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Iraq Resolution

Contact: Donald Cohen-Cutler

 The Resolution
Background Information

Union for Reform Judaism Adopts Resolution on Iraq War
Opposes Escalation and Calls for Phased, Expeditious Withdrawal of Troops

March 12, 2007 – The Union for Reform Judaism’s Executive Committee today overwhelmingly adopted a resolution opposing the escalation in troops in the War in Iraq and calling on President Bush to set and announce a specific timetable for the phased withdrawal of troops.

The vote of the 80-member Executive Committee, which includes representatives of the 900 Reform congregations and all affiliate bodies of the Movement, came 15 months after the Reform Movement’s vote to urge the President to begin the phased withdrawal of troops.

“As the largest of the Jewish denominations in North America, we are aware of the weight of our voice,” said Robert Heller, chairman of the Union’s Board of Trustees. “Today’s decision was reached only after thoughtful deliberation and due consideration of the complex issues involved,” he said. “I do know that this Executive Committee acted in the best tradition of Reform Judaism, in keeping with our prophetic obligation to speak truth to power.”

Jane Wishner, chair of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, which brought the resolution to the Executive Committee for its consideration, said the new resolution affirms and builds upon the resolution adopted by the General Assembly at the Reform Movement’s 2005 convention and applies it to current circumstances. Today the Union remains the only major North American Jewish organization to speak out against the war.

“The situation in Iraq is deteriorating rapidly. There’s escalating violence, and there’s no end in sight,” she said, explaining why it was necessary to act at this juncture. “It is clear that the administration has no exit strategy and that it will not develop one except in the context of a specific timetable for withdrawal.”

The Commission adopted its resolution in January of 2007. In advance of today’s Executive Committee meeting, the Union circulated that resolution to the leaders of all member congregations and encouraged them to hold discussions with their members on the war. It also urged them to share their concerns and thoughts with the Executive Committee, and created a public Web site ( where the resolution and other information were posted and individuals could post their thoughts.

Hundreds of responses were received from rabbis, congregational officers and individuals representing many perspectives on the issue. The responses of members of Reform congregations were shared in full with the Executive Committee. A number of recommendations and additions from both supporters and critics were incorporated into the final version of the resolution.

Albert Vorspan, the former director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism and an honorary member of the Executive Committee, set the current resolution into the historical context of the Reform Movement’s long record of having addressed the most pressing social justice issues of the 20th century, including the debates that took place over civil rights, the Vietnam War and women’s rights.

“If you look back over the past 50 years, what attracted people to the Reform Movement is that we had the guts to get up to the plate on the moral issues of the day,” Vorspan said. “If this isn’t a moral issue, what is?”

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union, said, “A central principle of Reform Judaism is that the insights of our traditions must be applied to the real problems of our society around us, and that worship and study for Reform Jews always lead to active engagement with the world.”

“That’s why it was important for the Union to take this stand today,” Rabbi Yoffie said.

Out of respect for the minority, the Executive Committee added to the resolution a restatement of its view that Union resolutions are not intended to speak for each individual member of our synagogues, but for the North American Movement.

The resolution as adopted is available online at

The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.


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