Reform Judaism Must Remain Steadfast in Its Commitment to Zionism

This summer, as Hamas rained thousands of missiles on Israel, a group of American rabbinical students at non-Orthodox institutions wrote an open letter condemning the Jewish state for a variety of supposed sins. The letter formed the basis for a long report in the New York Times Magazine on the suppose “unraveling of American Zionism.” But support for Israel among American Jewry remains high. Moreover, writes Ammiel Hirsch—the rabbi of a prominent Reform synagogue in New York City—the Reform movement is committed to Zionism, for unambiguous moral and theological reasons:

For the record, the Reform movement is a Zionist movement. Every single branch of our movement—the synagogue arm (Union for Reform Judaism), the rabbinic union (Central Conference of American Rabbis), and our seminary (HUC-JIR)—each organization separately, and all together, are Zionist and committed ideologically and theologically to Israel.

We are theologically committed to the centrality of the Jewish people and the Jewish state. We have said so repeatedly. We have obligations to fellow Jews. We are commanded to be ohavey Yisrael, to love fellow Jews—and to support them, especially in times of war, hardship, and struggle. We have a right, and an obligation, to teach future leaders our values and commitments. . . . The student letter calls for a rethinking of American Jewish education about Israel. Fair enough; but our movement has a right to encourage some American Jewish seminary students to rethink their approach to ahavat Yisrael, [love of the Jewish people].

Jewish leaders have an obligation to speak about Jewish peoplehood and our struggle to survive. . . . What higher responsibility does a Jewish leader have than to love and protect fellow Jews? Are we so emotionally distanced from our own people that we cannot even bring ourselves to condemn war crimes against Jews in the middle of a war?

Where you sit often determines where you stand on an issue. If you are sitting in a lecture hall on an American campus or seminary, you might come to view the Israel-Palestinian dispute differently than parents of three children who are spending the night in shelters five miles from Gaza. If you are sitting in an American seminary or university, you might come to view the conflict as a racial one, or one of oppression, patriarchy, or colonialism, as so many students nowadays view every social problem.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: American Judaism, Reform Judaism


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount