14 July 2010

Home is the Place Where, When You Have to Go There, They Make You Feel Unwelcome...

I sent the letter below to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, (titled: The Conversion Bill in the K'nesset, the Arrest of Anat Hoffman, and Relationship with Diaspora Jews) through the RAC website:

(I include links in this copy, which were not included in the original. Also, the letter at the bottom can be signed and set at the RAC site here and above. A report about my meeting with the Israeli Deputy Consul can be found here.  The Israeli Religious Action Center has a Facebook site on the issue here.)

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,

I am contacting you through the good offices of the URJ (of which I am an active member) and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism (of which I am a Tzedek Circle supporter). I am also a member of ARZA and am a Reform Rabbi who lived and studied for a year in Jerusalem. I am a passionate supporter of Israel and a signatory of Rabbi Mickey Boyden's Rabbis for Israel statement (www.rabbisforisrael.org).

However, as I stated in a meeting with the deputy consul in New York earlier this year, I believe that there is danger to the Israel-Diaspora relationship which is being ignored by your government. In my meeting (which included other NJ rabbis), we were given the impression that the attitude of the government of Israel was that Diaspora Jews would respond to existential crises to Israel, no matter what the government's action or inaction on issues of pluralism. Such issues might be dealt with in time (or not), but were not important and "rabble-rousing" by non-Israelis was not productive.

I will state this as clearly and simply as I can.

As Israel ceases to be the homeland of ALL the Jewish people, Diaspora Jews may support Israel as an ally,but NOT as they have in the past, not as their homeland.

The message that I am receiving - loud and clear - from the government of Israel is that Israel is NOT a home for me; I would not be welcome there, as a Progressive Jew; and those I would encourage to make aliyah would not be accepted. It has become obvious to me that the government of Israel has made a decision to turn inward and to give the birthright of Israel to the Orthodox in exchange for a K'nesset majority. This is not a surprise; it is not new. However, after too much has been given away, after the message of unwelcome is pronounced so loudly, it is more than chutzpahdik to turn to those very people that you are rejecting to ask for support - politically, morally, or financially.

Please, look at the current Rotem conversion bill, look at the arrest of Anat Hoffman, look at the other incidents of the hareidi hijacking of the Israeli state - and see it through the eyes of the Diaspora Progressive Jew. Realize the message that you are sending and decide whether that is the course you truly wish to take.

Thank you for your consideration. I append at the bottom of this message, the letter written by the RAC, which I am in accord with. I will be posting this letter on my blog for the benefit of my congregation. I am available to continue this conversation if you wish.

Rabbi Joel N. Abraham
Temple Sholom.

[Sample letter from the RAC, available for signature here.]

As a North American Jew and fervent Zionist, I write to request your immediate intervention to prevent passage of the so-called “conversion legislation” being brought forward by MK David Rotem.
I am deeply concerned about the bill’s intent to grant the Chief Rabbinate sole control over conversion in Israel. Such legislation would be an open attack on the legitimacy of non-Orthodox Jewry, which as you know comprises the vast majority of world Jewry.
While I am supportive of efforts to create greater accessibility to conversion courts in Israel, the overall impact of the Rotem Bill will set back these efforts. Should this bill be enacted, it will exacerbate a widening gap between the Diaspora and Israeli Jewish communities at precisely the time when close relations are essential.
I urge you, as Prime Minister and one who cares deeply about the well-being of Klal Yisrael, to intervene and urge immediate withdrawal of this bill.


  1. I seem not to be alone in my opinion. Rabbi Andy Bachman shared this link on Facebook, with a comment from Jeffrey Goldberg - http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/07/israel-to-diaspora-drop-dead/59788/

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