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EXCERPTS OF REMARKS BY RABBI RICK JACOBS, PRESIDENT, UNION FOR REFORM JUDAISM,
BEFORE THE KNESSET COMMITTEE FOR IMMIGRATION, ABSORPTION AND DIASPORA AFFAIRS
Jerusalem, March 7, 2017 - Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, spoke this morning before the Israeli Knesset’s Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs at its hearing on anti-Semitism in the United States. Rabbi Jacobs was the only American to speak at the hearing, which was also broadcast on the Knesset’s television channel.
- In recent months, we in the United States have experienced an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, contributing to an already troubling time in our nation. Sadly, such acts are anything but unprecedented. This week is Shabbat Zachor, the Sabbath of Remembrance, when we read in the book of Deuteronomy about vicious hatred of our ancient adversary Amalek, which dates from the time of our birth as a people. Nonetheless, the anti-Semitism of our ancestors is not the same as today’s anti-Semitism and we must not view them that way.
- We also are seeing an uptick in anti-Semitism’s confreres – bigotry and hatred – in the United States, and we know this increase is no accident. Although I do not believe that President Trump or Vice President Pence harbor anti-Semitic views, we cannot ignore the fact that their campaign unleased, even normalized, such views. Neither can we ignore the fact that hatred and bigotry are not limited to the surge in anti-Semitism nor that we cannot respond only when anti-Semitism is at the leading edge of the spear.
- While aliyah to Israel is one of the blessings of contemporary Jewish life, this Knesset committee must not think that the current rise in anti-Semitism will prompt a massive wave of aliyah from the U.S. to Israel. Israel should be doing everything possible to enhance the safety and security of Jews in every part of the world, especially in America. If Jews and other minorities are not safe in the U.S., the world truly is entering the darkest of ages.
- We are disappointed that the current U.S. Administration was slow to acknowledge the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, but relieved that it eventually did so during President Trump’s address to the joint session of Congress last week. Words alone, however, will not keep the epidemic of bigotry, hatred, racism, and xenophobia from staining our democracy and making many Americans afraid for their lives.
- We are heartened that even as we are witnessing more hatred and bigotry than in the past, so, too, are we seeing Americans unite against these same negative and disruptive forces. We are especially inspired by the warm outreach offered by America’s religious communities, and note with gratitude that the first calls of support came from our country’s Muslim community.
- We American Jews know that we do not stand alone at this disturbing time. We feel your strength. We are hopeful that you feel ours as well.
About the Union for Reform Judaism
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.
Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 900 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people.