As a progressive American Reform Rabbi and Jew, I am deeply disappointed in the results of the Israeli election. The racist anti-Arab rhetoric in the campaign, the inclusion of right-wing extremist Ultra-Orthodox political parties in the new government, and the threats that the new government coalition against Israel’s democratic and pluralist tradition are calls to action for those who believe that the new Israeli government will take Israel down the wrong anti-democratic path.
I am deeply worried as well that PM Netanyahu’s announcement to annex the West Bank will destroy the possibility of a 2-state negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His continuing in office also may not be able to heal the breach between Israel and Diaspora Jewry and the politicization of Israel in American politics for which he and President Trump are responsible.
Because I am not a citizen of the State of Israel, do I pay taxes or send my children into the military, and because I respect the democratic right of Israelis to determine their own future, I am considering anew what I personally can do from America to help Israelis who believe as I believe in a progressive, Jewish and democratic Israel to fulfill the vision of a democratic and Jewish state as articulated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
As American Reform Zionists, we can redirect our charitable contributions to a number of American and Israeli causes and organizations that can make a difference on the ground in Israel in the promotion of pluralism, democracy, justice, and equal rights to all Israel’s citizens regardless of race, national origin, religious stream, and gender identification.
The American Reform Zionist movement led by the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) educates American Jewry in liberal Zionism and supports our Israeli Reform movement, the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the social justice arm of Israeli Reform.
My synagogue in Los Angeles, Temple Israel of Hollywood, has helped financially two Israeli Reform congregations over the past 20 years to grow and develop. The first is Kehilat Mevaseret Zion down the road from Jerusalem. The second is Kehilat Kodesh v’Chol in Holon only 15 minutes south of Tel Aviv. Mevaseret Zion is now an established congregation. The Holon synagogue is relatively new with a dynamic Israeli Reform Rabbi, Galit Cohen-Kedem, and it needs financial support as do all 45 Israeli Reform congregations and IRAC.
We at Temple Israel will continue to support the Holon synagogue. It has over the past 5 years established a public school infused with Reform Jewish values and liberal Jewish tradition (200 children are now enrolled and it is growing to an estimated 450 students over the next few years). The congregation also brings Israeli secular families together for celebration of Jewish holidays and life-cycle events, promotes egalitarian prayer and the equality of women, and engages in a variety of social justice projects in the Holon municipality. You can contribute by sending checks made out to ARZA to 633 3rd Avenue, NY, NY and designate your checks to Kehilat Kodesh v’Chol, or you can choose to support any Israeli Reform congregation (google The Israel Reform and Progressive Movement).
I will also contribute more to the New Israel Fund that supports organizations helping people across Israeli society, including Arabs and Jews, battered women, and those seeking political asylum among many other causes.
Finally, I will continue to support J Street, an American pro-Israel pro-peace political organization in Washington, D.C. that advocates for a 2-state solution before the Congress of the United States.
I encourage all liberal and progressive Reform Jews to think seriously anew about redirecting your charitable giving to American Jewish organizations that promote justice, compassion, pluralism, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, democracy, and Judaism that includes the liberal streams in the State of Israel.
Now is the time, post-Israeli election, for American liberal Jews to step up, give of our financial and political resources, and put our money where our values are. Israel needs us and we cannot stand idly by while Israeli and American Jewish right-wing extremists determine and distort the agenda and narrative of American Zionism in its relationship to the modern democratic Jewish State of Israel. Israel belongs to all of us and the time to act is now.