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

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy