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New York, NY; August 31, 2017 - Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the statement below following the Israeli Supreme Court hearing today criticizing the Israeli government for freezing the agreement to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem:
Today, the Israeli Supreme Court made an important statement by signaling that they are fed up with the Netanyahu government’s decision to “freeze” its own governmental decision forged in compromise with our Reform Movement and our allies. The court gave the Israeli government two weeks to come back with a counter argument to the court, an extremely short window that seems to imply great impatience with the government’s behavior. They asked the Netanyahu government: How is it legal and constitutional to discriminate as is presently done?
In Chief Justice Miriam Naor’s words to the government: “You conducted negotiations, you reached an agreement for an outline — but then during the legal proceedings, you made a fuss and said ‘it’s being frozen.’ There is legal process, it’s not a matter of doing whatever you want whenever you want… An agreement that is ‘frozen,’ can also be thawed."
This has been a long journey, with many turns in the road, but we will not rest until we have achieved equality. This struggle is an increasingly important one, that leads to the very heart of Israel as a democratic Jewish state. Will a small minority decide the future of the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry? Will part of the Netanyahu legacy be this divide between the communities?
The Israeli Supreme Court was deliberately built on the highest point in Jerusalem. It sits higher than the Knesset or the chief rabbinate’s office or the Prime Minister’s office. The symbolism couldn’t be more clear: Israel is a democracy where the rule of law is paramount. Fundamental equality is at the core of our beloved Jewish State and that must not be undermined by the government or the chief rabbinate. The court’s ruling on this will be an essential affirmation of the promise of Israel to be a home for all its citizens.
At this time of year, as we approach our holiest days, we take stock – cheshbon hanefesh, a spiritual accounting – of the past year and anticipate what we must do differently in the year to come. Our strength as a Jewish community is our diversity. We don’t all pray, think, vote or act identically but we are still one people. The promise of Zionism is that Israel will be the home for all the Jewish people, not some of our people. That commitment must be affirmed with regard to the Kotel and every other part of Israeli society.
We continue to call on our Movement and our allies to ensure that when the gates are closed, at the end of Yom Kippur, and the shofar is sounded, we will usher in a new year filled with respect, equality and love for the many authentic expressions of Judaism. May 5778 be a year of welcoming and courage, of diversity and strength.
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. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook.