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No, There Isn’t a Split between Birthright and the Reform Movement

The Birthright organization—which provides young American Jews with free trips to Israel—partners with various Jewish groups in arranging its tours; recently, it announced that it is dropping the Union for Reform Judaism as a “certified trip provider.” Reporting the news, an article in an Israeli newspaper attributed the decision to the Orthodox infiltration of Birthright, blamed the “Orthodox, settler-aligned” Jewish Home party for abetting this infiltration, and described the decision as a split between American Reform Judaism and a major Jewish institution. But nothing could be farther from the truth, writes Gil Troy, who is the voluntary lay chair of Birthright’s education committee:

The Reform movement will indeed no longer host Birthright participants. But that’s because Birthright participants have consistently failed to choose the Reform movement’s offerings. . . . [T]he decision stems from the simple fact that the Reform movement’s trip provider, URJ Kesher, again failed to meet its recruiting quota. . . . The movement is now examining what it calls “other modalities” to continue working with Birthright.

Birthright participants choose their program providers freely, and a trip organizers’ status is determined objectively. [An institution] doesn’t stop being a trip organizer by failing to meet recruiting goals once; [it] must fall short in two of the last three rounds.

Rather than a ploy on the part of Birthright’s Orthodox components, the release of the Reform movement signals nothing worse than market forces at play. Young Birthright participants just aren’t choosing the Reform option. The Reform movement, America’s largest Jewish denomination, has been one of the smallest Birthright trip providers for years. . . .

What’s most upsetting about [the response] is the contempt for Birthright participants. Rather than treating this next generation of young Jews as the smart, savvy, somewhat cynical, often wary, perpetually meaning-seeking people they are, [it] infantilizes them, assuming they’re lemmings, easily suckered into fetid right-wing Orthodox waters. The portrait is insulting, intolerant, and inaccurate.

Read more at Forward

More about: Birthright, Israel & Zionism, Judaism, Orthodoxy, Reform Judaism

Europe Has a Chance to Change Its Attitude toward Israel

Dec. 15 2017

In Europe earlier this week, Benjamin Netanyahu met with several officials and heads of state. Ahead of his visit, the former Italian parliamentarian Fiamma Nirenstein addressed a letter to these European leaders, urging them to reevaluate their attitudes toward the status of Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israel-Palestinian peace process, the gravity of European anti-Semitism, and the threat posed by Hamas and Hizballah. In it she writes:

For years, the relationship between Europe and Israel has been strained. Europe tends to criticize Israel for simply defending itself against the continual threats and terrorist attacks it faces on all its borders and inside its cities. Europe too often disregards not only Israel’s most evident attempts to bring about peace—such as its disengagement from Gaza—but also chides it for its cautiousness when considering what solutions are risky and which will truly ensure the security of its citizens.

The EU has never recognized the dangers posed by Hamas and Hizballah, as well as by many other jihadist groups—some of which are backed by [the allegedly moderate] Fatah. The EU constantly blames Israel in its decisions, resolutions, papers and “non-papers,” letters, and appeals. Some of Europe’s most important figures insist that sanctions against the “territories” are necessary—a political stance that will certainly not bring about a solution to this conflict that . . . the Israelis would sincerely like to resolve. Israel has repeated many times that it is ready for direct negotiation without preconditions with the Palestinians. No answer has been received.

The European Union continues to put forth unrealistic solutions to the Israel-Palestinian issue, and the results have only aggravated the situation further. Such was the case in 2015 when it sanctioned Israeli companies and businesses in the territories over the Green Line, forcing them to close industrial centers that provided work to hundreds of Palestinians. The Europeans promoted the harmful idea that delegitimizing Israel can be accomplished through international pressure and that negotiations and direct talks with Israel can be avoided. . . .

[Meanwhile], Iran’s imperialist designs now touch all of Israel’s borders and put the entire world at risk of a disastrous war while Iran’s closest proxy, Hizballah, armed with hundreds of thousands of missiles, proudly presents the most explicit terrorist threat. Europe must confront these risks for the benefit of its citizens, first by placing Hizballah on its list of terrorist organizations and secondly, by reconsidering and revising its relationship with Iran.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Europe and Israel, European Union, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy