Anticipating Retirement

In five months I will retire from my position and close a 40-year sojourn in the vineyard of the congregational rabbinate – the last 30 years in my current congregation at Temple Israel of Hollywood in Los Angeles.

I confess, as I move through the weeks and that final day in June, 2019 comes closer, that I have mixed feelings. I anticipate missing much of what has occupied my time and energy throughout the years, the many people I love and care about, the privileged presence I’ve had in the lives of others, and the multitude of weighty ethical and moral issues that confront us rabbis so frequently. I’ll miss especially the intensity of helping people from the cradle to the grave.

I have learned much about people and myself these past 40 years. I’ve been pushed to the limits of my abilities countless times. I hope only that I have met adequately those challenges. I have learned and taught much Torah and shared as best I can my learning and wisdom with my community.

We have created much together in my congregation over the years and the community has evolved in wondrous ways. I have taken controversial positions vis a vis American and Israeli justice, and though many have disagreed with me (sometimes vehemently), I would hope that they know that my criticism comes from a place of love.

Being in Hollywood, my community is as diverse as any in the country. We include Jews from around the world, all the religious streams, Jews and their non-Jewish spouses and partners,  Jews-by-choice, LGBTQ Jews, Jews of color, people with widely varying degrees of wealth from the most fortunate to the least secure, “Hollywood” Jews who work in television, motion pictures, music, the arts, journalists, educators and professors, politicians and diplomats, physicians and health care professionals, lawyers and judges, financial experts and business people, self-employed entrepreneurs and the unemployed.

I have been fortunate to have had consistently a deeply meaningful and exciting rabbinic career. In five months I will step aside, let others carry on, and give up most of what I do as I embark on the next stage of my life.

I am ready to change my frame of my mind to whatever the future holds for me. I will assure my successor (an interim the first year and a seated rabbi the following year) that I intend to be a great emeritus – meaning, I will not be around much nor will I allow myself to be drawn into discussions with congregants and staff about new directions the new rabbi is taking that help no one – not me, not the congregant, not my successor, and not the congregation as a whole. I trust my lay leadership and my colleagues currently on staff who will remain and carry on.

As a new grandparent too, I realize how important it is for me to hold my counsel unless invited in, to avoid offering advice or being critical in any way. I have had my time. It’s now the occasion for me to move aside.

I have heard horror stories about the behavior of some emeritus/a rabbis who have a difficult time letting go. That will not be me. My hope for my successor is that he or she will be as gratified as I have been doing the sacred work I have enjoyed for so long. If I can help him or her in any way, I will happily and supportively respond – but only when asked.

There is a time and a season for everything under the heavens – so true!

Rabbi John L. Rosove serves Temple Israel of Hollywood of Los Angeles, CA.  


The Torah is Political – Rabbis, Jews and Synagogues Ought to Be Too

Given the contentious nature of public debate in this election year and in light of the inauguration of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th President, my own synagogue and the American Reform Jewish movement have been challenged about the nature of our speech and activism.

What ought we to be saying and when should we be saying it? Should we as a synagogue community speak collectively about the great challenges confronting our nation in the area of health care, economic justice, criminal justice reform, the poor, women’s and LGBTQ rights, racism, immigration, religious minorities, civil rights, climate change, war, and peace?

Or should we refrain, as some have argued in my own community, and concentrate purely upon “spiritual,” religious and ritual matters? What, if any, limitations should rabbis and synagogue communities impose upon themselves?

Before I offer the principles that have guided me over many years, it is important to understand what we mean by “politics.” Here is a good operative definition from Wikipedia:

“Politics (from Greek πολιτικός, “of, for, or relating to citizens”), is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs. It also refers to behavior within civil governments. … It consists of “social relations involving authority or power” and refers to the regulation of public affairs within a political unit, and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy.”

The fundamental question before us is this: Should rabbis and synagogue communities be “political” in the sense of this definition?

I believe we should, and that we have an obligation to speak and act according to the above meaning.

There ought to be, of course, limitations.

First: When we speak our words ought to be based upon Jewish religious, ethical and moral principles, and our goals ought to promote justice, equality, compassion, humility, decency, freedom, and peace not only for Jews but for all people.

Second: We need to remember that we Jews hold multiple visions and positions on the myriad issues that face our community and society. Rav Shmuel (3rd century C.E. Babylonia) said “Eilu v’eilu divrei Elohim chayim – These and those are the words of the living God” meaning that there are many authentic Jewish values even when they conflict with each other.

The American Jewish community holds no unanimous political point of view, though since WWII between 60% and 90% of the American Jewish community has supported moderate and liberal policies and candidates for political office locally, at the state and national levels. We are by and large a liberal community, but there is a substantial conservative minority among us as well.

The Reform movement (represented by the Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C., the social justice arm of the Union for Reform Judaism) has for decades consistently taken moral, ethical, and religious positions on public policy issues that come before our government and in our society as a whole, though the RAC does not endorse candidates nor take positions on nominees for high government positions unless specifically determined conditions are met. The RAC’s positions on policies are taken based on the Reform movement’s understanding of the Jewish mission “L’aken ha-olam b’malchut Shaddai – To restore the world in the image of the dominion of God,” which means that we are called upon to adhere to high ethical standards of justice, compassion, and peace.

The following guide me whenever I speak and write:

  1. I do not publicly endorse candidates for high political office and have never done so in my 38 years as a congregational rabbi, except once – this year when it was clear to me that statements, tweets, and policy positions of the Republican candidate for President have proven to be contrary to fundamental liberal Jewish ethical principles;
  2. When I offer divrei Torah, sermons, blog and Facebook posts, I do so always from the perspective of what I believe are Jewish moral, ethical and religious principles. Necessarily, there are times when my statements are indeed “political” but they are not “partisan,” and that is a big difference;
  3. We as individuals or as a community ought never claim to possess the absolute Truth about anything. There are many truths that often conflict with one another. Respect for opposing views is a fundamental Jewish value and the synagogue ought to be a place where honest civil and respectful debate can always occur;
  4. When I speak and write in the media, I have an obligation to clearly state that I am speaking as an individual and not on behalf of our synagogue community or any other Jewish organization.

The Mishnah (2nd century CE) teaches that  “Talmud Torah k’neged kulam – the study of Torah leads to all the other mitzvot.” (Talmud, Shabbat 127a) The Talmud emphasizes as well that action must proceed from learning.

Plato warned that passivity and withdrawal from the political realm carry terrible risks: “The penalty that good [people] pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by [people] worse than themselves.”

Rabbi Joachim Prinz, the President of the American Jewish Congress, who spoke in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 963 immediately before Dr. Martin Luther King delivered this “I have a dream speech, said:

“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not ‘the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.

A great people which had created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality and in the face of mass murder.

America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent. … It must speak up and act, from the President down to the humblest of us, … for the sake of the … idea and the aspiration of America itself.”

Last week at Temple Israel, Dr. Susannah Heschel, the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, told my community that her father believed that the civil rights movement of the 1960s (of which he was an active and intimate partner with Dr. King), enabled the American Jewish community to affirm and reclaim its moral voice.

Perhaps this new administration and government offers the liberal American Jewish community yet again an opportunity to make our voices heard

Rabbi Prinz ended his speech at the Lincoln memorial that day by saying:

“The time, I believe, has come to work together – for it is not enough to hope together, and it is not enough to pray together, to work together that [pledge of allegiance said every morning by children in their schools] from Maine to California, from North to South, may become a glorious, unshakable reality in a morally renewed and united America.”

Rabbi John L. Rosove serves Temple Israel of Hollywood of Los Angeles, CA.  This blog was originally shared on 


Let The Optimism In You Die Hard

I‘m an optimist. I resist the “half-empty” glass. I look for the best in others. At times, I suffer the consequences, but seeing the good helps me to feel better and remain upbeat even in times of hardship and crisis. As a manager of people, I’ve found that it’s far more effective to encourage others’ sparks of creativity and goodness, intelligence and decency than to be overly critical and negative.

I’m well aware, of course, that everyone errs, uses bad judgment, succumbs to ego, appears foolish, behaves destructively, and gives license to their darker angels. But I stay hopeful anyway as a necessary hedge against despair.

The most effective means to counter one’s own demoralization and to help others do the same, especially as the election cycle has concluded and a new administration is about to begin, is to become more engaged in social justice advocacy work than we ever have been before, that we might help to prevent a deterioration in our democracy and our compassionate society.

There are so many just causes and just organizations as well as just officials at the local, state and federal levels who share our vision and democratic pluralist values with whom we can align.

Most especially, we Jews have no choice but to act as Jews and be ready to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable and the shrinking middle class, and to stand united against efforts to eviscerate the social safety net.

We have to push hard on behalf of the welfare of the 42 million food insecure Americans who have no idea when or from where their next meal will come.

We have to support women’s rights to equal pay for equal work, and their right to choose, as well as the equal marriage rights of the LGBTQ community.

We have to stand up for the environment, for science, for technological advance, for higher education for everyone regardless of their ability to pay, for critical thinking, and for fact-based truth.

We have to protect immigrants, peoples of color, and strangers, and to challenge those who claim that any human being is “illegal.”

The pendulum swings both ways and we can’t forget the ancient words of the Biblical prophet that called for justice, compassion and humility before God.

We have to remember Dr. King’s words that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

That is the message of hope. The optimist in me dies hard. I hope that it dies hard in you too!

Rabbi John L. Rosove serves Temple Israel of Hollywood of Los Angeles, CA.


Convention Israel

The Orchard of Abraham’s Children

There is only one nursery school in all of Israel that has Jewish and Muslim children enrolled together. It’s in Jaffa, a mixed Arab-Jewish town, alongside Tel Aviv.

One day this past week, I went to visit along with 30 American and Canadian Reform Rabbis as part of our CCAR annual meeting in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. We gathered in the school’s backyard garden and playground near a chicken coop with very raucous roosters. The school is aptly called “The Orchard of Abraham’s Children.”

Ihab Balha is the school manager, and he greeted us warmly. He’s in his early 40s, is tall with cascading long black-gray hair framing his handsome olive-colored face. He wore the long white robe of a Sufi mystic. He speaks beautiful Hebrew and he told us his unusual story about how this school came to be created.

Ihab grew up in the house in which the school welcomes the children each day. He is one of four or five children of a loving Palestinian Arab Muslim family. However, his father’s love only went so far. He hated Jews with an uncommon passion, and he taught his children to hate Jews as well.

When Ihab was 16, he attempted to fire-bomb a synagogue. When he was 20, he encountered Jews for the first time with a group of Palestinian friends. Each side took the opportunity to release their pent-up venom and rage toward the other. Something strange happened, however, in the verbal assaults. Ihab and the others (Jews and Arabs both) wanted more opportunities to be heard and to listen. Soon, they realized that their bigotry was not rationally based, that there was humanity in the other and that they shared far more than they had ever imagined. That realization launched them into a dialogue series that transformed them.

Ihab didn’t initially confide with his parents that he was participating in these conversations nor that his attitudes about Jews were changing. At long last he told his parents, but there was a serious fall-out with his father. They did not speak nor see one another for the next five years, a painful time for the entire family. For comfort and wisdom, Ihab turned to Islam and the Quran, and he became a Sufi mystic.

After the 2nd Intifada in 2002, Ihab attended a discussion between an Imam and a Rabbi, both of whom had lost children because of the violence. In 2006, Ihab helped to organize a conference of Muslims and Jews that was attended by 5000 Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews at Latrun on the road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the site of an historic battle in the War of Independence. Around that time, Ihab reconciled with his parents. In 2008, his family made pilgrimage to Mecca.

At the age of 35, Ihab met and fell madly in love with Ora, an Israeli Jewish woman. They married two days after they met, and he struggled with how to tell his parents. Because Jaffa is a small town and his family is well known, everyone knew that he had married but no one knew who was his bride.

Ihab and Ora decided to introduce her to the family without revealing that they were, in truth, married. He brought her home along with a group of Jewish and Palestinian Arab “friends,” the first time Jews had ever set foot in the Balha home. Ihab’s father told Ora and the other Jews how he hated and resented Jews who he believed had stolen so much from the Palestinians during the 1948 War. He did like Ora – a lot.

His parents kept asking Ihab why they had not yet met his bride and when that would happen. At last, when cousins came to visit from Holland, using them as a buffer, one of the cousins told his parents: “You have met Ihab’s wife. She is there (pointing at Ora)!”

Ihab’s father exploded: “You Jews have stolen everything from us, and now you steal from me my son!?”

Ora said, “I love your son.”

Ora was soon pregnant with their first child, and she and Ihab decided that they wanted to raise their son with Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslim Arabs. They envisioned starting a nursery school but needed a building. Ihab’s parents volunteered their house. Today, the school has 200 children who come every day . They call the school “The Orchard Of Abraham’s Children.” Ora is the Director and Ihab is the Manager. Ihab’s father visits the kids each day and is a loving “grandfather” to them all, Arab and Jew.

This story is remarkable in so many ways, most especially because it shows the transformation that can be experienced by enemies, and about what happens when we listen and seek to understand the “other.” It’s about learning the other’s narrative, and how empathy and compassion are critical in the building of friendship, community and a shared society.

After Ihab shared his remarkable story, I said to him: “Ihab – You have experienced great pain!”

“Yes,” he said, “but also great joy!”

Rabbi John Rosove serves Temple Israel of Hollywood, California.

Convention Israel

The Best of Israeli Reform

The Israeli Reform movement has come a long way these last 25 years. Thirty percent of all Israelis now have a positive impression of the Reform movement, whereas a generation ago no one knew it even existed. We’ve risen in the Israeli public’s esteem because our rabbis and congregations are liberal, Jewish, open-minded, loving, socially progressive, responsive to people’s personal, spiritual and social needs, and they offer a way for Israelis to be Jewish in a movement that is not orthodox in the state of Israel that’s positive, appealing, relevant, and meaningful.

Last evening I joined with 20 American Reform rabbis in a short twenty-minute bus ride to Kehilat Kodesh v’Hol in Holon for Kabbalat Shabbat services and a pot-luck community dinner. Holon is just south of Tel Aviv. Other rabbis traveled to Reform synagogue communities in Haifa, Zichron Ya’acov, Kiryat Tivon, Caesaria, Netanya, Even Yehuda, Ramat Hasharon, Tel Aviv, Gezer, Gadera, and Nahal Oz. There are now 45 congregations spread strategically throughout Israel from Haifa in the north to Sderot in the south.

The name “Kodesh v’Hol” has a double meaning. Hol means “sand” (Holon is near the beach) and it means “secular.” Holon is a middle-class secular city of 190,000 Israelis. The congregation’s young rabbi is smart, warm-hearted, talented, and charismatic. Rabbi Galit Cohen-Kedem, the mother three (her third child was born three weeks ago) who was ordained by the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem a year and a half ago, began the community as a student in 2009. She explained that she and her congregants want to bring holiness to a highly secular community; hence, Kodesh v’Hol.

I ought to mention, lest I be accused of un-ascribed bias, that my synagogue, Temple Israel of Hollywood, enjoys a sister-synagogue relationship with Kodesh v’Hol. However, even if I didn’t already feel a warm spot in my heart for Galit and this community, after last evening I would be immensely excited about what is happening there. They celebrate Shabbat every other week. There are educational programs for families and children. They are sponsoring several families on the welfare rolls who are not part of the congregation, and provide food and support for those in financial distress.

Kodesh v’Hol rents space for services in a community center for seniors during the week. Simply furnished with two large rooms and a back yard where the kids played, the service was in one room that accommodated 75 people and the pot-luck dinner was in the other. We lit candles and parents and their small children gathered beneath a large talit as the community sang the Priestly Benediction. HUC Rabbinic student Benny Minich, originally from Crimea and now an Israeli, led the music. Before we sang Kiddush, Galit invited forward a new oleh from St. Petersberg, Russia, to sing. Constantine is a trained opera singer. Who would have thought that there in Holon we’d be treated to kiddush by a Russian trained tenor!?

I spoke with one of two co-chairs of the community, Heidi Preis, a young mother of four in her early to mid-30s, and a Sociology PhD candidate at Tel Aviv University who is writing her doctoral dissertation on women and the birth experience as well as the experience of prostitutes working in Tel Aviv. Where Heidi had the time to do all this and be a co-chair of this community I haven’t a clue. But she is the caliber of the people who are building this community; socially conscious, sophisticated and community centered.

We asked some of the members what they had found in this new congregation that was so appealing. Heidi’s mother said that though she had been a member of a modern orthodox synagogue for most of her adult life, she fell in love with Galit and moved over to this community. The positive and joyful energy there was palpable.

As we walked back to the bus to return to Tel Aviv, we rabbis were abuzz with excitement about this community and its future. No one doubted that Kodesh v’Hol would, within only a few short years, have its own building and would grow dramatically as more and more Israelis discover it and make it their home away from home.

This morning the entire conference celebrated Shabbat at the Tel Aviv Art Museum. Rabbi Judy Schindler was our prayer leader along with HUC-Jerusalem Cantorial Student and composer Shani Ben Or, and composer, keyboardist and guitarist Boaz Dorot, as well as a violist and a percussionist. The music was beautiful and engaging, from the very best of Israeli and American composers and song writers as well as Yemenite, Libyan, Bulgarian, and classical Israeli music, plus a new nigun composed by Shani and Boaz especially for this occasion. Did I say that Shani sings like an angel and that she intends to become the first cantor-rabbi ordained in Israel by the Hebrew Union College (there are 100 Israeli born rabbis serving the Reform movement here now with 10 being ordained annually. All have positions!).

There’s so much that can break and deaden the heart here, but there’s also so much to warm the heart and expand the soul. It was the latter that transported me on this Shabbat and I’m grateful to our sister movement here in Israel, the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and its inspired leadership.

Rabbi John Rosov serves Temple Israel of Hollywood, California.

Israel News

Charedi Knesset member’s slandering of Reform Jews ignites backlash from fellow members

Charedi MK Israel Eichler’s comparison on Feb. 23 of Reform Jews to mentally ill patients diminishes not only Reform Judaism, but all who suffer mental illness and who struggle with disabilities of all kinds.

The best response is to quote from the Knesset members representing eight different political parties who addressed today, Feb. 24, one day later, 330 Reform Rabbis representing 1.7 million Jews worldwide at a special meeting of the Israeli-Diaspora Knesset Committee.

MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union and leader of the opposition): “I congratulate all of you for the recent decisions on the Kotel to create an egalitarian and pluralistic prayer space and the Supreme Court decision giving rights to Reform and Conservative converts to use state sponsored mikvaot. The decisions of the Israeli government and the High Court of Justice are not acts of kindness. They are based in Jewish responsibility and democratic principles, which is what the state of Israel is meant to advocate. Religion in the state cannot be monopolized by the ultra-Orthodox. You in the Reform movement are our partners and will always be our partners.”

MK Tamar Zandburg (Labor): “Those who are a provocation are those who prevent religious freedom, not those who demand it!”

MK Tzipi Livni (Tenua): “There is an excitement today because you Reform rabbis have come to the Knesset. Judaism is about values, about being inclusive and not being closed by hatred. We are one Jewish world family. Every Jew must be made to feel at home in the state of Israel because Israel belongs to the entire Jewish people.”

MK Amir Kohana (Likud): “A Jewish state should not be halachic. We cannot do to others what has been done to us. We should not slander each other. We need more respectful discussion. Israel is the home for all the Jewish people.”

MK Rachel Azariah (Likud): “Every day all the tribes of Israel awake each morning hoping that another will disappear; but no one will disappear. We’re all here. Our task is to create a country where everyone has a place around the table.”

MK Dov Khanin (Arab List): “One of the great struggles in the state of Israel today is the struggle for democracy, which is under serious threat. We need to stop the censorship which is contrary to the foundations of the state.”

MK Michal Biran (Labor): “We are partners. We share the same Jewish and Zionist values. Our democracy must fight against racism, discrimination and bigotry.”

MK Nachman Shai (Labor): “The Charedi MKs don’t understand democracy.”

MK Michal Michaeli (Meretz): “Judaism isn’t just for people dressed in black. People who call you names don’t understand Judaism or democracy. You are partners in our struggle.”

MK Michael Oren (Kulanu): “Zionism is faith in the nation state of the Jewish people. We are committed to implementing the government’s agreement at the Kotel.”

Zohir Balul (Zionist Union): “As the only Arab MK in a Zionist party, I want to say that you [Jews] deserve a nation state and the Palestinians too deserve a state. How is it possible that Jews can recognize that they suffer and that the Palestinians do not? I cannot deny the pain of a Jewish mother or the pain of a Palestinian mother. Do not overlook the universal values we share.”

MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid): “Jewish pluralism means that there are various ways to explore our souls and to be on the journey of being a Jew. We are part of you and we bless you.”

It should be noted that no Orthodox or right wing member of the Knesset attended this committee meeting nor addressed us.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the President of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, made an important point in telling the story of the funeral of Richard Lakin, who was killed in a knife-attack by a Palestinian terrorist. Rabbi Gilad officiated at the funeral in a Charedi cemetery. Though Richard was a Reform Jew and a member of Kol Hanishama synagogue in Jerusalem, he was lowered into the grave by Charedi Jews.

This is what ought to be the relationship between our different streams, not that articulated by MK Israel Eichler (United Torah Judaism).

Rabbi John Rosov serves Temple Israel of Hollywood, California. This blog was originally posted on the Jewish Journal.


Is the Two-State Solution Viable?

I had the privilege today of introducing two programs at Convention on Tuesday in Jerusalem. Both sessions addressed the issue of the viability of the two-state solution.

The first was moderated by Dr. Reuven Hazan, the head of the Political Science Department at the Hebrew University, and included MK Hilik Bar, the Secretary General of the Labor Party and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, and Elias Zananiri, the Vice Chairman of the PLO Committee for Interaction with Israel Society.

The second featured MK Benny Begin, a geologist and member of the Knesset (Likud) and the son of the late Prime Minister Menachem Begin.12728953_10153305835187051_3337875788211354002_n

I framed the program with these words:

No issue divides the Jewish people as much as the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. As tensions flare in this infantifada (as it is called with knife wielding Palestinian children attacking innocent Israelis) and hope seems dim for any kind of progress or negotiations, the Labor Party lead by Isaac Herzog decided in the last couple of weeks that it was officially parting with the two-state solution in the near term. Instead, MK Herzog recommended that Israel build a security fence that separates Palestinians from Israelis in Jerusalem and elsewhere. This decision is a challenge to Labor MK Hilik Bar’s outline once supported by Herzog for a final status, ‘end of all claims’ agreement between Israel and the Palestinians resulting in a two states for two peoples resolution of the conflict. This proposal resulted from Minister Bar’s two years as the Chair of the Knesset Caucus to Resolve the Arab-Israeli Conflict (otherwise known as “Two States Caucus”). MK Bar denied that Herzog had given up on a two-state solution and that his proposal to build the fence was purely a security measure to stop young Palestinians from attacking Israelis.

Though the Zionist Union still supports a two-state solution, the Palestinian Authority says it is too late and that it would refuse to sit down with any Israeli leaders without pre-conditions and without an outside mediator (Quartet). However, serious Israeli and American Jewish critics of the Palestinians argue that on at least two occasions in the past fifteen years, the Clinton-Barak-Arafat Camp David negotiations in 2000 and the secret 36 meetings between former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in 2007. Yassir Arafat backed out of the Camp David talks and Abbas backed out of his negotiations with Olmert saying that the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians were still too wide. These critics claim that the Palestinians were never serious about an end of conflict agreement.

 All the while settlements continue to expand and new settlements dot the entirety of the West Bank.  Jewish neighborhoods now surround the city. Taken together the establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state is increasingly more difficult.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin rejects a two state solution and instead has suggested a confederation of two states, Israel and Palestine, with two governments, two constitutions, and all security overseen by the IDF extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

The questions before our speakers are these – Is it too late for a two-state solution? Is a two-state solution still viable and the preferable option? Is there an alternative to a two-state solution? What happens to Israel’s democracy and Jewish character if the two-state solution does not come about in the near future or down the road?

12729254_10153305816732051_6169411515747942292_nThe first panel of speakers all agreed that there is no solution other than a two-state solution. Without a two state solution Israel will either cease to remain a democracy or it will cease to be a Jewish state. The Palestinian representative claimed to want a state of Palestine living securely alongside a state of Israel.

MK Begin argued that the Palestinian leadership can never and will never accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel on Eretz Yisrael, and that a two-state solution would be an existential threat the state of Israel.

The speakers represented the variety of opinion in Israel itself and among the 320 rabbis present. The CCAR  affirms, and has long affirmed, that a two state solution is the only way for Israel to preserve its democracy and its Jewish character.

John L. Rosove serves Temple Israel of Hollywood, California.