URJ Leader: “We call for the immediate release of Lara Alqasem”

Inside Leadership

URJ Leader: “We call for the immediate release of Lara Alqasem”

Press Release

Contact: Lauren Theodore at 212-650-4154

New York, NY; October 10, 2018 - The statement below is issued on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism by Rabbi Joshua Weinberg, URJ Vice President for Israel and Reform Zionism:

The URJ calls for the immediate release of American student Lara Alqasem, who has been detained by the Israeli government for over a week.

We are deeply troubled by Ms. Alqasem’s detention and ordeal after landing at Ben-Gurion airport last week to begin graduate studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She has been detained and questioned based on allegations of supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel concerning which brand of hummus was served at her campus. She was detained notwithstanding her intent to matriculate at an Israeli university.

The Reform Movement categorically opposes BDS. But at the same time, we believe this type of blunt and short-sighted approach toward activists who pose no security threat is inconsistent with Israel’s commitment to an open and free democracy. As Dr. Barak Medina, the Provost of Hebrew University, said on Monday, “We think it is better to maintain an open discourse and to respond to claims that we should be boycotted in a pointed manner rather than through force.”

This sad and unnecessary episode has already caused considerable embarrassment to Israel and threatened the ability of Hebrew University to engage in global scholarship. Ms. Alqasem should be allowed to study at Hebrew University and see the country for herself. This exposure, as conservative columnists Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss suggested this morning, represents a far more potent defense against BDS than airport detentions and deportations.

If Ms. Alqasem is, indeed, a threat to Israel’s security then Israel has far more serious problems than what type of hummus a college student buys or does not buy.

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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.

Published: 10/10/2018

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