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Q: Where do we stand on Israel and Zionism in general? Is the Reconstructionist movement pro-Israel?

From the origins of Reconstructionism to this day, the Reconstructionist movement has an abiding commitment to flourishing Jewish life in Israel, for Israelis of all backgrounds to live in safety and in freedom, advancing Jewish art, spirituality, and culture and also enlivening democratic values​ and advancing human rights, science and technology in ways that benefit Israelis, Palestinians, and the whole region. The movement identifies as progressive Zionist. We have passed several resolutions supporting a peace process that leads to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Reconstructing Judaism has built relationships with Israeli organizations that promote human rights, peacebuilding, and co-existence, and many of our members and rabbis are committed to those causes. We have also passed resolutions and issued statements calling on the Israeli government to recognize the legitimacy of all the non-Orthodox movements of Judaism and to protect the equal rights of women, LGBTQ+ people, and members of the Palestinian and Bedouin communities who are citizens of Israel. We’re a Zionist movement that is deeply concerned about justice and human rights for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Q: Does the Reconstructionist movement believe in Israel’s right to exist?

Yes, unequivocally.

Q: What is our Israel programming?

RRC sends students to Israel to participate in an immersive and experiential program of study created in partnership with BINA, an Israeli-born movement at the intersection of Jewish education and social activism, that enables them to encounter the realities and challenges of contemporary Israeli society firsthand. The program is designed to run every other year, with the next offering in summer 2025. Israel is discussed in several courses, including Reconstructionism 1 and Contemporary Israel Civilization. Since spring 2023, the RRC faculty has been working to deepen engagement with Israel in students’ US-based education, including how to engage in and facilitate conversations and community across difference. Israel and Palestine was a major focus of student programming over the 2023-24 school year, including multiple required sessions and a mandatory two-day immersive retreat. Members of the RRC faculty are planning a study trip, including visits to BINA, in July 2024.

Camp Havaya
For more than a decade, we have sent teens to Israel for four weeks of exploration and connection. The trip includes time in East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, as well as Gush Etzion, to give teens opportunities to explore various narratives and make up their own minds. After consulting with campers and their parents, Camp Havaya, like most independent programs, is not sending teens to Israel this summer. Camp has created experiential opportunities for the cohort scheduled to go, is increasing their Israel programming, has hired more Israeli counselors than usual and has offered scholarships for Israeli campers displaced by the war.

Reconstructing Judaism
For a broader overview of Reconstructing Judaism’s commitments, approach and programming, click here, and for a comprehensive report on Israel-related activities across Reconstructing Judaism from 2020 – 2022, click here.

Q: Reconstructing Judaism is a founding member of the Progressive Israel Network (PIN). What is it?

Reconstructing Judaism is a member of a group of organizations called the Progressive Israel Network, or “PIN” for short. PIN is a group of a dozen Jewish organizations that support a progressive Zionist platform. PIN supports Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state, advocates for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and works for a future of security and mutual flourishing for Israelis and Palestinians. PIN opposes settlement expansion in the West Bank and proposed Israeli laws that would damage democratic institutions in Israel. In early March 2024, Reconstructing Judaism joined PIN members in a letter to President Biden calling for bilateral ceasefire, return of the hostages, massive increase in humanitarian aid and a comprehensive and sustainable postwar plan.

Q: What is PIN’s position on the current war?

PIN issued a statement on October 11 that statement unequivocally condemned the Hamas massacre of October 7, demanded the immediate release of all the hostages, expressed deep concern for avoiding civilian casualties in Gaza, urged Israel to avoid violating international law regarding the rules of war. In early March 2024, Reconstructing Judaism joined PIN members in a letter to President Biden calling for bilateral ceasefire, return of the hostages, massive increase in humanitarian aid and a comprehensive and sustainable postwar plan.

Q: Why do we not do/say X or Y?

Reconstructing Judaism is many things to many people, all of them, we hope, constructive and supportive. Among those many things, we are NOT a policy organization. We offer expertise on Jewish wisdom and practice, community building, rabbinical education, coalition work and joyful Jewish living, We do not hold deep expertise on most policy issues. The nature of our staffing and our commitment to lay involvement means that most statements we issue are created in an intensive collaborative manner that aims to reflect a significant breadth of the Reconstructionist movement. As a result, we issue very few statements, and rarely more than one on any unfolding development.

Q: Where do our students stand on Israel and Zionism? Are there non/anti Zionists in the student body?

RRC exists under the umbrella of Reconstructing Judaism, which is a progressive Zionist organization. RRC’s Israel requirement is explained and extensively discussed at admissions interviews, and we educate rabbinical students on the broader Reconstructionist movement and create opportunities for them to participate in and contribute to movement initiatives. Our students have their own perspectives, which sometimes diverge from the position of the organization or movement. RRC’s mission as an institution of higher education and as a rabbinical school entails robust engagement with a breadth of political positions and controversial ideas. We have a vision of training rabbis who can work effectively with people with a range of perspectives, cultivating community in which people engage in the kind of constructive dialogue that so many Jews crave but struggle to find.  

Q: Why are there Reconstructionist Jews and members of Reconstructionist synagogues and institutions who hold anti-Zionist beliefs?

Our movement’s core commitments to democratic principles and to diversity make space for rabbis and lay people who have a wide range of divergent views – even on very important matters. It can be intensely painful when our shared values lead us to different conclusions on matters that are very close to our hearts. The use of labels as shorthand for complex ideas can make it harder to have conversations across difference and accurately understand each other.

The Reconstructionist movement has always supported, and continues to support, the progressive Zionist values envisioned by Mordecai Kaplan and Israel’s Declaration of Independence — a Zionism of ethical nationhood, Jewish cultural diversity, respect for all Jewish movements and a moral drive to establish a just and peaceful relationship with the Palestinians. An entire generation of Diaspora Jews – whose only experience of Israel has been in the last 20 years – may share those values but also may not perceive the current State of Israel as living up to those ideals. In addition to generational differences that are affecting the wider Jewish discussion of Israel and Zionism, the North American Jewish community is growing ever more diverse–culturally, racially, in terms of sexual and gender identity and more. This diversity means Jews today have a more varied range of formative experiences than those of the descendants of Ashkenazi immigrants.

A Reconstructionist approach calls on us to understand our differences and engage with one another in ethically grounded, values-based learning and discussion. Reconstructionism’s strength lies in our commitment to engage with each other on even the most emotionally charged issues. According to a Reconstructionist analysis, this welcoming orientation has been a key to the Jewish people’s survival and moral growth. Reconstructionism’s embrace of activism and diversity encourages us to adopt stances of openness and curiosity toward new perspectives rather than suspicion and resistance. Instituting exclusionary policies based on political views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would detach RRC and the Reconstructionist movement from real-world Jewish conversations about Israel and Zionism and betray our values of prioritizing intellectual honesty and personal integrity and learning from diversity in our communities.

Q: How do we respond to rising antisemitism?

We unequivocally condemn antisemitism in all its forms, and we take action in several ways: through public stands (e.g here, here and here); education (e.g. here, here and here); safety consultations with congregations; and by building joyful and meaningful Jewish life that is resilient.

The last of these actions is in many ways the most important. Our best response to antisemitism has always been to foster generative and joyful Judaism instead of focusing on defense. Reconstructing Judaism works to build what we might call a Jew’s core strength — that inner security, pride and resilience that comes from joyful and loving diverse Jewish communities, from Jewish ritual and spiritual practice, and from the depth and wisdom of Jewish texts and traditions. This is the main way our movement supports Jews to defend ourselves and our rights in a world in which antisemitism is increasing in its frequency and intensity. With a strong inner core, and with the support of others — Jewish and not — we can face hate with self-knowledge, determination and faith in the enduring meaning and beauty of Judaism. Jewish learning and community nourish and challenge us, and our Jewish connections shape and sustain our identities, in all their complexities. 

The Reconstructionist Network

Serving as central organization of the Reconstructionist movement

Training the next generation of groundbreaking rabbis

Modeling respectful conversations on pressing Jewish issues

Curating original, Jewish rituals, and convening Jewish creatives

The Reconstructionist Network