Israel News Reform Judaism Statements

Reform Movement Response to United Nations

Photo By Bill Aron

The Central Conference of American Rabbis has joined with the Union for Reform Judaism, ARZA and ARZA-Canada to issue a Reform Movement statement about the United Nations decision to upgrade the status of the Palestinians as a “non-member observer state.”

A CCAR Mission of Reform Rabbis is currently in Israel.  Follow our Rabbis as they show our support for Israel and as the CCAR leads our communities in engagement with Israel by visiting Israel.






4 replies on “Reform Movement Response to United Nations”

With appreciation to CCAR/ARZA in articulating a Reform Movement statement, and with hesitation because I’m not good at political controversy, I respectfully disagree. I think it’s important to open up the discussion here as the blog format would seem to call for. Hopefully that can happen with collegiality and mutual respect.

My own response to the UN event lines up better with the letter sent out to congregants by B’nai Jeshurun of New York, as reported in today’s New York Times. I will paste that letter below, and you can read the NYT article here: .

Best wishes to all for a joyous and light-filled Chanukah. Susan Laemmle

“Dear Friends,

Yesterday’s vote at the UN on Palestinian membership was a day which will go down in history, although what history will write about it only time will tell.

In this week’s Parashat Vayishlach, Jacob battles with the angel and earns the name Israel. It is the first time we are recognized as the people of Israel. Our own struggles were rewarded exactly 65 years ago on 29 November 1947 with the UN partition plan that acknowledged the right of the Jewish people to an independent state.

The Parasha also tells us how Jacob prepares to meet his brother Esau again, 20 years after fleeing from him. The risks are real — Esau has threatened to kill him. This meeting is the biblical prototype of confrontation between Israel and the nations. Before the meeting with Esau, Jacob prepares in three ways: he divides his camp in two, he prays to God, and he sends Esau gifts and conciliatory messages. These three tactics mirror the basic strategies that Israel has at its disposal: preparation for battle, prayer, and diplomacy.

We as a nation have had to rely on all three at different times. Today we feel it is critical that we remember the crucial role that diplomacy played in achieving independence for the State of Israel.

The vote at the UN yesterday is a great moment for us as citizens of the world. This is an opportunity to celebrate the process that allows a nation to come forward and ask for recognition. Having gained independence ourselves in this way, we are especially conscious of this. Every people has the right of recognition, every person has the right of recognition.

As Jews deeply committed to the security and democracy of Israel, and in light of the violence this past month in Gaza and Israel, we hope that November 29, 2012 will mark the moment that brought about a needed sense of dignity and purpose to the Palestinian people, led to a cessation of violence and hastened the two state solution.

We continue to pray for a lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors.”


Thank you for your thoughtful comments. As you know, there is a wide diversity of viewpoints among our colleagues on important matters of policy, so arriving at a statement that would enjoy unanimous approval on virtually any subject is impossible. As president-elect of the Conference, I had the opportunity to participate by email in the discussion that preceded adoption of the resolution by the URJ Board. There was considerable give and take in the process of crafting it. Some wished for a stronger statement on settlements. Others saw Israel’s response to the UN decision as a measured warning to the Palestinian leadership that they have much to lose if they continue to pursue unilateral measures. There was powerful support for a two-state solution, but also a strong belief that the only way to achieve it is serious negotiations without pre-conditions.

Personally, as a rabbi and a citizen of both the US and Israel, while I strongly support a two-state solution, I would have preferred an explicit reaffirmation of our Movement’s support for Israel’s security and for the strategic partnership between Israel and the US. As Reform Jews, we are not neutral observers. And coming just days after Israel was compelled to act in defense of millions of its citizens under bombardment from hundreds of rockets and missiles from Gaza, I believe the resolution should not have described the actions of Hamas as “violence,” but by their proper name: terrorism. I would also have liked to see it condemn the public remarks of President Abbas praising the “victory” of Hamas over Israel and his vile, vitriolic speech at the UN prior to the vote, using such terms as “racist” and “apartheid” to describe Israel.

In the end, notwithstanding the resolution’s flaws, as I saw them, I supported the recommendation of our colleague, Arnie Gluck, our Israel chair, that the CCAR endorse it, believing that its balanced approach succeeded in expressing the core consensus of our Movement. Ultimately, the difference between us involves means, not ends.

Warmest regards and best wishes for chag urim sameach.

Rick Block

Thanks for your reply Rick. My comment did not mean to criticize CCAR/ARZA for articulating a position on behalf of the Movement. I understand that there will never be unanimity. I simply wanted to express another point of view and make it public, both because I believe it and in order to open up the Israel discussion. Hopefully others will now join in and/or feel comfortable expressing a range of views on how we are going to arrive at peace and security for Eretz Yisrael. Yes, chag urim sameach to all. Susan

Susan, diverse opinions, and even critical ones, are always welcome. You might be interested to see the article about the B’nai Jeshurun letter that appeared on today’s JTA, which appears below.
Shabbat shalom.

N.Y. shul’s rabbis ‘regret’ email praising U.N. Palestine vote
December 6, 2012
NEW YORK (JTA) — Rabbis at B’nai Jeshurun are expressing “regret” over an email sent out by the prominent New York synagogue praising the United Nations vote to elevate Palestinians to non-member state status.

The rabbis of the Manhattan synagogue sent a note Thursday to congregants saying that their email last week endorsing the U.N. action had been sent prematurely and mistakenly listed several other synagogue officials as signatories.

“While we affirm the essence of our message, we feel that it is important to share with you that through a series of unfortunate internal errors, an incomplete and unedited draft of the letter was sent out which resulted in a tone which did not reflect the complexities and uncertainties of this moment,” the rabbis, Rolando Matalon, Marcelo Bronstein and Felicia Sol, wrote in their followup email.

The rabbis also wrote that they “regret the feelings of alienation that resulted from our letter.”

The latest email was first reported by The New York Jewish Week.

The original email, sent last Friday, drew both praise and outrage from members of the nondenominational Upper West Side synagogue, which is known for its liberal politics and lively services. The email and ensuing controversy drew significant media attention, including a front-page story in The New York Times on Wednesday.

“The vote at the U.N. yesterday is a great moment for us as citizens of the world,” the original email stated. “This is an opportunity to celebrate the process that allows a nation to come forward and ask for recognition. Having gained independence ourselves in this way, we are especially conscious of this.”

In their followup, the three rabbis wrote that they are “passionate lovers of Israel” and are “unequivocally committed to Israel’s security, democracy and peace.”

They also wrote that the original email was a letter from them and that the synagogue’s cantor, board president, executive director and director of Israel engagement were listed mistakenly as signatories.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.