own founding Declaration of Statehood that envisions a country “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisioned by the prophets of Israel; it 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.”

Public Statements, Israel

Joint Statement on Israel Conversion Bill

Endorsement

 

RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities joined a statement strongly opposing a bill proposed by Israel’s Ministry of the Interior, which would nullify Israel’s recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions performed in Israel, as well as overturn Israel’s High Court ruling requiring the Ministry to recognize Orthodox conversions performed by private rabbinic courts.

Statement on the Israeli Knesset’s Passage of the “Entry Bill”

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The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) and RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities (RRC/JRC) are strongly opposed to and deeply disappointed by the Israeli Knesset’s passage of the “Entry Bill.” This law denies entry to foreign visitors who have publicly supported any form of boycott of the State of Israel or boycotts limited to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The Entry Bill broadly curtails legitimate civil discourse and liberties, moving the country further away from some of its bedrock principles – robust democracy, open debate, and vigorous pluralism. A democratic state has to be willing to tolerate non-violent political dissent even when its government profoundly opposes the dissenters’ ideas, and one of Israel’s longstanding points of pride has been its commitment to being a state that is both a Jewish homeland and a democracy. This legislation damages Israel’s democratic principles and its international standing as a democracy.

The law also potentially shuts the door on the opportunity for many future visitors to go to Israel and “see for themselves” – an experience that is crucial to the formation of complex, personal, and nuanced understandings of Israeli society.  

Finally, coming on the heels of the recently passed law allowing West Bank outposts built by settlers in violation of Israeli law to be legalized retroactively, the Entry Bill is another example of a new law dangerously conflating Israel proper with West Bank settlements. For example, the Entry Bill threatens to turn away at Ben Gurion Airport any foreign visitor who may oppose boycotts against the State of Israel, but who may have supported targeted boycotts of products made in the settlements. Tour groups that have policies of not going over the Green Line as part of their itineraries could be refused entry, as could participants in organizations that have policies of only investing inside of the Green Line. As the New Israel Fund has stated, “By conflating boycotts of settlements with boycotts of the State of Israel itself, the legislation makes common cause with Israel’s adversaries who see no distinction between the legitimacy of the vibrant democracy that exists within Israel’s pre-1967 borders and the profoundly undemocratic reality that exists in the occupied territories.” We agree.

Israel

Statement on Knesset Law that Retroactively Authorizes Settlement Outposts

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RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association strongly oppose the Knesset's passage earlier this week of a law known as the “Regularization Bill.” The law, which passed by a vote of 60-52, retroactively legalizes 4,000 settler housing units that were built without the Israeli government's authorization on property the government acknowledges was privately owned by Palestinians. Israel's attorney general urged the bill's rejection and warned that it violates international law.

The law's passage represents a new kind of threat to the possibility of a viable Israeli - Palestinian peace agreement. Muddying long-standing Israeli legal distinctions between legal and illegal actions involving land seizure in the West Bank, it is being celebrated by many Israeli right wing leaders as the beginning of what they hope will be a new Israeli policy of unilateral annexation of many parts of the West Bank. Israeli centrist and left wing leaders, meanwhile, have condemned the law as a repudiation of Israel's core democratic and legal principles.

Isaac Herzog, who leads the Labor Party and who opposed the law, warned, “This government is passing a bill that is an acute danger to the State of Israel,” and he referred to it as “de facto annexation.” Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, said the law “damages the state of Israel, the security of Israel, governance in Israel and our ability to fight back against those who hate Israel.” Many Israeli and Jewish-American organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, have expressed similar concerns.

There are many obstacles to achieving a just and negotiated peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, and some of those obstacles come from Palestinian leadership and extremist groups. Palestinian incitement, terrorism, and ideological extremism all deserve our unequivocal rejection and condemnation. At the same time, the almost 50-year-old Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, the expanding settlement movement, and the enormous impacts these policies have on Palestinian daily life also create obstacles to peace. The “Regularization Bill” adds a new obstacle to the prospects for peace, and it endangers the future of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. For this reason especially, we feel we must speak out. The law will be challenged and Israel's Supreme Court will hopefully strike it down as contrary to the democratic institutions and ideals of the state of Israel.

Public Statements, Israel

Statement on Proposed David Friedman Ambassadorship

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RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association have profound concerns about President-Elect Trump’s proposal to appoint David Friedman as the next U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Mr. Friedman has, as recently as June 2016, publicly accused President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry of anti-Semitism, and he has described Jewish supporters of J Street as “worse than kapos – Jews who turned in their fellow Jews in the Nazi death camps.” (6/5/16 – Arutz Sheva). He has also recently called for the total abandonment of the goal of a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which places him at odds with decades of American foreign policy and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stated policy. 
 
America’s Ambassador to Israel needs to be someone with outstanding diplomatic skills. We find Mr. Friedman’s “kapos” remarks to be offensive and dangerous, and we worry that his undiplomatic rhetoric is likely to be highly divisive and alienating to large parts of the American-Jewish community and the progressive Israeli-Jewish community.
 
We hope that the next U.S. Administration will appoint an Ambassador to Israel who is an expert in the art of diplomacy and bridge-building, someone who can strengthen the relationship between a politically diverse American-Jewish community and an equally politically diverse Israeli society.
Public Statements, Israel

Statement Condemning UNESCO's Temple Mount Resolution

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RRC/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities condemns today’s United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Jerusalem resolution that functionally erases the historical presence of Judaism on the Temple Mount. The resolution ignores the existence of ancient Israel’s connection to the Temple Mount, and Israeli leaders on the left and right have objected to it strongly. We appreciate the U.S.’s vote against the resolution, which a White House spokesperson called “one-sided,” “unhelpful,” and “highly politicized.”

Several veteran advocates for peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians have also condemned the UNESCO resolution, pointing out that blatant historical dishonesty only serves to worsen the conflict. Israel’s President, Reuven Rivlin, has pointed out that UNESCO, an international organization committed to the preservation of world heritage sites and education about them, only serves to undermine itself and its mission with this statement. Tzipi Livni (Member of Knesset – Zionist Union party) wrote UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova the following: “We can argue and critique policies, but when it comes to the historical facts connecting the Jewish People to these holy sites, there can be no politics.”

We ask world leaders to condemn this action and urge UNESCO to rescind it.

Public Statements, Israel

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