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Response to Recent Violence on Gaza Border

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) are deeply saddened and concerned following the deaths of approximately 18 Palestinians,  and the wounding of many others, by Israeli army fire during last Friday’s Palestinian-led marches near the border fence between Gaza and Israel.

As is often the case, conflicting reports are emerging about what happened. Spokespeople for the Israeli authorities assert that their aim was to secure Israel’s border and that Israeli soldiers took appropriate action in response to violence, rioting, and serious danger. Palestinian spokespeople claim that the demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful, posed no threat to Israeli troops, and that the use of live ammunition and the high number of casualties indicates an intentional decision on the part of the IDF to use unethical levels of lethal force. These issues are being vigorously debated in the Israeli government and by the Israeli press. Internationally, harsh words risk an escalation into bigger crises.

As this news arrives, we stand in the midst of a week of spiritual and moral focus on the great themes of Passover: oppression, liberation, freedom, struggle, and hope. Our prophets and sages tell us that we have a duty to seek those blessings for ourselves and for all others. Torah teaches us to ensure the safety of our own people, yet it simultaneously demands that we be scrupulous in the way that we treat others, especially others who also have suffered loss, degradation, and hopelessness. 

With these values in mind, we call on all parties with the power to affect the situation to move swiftly to deescalate the likelihood of more violence, and to guard against the ways in which moments like this may trigger new rounds of war. If there is to be a formal inquiry, we urge that it be organized in a way that gives people on all sides of the conflict good reason to believe in the integrity of its findings. We call on governments with influence on the region to renew their efforts to bring the parties back to the negotiating table, to finish the work that remains to be done to create and secure a future of co-existence, peace, and justice for all in the region.

Public Statements, Israel

Letter Urging Israel to Halt Deportation of Asylum-Seekers

Endorsement

 

Reconstructionist leaders were among the early signatories of this letter urging the Israeli government to stop the deportations of asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea who have sought refuge in Israel.

Joint Statement on Recent Abbas Speech

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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association strongly condemn the recent public remarks made by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Denying the legitimacy of the historic and religious connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, Abbas claimed that the Zionist movement was a European colonial plot having nothing to do with Judaism or with the true desires of Jews facing peril during and after World War II. He also referenced longstanding conspiracy theories claiming that covert Zionist plots were the “true” cause for the flight of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab and Middle Eastern countries. These offensive remarks undermine prospects for a viable peace process, precisely at a time when the Israeli and American governments have also taken recent steps that move the parties further away from a constructive, viable peace process.

Jews and Arabs both have sacred and ancient connections to the holy land, and both deserve the dignity of having those claims respected and honored. What’s needed, now more than ever, is a recommitment on the part of all leaders to focus their energies on paving the way for a negotiated peace agreement that ends the Occupation, provides for Israel’s security, establishes two states living side-by-side, and brings dignity, freedom, and political sovereignty to Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Public Statements, Israel

Statement on Israeli Government Blacklist

News

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College/Jewish Reconstructionist Communities are deeply troubled and disappointed by the Israeli government’s publication of a “blacklist” of organizations whose members will be barred from entering Israel due to their perceived support for the BDS movement.

While the Reconstructionist movement does not support the international BDS movement, we believe that free expression and open political discourse are integral to any democracy.  We strive to maintain community with our fellow Jews and all people of good faith, even with those with whom we have profound differences of opinion.

We agree with the CEO of the New Israel Fund (NIF) that “banning political opposition is the policy of autocracies, not democracies.”  In an open, democratic society, the appropriate response to those with whom we disagree is more speech, not the suppression of debate.

Reconstructionist Statement on Trump Announcement Recognizing Jerusalem as Capital

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Jerusalem

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association are concerned over the possible impacts of the timing and the unilateral manner of President Trump’s decision for the U.S. to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital outside the framework of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. In our movement we have long understood Jerusalem to be the capital of modern Israel, just as we have long understood the need for careful and constructive diplomacy by the U.S. when dealing with a place as utterly unique as Jerusalem, where deep religious, historical, and national claims overlap. For many years now we have also 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 U.S., but by nations all over the world. 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. Our concern is that this abrupt disruption of the diplomatic status quo by the U.S. on this unusually sensitive and explosive issue may lead to dangerous unintended consequences, including renewed escalations of violence and terrorism.  

Israelis are politically savvy and have long understood that the need for skillful diplomacy, and not the denial of the centrality of Jerusalem to Israelis, has been the rationale for the U.S.’s decades-long holding pattern on this particularly charged issue. We hope that today’s announcement will not ignite new rounds of violence or damage the ability of the U.S. to use its influence to support the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian and regional peace negotiations. In his remarks today, President Trump pledged to do everything in his power to pursue those goals, and we hope he will follow through vigorously and constructively.

As Jews, we are tied to Jerusalem historically, spiritually, and emotionally. Jerusalem is in our prayers and represents our people’s deepest yearnings for peace and redemption for all of humanity. We call on the president and American political leaders who care about the wellbeing of Israelis and Palestinians alike to focus their efforts on rebuilding trust, dialogue, and negotiations so that we can more speedily arrive at a time when Jerusalem will truly be a place of peace, reconciliation, and coexistence.

Statement on Use of Force Against Reform Leaders at the Kotel

News

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.

Israel

Statement on the Har Adar Terrorist Attack

News

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

News

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

News

Logos of RRC and RRA

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

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