Reform Jewish Leaders Address Protests for Israel’s Democracy in New York

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Josh Weinberg, Vice President, Israel and Reform Zionism and Executive Director, ARZA , both gave speeches at two of the Protests for Israel's Democracy in New York. Rabbi Rick Jacobs gave a speech Thursday outside Prime Minister Netanyahu's hotel in New York. Two days earlier, Rabbi Weinberg addressed a welcome demonstration in Times Square. Both URJ leaders delivered a message of solidarity to the hundreds of thousands who have protested across Israel this year and let them know that Jews across the diaspora would raise their voice and use their power to defend Israel's democracy.

Read Rabbi Jacob's and Rabbi Weinberg's remarks and watch videos from the protest below:

Rabbi Rick Jacob's Speech

My name is Rabbi Rick Jacobs. I lead the Union for Reform Judaism, which includes over two million Reform Jews here in North America. We are the largest and most diverse Movement in North American Jewish life, and we are proud to be the largest Zionist organization on this side of the ocean.

We believe that the modern state of Israel is one of the greatest miracles and blessings in all of Jewish history. We are deeply committed to Israel as a secure, Jewish, just, and democratic state.

Today and every day, we stand in solidarity with all our siblings who have been showing up week after week to protest for democracy in Israel. Why? Because they are patriots of the Jewish State.

When Israel is threatened, we have always lifted our voices and shown up across the U.S. and Canada to offer strength and love.

And clearly -- Israel is threatened today.

Israelis threatened when the current government acts to undermine Israel's democracy.

Israel is threatened by a government that weakens the rule of law.

Israel is threatened by shameful efforts to restrict the independence of the judiciary.

Israel is threatened when it gives Jewish supremacists and messianic racists the power to set oppressive policies.

Israel is threatened by the current government that does not understand that true democracies are built on core Jewish values of equality, dignity for all, care for the poor and the marginalized.

Israel is threatened by the current government that seems to forget that kol Yisrael arevim zeh bah zeh - all of Israel is responsible for one another. The Israel we love knows that weakening Israel's democracy makes all of us in the Diaspora less safe.

Israel -- and Diaspora Jewry -- is threatened when Israel embraces autocratic policies that give legitimacy to forces eroding democracy across the globe.

Israel is threatened by those in the current government who express outright hatred to so many Israeli citizens: Women, LGBTQ people, non-Orthodox Jews, and Palestinian citizens of Israel. Our Jewish tradition implores us never to hate those whom God loves.

Israel is threatened as this extreme government gives the ultra-Orthodox establishment the coercive powers of the state to further denigrate and restrict all non-Orthodox expressions of Judaism.

In just a few days, we will observe Yom Kippur, our day of truth telling and moral accountability.

No matter the kind of Judaism we practice, our tradition believes that our actions matter and have consequences.

In the new year 5784 we need to find ways to differ without demonizing, to protect rather than persecute those who vote, pray, or love differently than us. That's the Jewish community we stand for and that's the Israel we love with all our hearts and are committed to defend.

We will never turn back nor walk away from the Israel we love. We're going to lean in even harder and fight for the Jewish and democratic values of Israel alongside all of our Israeli siblings. 

In the name of Judaism, we will guard our democracy!

Rabbi Weinberg's speech


Thank you all for being here to raise your voices and tell the world that we are deeply committed to an Israel that is both Jewish and democratic. That recognizes the rule of law, that champions and independent Supreme Court, and that ensures the rights of all of its citizens whether Jewish or not, including women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and liberal Jews.

We are here as Zionists, as those who love Israel and feel deeply connected. And we're here to remind the world that Prime Minister Netanyahu is responsible to the dismantling of Israel's democracy and endangering the State that we cherish.

And, I wish we didn't have to be here.

It does not give me great pleasure to stand here in Times Square and speak ill of our Prime Minister. I want us to be proud of Israel! To celebrate her 75th year of independence, and share her accomplishments with the world. I am incredibly proud of all that Israel has accomplished, and I couldn't be more proud of those who have neither slept nor slumbered in showing up for 37 weeks to fight for our values - the same values laid out by Israel's founders and enshrined in its Declaration of Independence - תְּהֵא מֻשְׁתָּתָה עַל יְסוֹדוֹת הַחֵרוּת, הַצֶּדֶק וְהַשָּׁלוֹם  - the values of Freedom, Justice, and Peace!

But these values go way deeper and far beyond Israel's founding.

It was Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says, "On three things the world stands: on judgment, on truth and on peace, as it is said (Zachariah 8:16), 'Judge truth and the justice of peace in your gates.'" (Pirkei Avot 1:18)

רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר, עַל שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֵד, עַל הַדִּין וְעַל הָאֱמֶת וְעַל הַשָּׁלוֹם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (זכריה ח) אֱמֶת וּמִשְׁפַּט שָׁלוֹם שִׁפְטוּ בְּשַׁעֲרֵיכֶם:

Prime Minister Netanyahu, over the last 9 months, has systematically done away with these values. AS a Supreme court justice said last week, "there may be judgement, but there are no judges".

We are further from peace than we have been in the last 30 years, as Netanyahu's band of Jewish supremacists threaten to annex the West Bank.

And Truth, well, don't believe him when he calls us Israel's enemies, and that we are like Iran or the PLO.

We liberals, are protecting human, civil, and political rights. We are protecting women and LGBTQ! We are protecting the Law of Return so that Israel can be a home for ALL JEWS from around the world.

I will gladly wear the badge of liberal loudly and proudly, and only together can we tell the world that if Israel is not a democracy, it can't also be Jewish. So let's fly our flags high in the sky and fill Tims Square with Blue and White and shout so loud that the UN reverberates with the chant of

De- Mo-Kratya!!!!

Todah Rabah!