Over 300 Reform Rabbis – North American, Israeli, European, Australian, Russian and from elsewhere – gathered in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for the CCAR Israel convention. With renewed vigor, we speak in a clear voice, about our commitment to Israel, Judaism, Israeli democracy, Jewish pluralism and peace. Our resolutions expressing love and support for Israel and condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel, make it clear that we are ohavei Yisrael (lovers of Israel), Zionist, passionate and pluralistic, realist pursuers of peace.
As Vice President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, I arrived in Israel with an expansive mission: To paraphrase the words of the Ahavah Rabbahprayer, we Reform Rabbis gathered in Israel l’havin ul’haskil, lishmo-a, lilmod ul’lameid, lishmor v’laasot ul’kayeim – to understand and discern, to heed, learn, and teach, and, lovingly, to observe, perform, and fulfill our eternal commitment to this Jewish state.
Together and in smaller groups, we traveled yamah v’kedmah tzafonah v’negbah (west, east, north and south) to explore, understand and advocate. We prayed together – men and women, in tallit, kipah and for some, with tefillin – at the Kotel’s newly designated Ezrat Yisrael, an egalitarian space. We studied together with some of Israel’s greatest thinkers. We marched in support of a tolerance, embracing the gifts of each religion. We spoke with Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other religious and secular Israelis. With the disenfranchised and the disillusioned. With people of all political persuasions, who live all over Israel and on both sides of the Green line. With Palestinians whose messages were sharp and unwavering.
Our hearts were filled with Ahavat Yisrael (love of Israel), and with Tikvah (hope) for Israel’s vibrant future.
Beyond the listening and learning, we shared clear messages:
We are ohavei Yisrael (lovers of Israel) and our support for Israel is unconditioned and unconditional.
We are Zionists, committed to nurturing a vibrant, Jewish democratic state that lives up to the highest ideals of democracy and social justice.
We are passionate Jews, staking out claim to a pluralistic vision of an Israel where there is more than one way of being Jewish.
We are politically active Jews, prepared to open our mouths, flex out muscles, and commit our money to further the dream of a democratic Jewish pluralistic socially just state for all its citizens.
We are realists, recognizing that a strong secure Israel, while living in a very dangerous neighborhood, can nonetheless work diligently and forthrightly toward helping effectuate the dream of Palestinians for a separate state alongside the Jewish state.
Yes, with undying devotion, we Reform Jews love Israel. We oppose BDS. We support the right of women to pray and practice in a non-coercive Judaism. We oppose the coercive control of the Rabbinate over Jewish life. We discern that Jewish democracy is the way forward. We embrace the humanity of Palestinians and believe in peace.
We return home – until our next trip – passionately rejuvenated in our passion for this beautiful Jewish homeland.
And we pray:
Oseh shalom bimromav hu yaaseh shalom aleinu v’al kol Yisrael, v’al kol yoshvei teivel, v’imru amen.
May the One who brings peace to the High Heavens, bring peace to us, to all Israel, to all who dwell on this earth. And let us say… Amen.
Rabbi Paul Kipnes is Vice President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and serves Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, California.