Will The Union Of Reform Judaism And Hebrew Union College Stand Behind JVP Rabbis?

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 3.23.17 PMI awoke this morning to the sad news that, while Israelis continue to grieve for Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad, the south of Israel has been under further attack from Gaza.  Here in the US, however, there is still unfinished business with the allies and enablers of those who commit these heinous attacks.

As most Israellycool readers are no doubt aware, on June 20, at its General Assembly meeting, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to divest holdings from three companies that do business with Israel.  Also, as most of our readers are probably aware, the anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace was instrumental in lobbying for passage of this measure.  

At the meeting itself, demonstrably false accusations against Israel were used to support the divestment resolution.  Here are just a few of the most egregious examples of statements that were made by Presbyterian clergy and members, as well as by JVP, according the website of a group that opposed the measure, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace:
  • Israel enslaves Palestinians
  • Israel is an apartheid state
  • Israel controls all of Gaza’s borders
  • Israel tortures children as a matter of policy
  • Israel’s barriers and checkpoints are arbitrary
Notably, although the JVP Rabbinic Council includes the names of forty-four rabbis, cantors, and students, only eight rabbis, one cantor, and four students actually signed the JVP letter to the Presbyterian Church in favor of divestment.  Presumably, even from the ranks of this select fringe group, many seemed to recognize that asking another religious group to take action hurtful to the Jewish state crossed a line.
PC(USA)’s actions have now rightfully been condemned by leaders from the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox movements.  The President of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, was a visible presence opposing PC(USA)’s divestment decision.  Yet two of the signatories of the JVP letter, one rabbi and one cantor, currently hold ordinations from Hebrew Union College, the main educational institution of American Reform Jewry.  Those two individuals helped to provide the political cover for the vote.  This is clear from a CNN interview with the moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly, Heath Rada, in which he describes his conversations with Jews who support divestment.
The Union of Reform Judaism and Hebrew Union College, as institutions that are giving two of the JVP Rabbis the appearance of authority, must now disavow and condemn the actions of those individuals with Reform ordinations.  Those individuals must not be permitted to continue to use their titles and positions to continue to spread slander about the Jewish State, especially now, at at time when it is under military as well as media attack.  Institutions of mainstream American Judaism must make clear that individuals who participate in the dissemination of false information about Israel, and who seek the assistance of other religious groups in the movement to delegitimize Israel, do so without the backing of those institutions.

About Mirabelle

A Zionist in exile, Mirabelle has, in past lives, been a lawyer, a skier, and a chef. Outside of Israel, her favorite place in the world is Sun Valley, Idaho.

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  • Hard Little Machine

    Liberal Jews in the US will in fact get their heart’s desire – a complete break between American Jews and Israel. At that point Israel can legitimately consider them as no different from any other enemy group. Programs like Birthright and even most tourism should be dialed back and this sort of thing will eventually lead to an unraveling of relations between the two governments. The upside is that the US is in decline and Israel is looking toward Asia. American liberal Jews will in a generation disappear from existence, fully assimilating into the vaguely antisemitic mass of American culture.

    • fizziks

      What a ridiculous comment. The vast majority of American Jews, liberal or otherwise, are pro-Israel.

      • Hard Little Machine

        At best 45-50%. You need to get out more.

        • Norman_In_New_York

          I do get out and nearly all American Jews I have talked to are pro-Israel. Academia and the media are largely isolated from American life. Likewise, the great majority of Americans as a whole are pro-Israel.

          • ahad_ha_amoratsim

            Nearly all the American Jews I have talked to as well. The key limit being “I have talked to.”
            No one I talked to in 1968 voted for Richard Nixon.
            Noach was a righteous perfect man in his generation. See Rashi.

          • mira375

            I think it is true that the majority of American Jews are pro-Israel, but they are silently pro-Israel. The minority that are working against Israel (because they love it, of course!) are very, very vocal. The pro-Israel majority of American Jews needs to start speaking up more.

      • ybrandstetter

        I wish. Check out peter beinert and how pro-Jewish he is

    • ybrandstetter

      Giving up on US Jewry just because some jews are stupid is wrong. This epoch’s shoah is the loss of millions of American Jews through assimilation. Bithright must be strengthened, demands of jewish youth to be loyal to the Jewish people must be further emphasized. The responsibility of the majority of Jews, now residing in Israel for the fast-dwindling minority cannto be over-emphasized.

      • Hard Little Machine

        They’re the ones giving up. They’re ‘Jews’ like I’m Russian. Wrong. I had Russian ancestors. They had Jewish ancestors, no more no less.

  • walt kovacs

    i dont know

    will the chareidi community put the satmer rav and all his followers in cherem for the following comments?


    • Eric

      What’s wrong with what the Satmar Rebbe said, besides being hurtful (which is a big deal I’m not downplaying it). He is simply stating a very straight forward halacha that you are not allowed to put yourself into harm’s way unnecessarily, and since he holds that there’s no din of kivush haaretz that they were in fact taking unnecessary risks with their lives with their choice of homes. A similar warning was given to the residents of Maalei Amos not to build their homes there because it was too risky. It was poor and inappropriate timing but not rish’ut.

    • ahad_ha_amoratsim

      Strong stuff. Perhaps you have the Torah learning and personal tzidkust that would qualify you to judge his halachic conclusions, including his conclusion that preventing danger to other Jewish children outweighs the pain that speaking out now will almost certainly cause to the grieving families.
      I don’t. (And if either of us did, WADR we would not be blogging here now.)

      But your link is hardly on a level with urging non-Jews to help destroy Medinat Yisrael.

    • mzk1_1

      The Satmar also excommunicated the nut who went to the conference in Tehran. So, off hand, I would say that the Satmar’s actions strengthen his point.
      Still, I think your general idea is correct – we have very little control over the members of our groups. This is especially true of the Orthodox and even more so as you go further to the Right. Just yesterday I was talking to someone who spent many years in the area who was telling me of the Sicarii – the thugs who cause so much trouble in Meah Shearim and Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet. The very fact that the community calls them by that insulting name tells you what they think of them. He was telling me that the ones in Meah Shearim are kids who don’t fit in, and some are not particularly observant. And there’s nothing – so he tells me, and he is Religious Zionist – they can do about them.

    • ahad_ha_amoratsim

      Here’s a story about those awful Satmar chasidim, told by a rabbi who was taking letters of condolences to the parents of Gilad, Naftali and Eyal, HYD:

      “This led to a whole pandemonium, and after I finally got to sit down again, the young man next to me informs me that he is 26 years old, from Seattle Washington; he works in a national zoo, and is going to Israel for his first time. He then proceeds to tell me that he was so inspired by our kehillah, and that he would like to borrow my Tallis to do a mitzvah that he has not done since his Bar mitzvah celebration (at age 16) in memory of the three precious neshamos.

      I gladly gave him my tallis and then proceeded to ask him if he knew how to recite a bracha. He said “sure I do”, and went on to take out a small piece of paper from his pocket, and recited the “Tefillas Haderech”. This was the one and only Hebrew Bracha that he was familiar with, so he decided to recite it as well on the Tallis.

      He then asked to borrow my Tefillin as well, which was followed by a long conversation with the other members of the plane, who were all taking pictures of this highly unusual scene.

      But that wasn’t it; after a few minutes he turns to me and says “Rabbi, I am so inspired, but in Seattle Washington we don’t have these boxes. But I want to continue to do something special for these three precious souls, even after I return home. So what would you suggest I do?”

      I was in complete shock, and overwhelmed with emotion, so the Satmar Chassid in the next row turns to this tattood and pierced young man and says, “Sweet Jew, if you promise me you will try and wear these Tefillin each and every day, I promise I will have a pair sent by FedEx to your home in Seattle Washington by the time you get back from Israel!” They then exchanged phone numbers and information, and the deal was done.”

      (This was one small part of Rabbi Shay Schacter’s trip; more at Israel Matzav)

  • Eric

    If the Reform community can tolerate atheist and non-Jewish rabbis in their midst then this is really no big deal from them. Don’t expect any condemnation or censure.

    • ahad_ha_amoratsim

      Can you actually get thrown out of the CCAR for anything short of voting Republican?

      • NewClassTraitor

        I remember the then-head of the CCAR, Alexander Schindler, being asked first if they would expel a rabbi for being atheist (“The CCAR sets no standards for BELIEF”), or for converting to Xianity (“Again, the CCAR sets no standards for belief… but such a rabbi would effectively disqualify himself from the pulpit, and WE WOULD STRONGLY URGE HIM TO CONSULT A PSYCHIATRIST”)

  • ahad_ha_amoratsim

    JEWISH Voice? For PEACE? Well, I suppose they are a voice, anyway.
    And 333 is a darn good batting average!

  • JPhurst

    It doesn’t work that way. Hebrew Union College is a seminary that trains rabbis, but it does not have ongoing supervisory authority over those rabbis. CCAR is an umbrella organization that takes stances and has a platform, but it does not exercise control over particular congregations or rabbis. As such, I suspect you will not see your desire to have these rabbis disavowed or otherwise cast out. The CCAR has a clear platform supporting Israel and opposing boycotts against it. The President of CCAR has expressed his vehement opposition.


    But no, the Reform movement doesn’t “cast out” anyone. Not even conservatives like Dennis Prager. Not because it doesn’t believe, but because that is not how the organizations are structured, and not consistent with the belief that each person must find their path to G-d.

    I don’t know much about the knuckleheads who supported the PCUSA resolution. If they do have a congregation, then it is within the power of the congregation to decide if they want to employ that rabbi. If they don’t have a congregation or any other platform, well then who cares?

    • mira375

      “If they don’t have a congregation or any other platform, well then who cares?” The fact that they are able to use the title “Rabbi” is what is allowing the PC(USA) to say, and maybe some of them even believe, that there is a segment of the Jewish community that supports what they did. If you watch the CNN interview with Heath Rada that I linked to above, you will see how much they relied on this. We have no control over what a Church does, but they should not be allowed to use “Rabbinical” support for their actions as political cover.

      Thanks for your comment!

    • NewClassTraitor

      I don’t think Dennis Prager was ever Reform: IIRC, he is a JTS graduate… Oops, we’re both wrong: his Wikipedia bio has him as a Flatbush Yeshiva alumnus, aside from his secular education (which includes postgraduate work in Russian studies).

      • mzk1_1

        How quickly people forget. Dennis Prager and Telushkin wrote a famous book, when they were young, called “Nine questions People Ask About Judaism” – even the doctrinaire Chareidi Jewish Observer praised it (with one objection, the same one I have). Rabbi Telushkin want on, of course, to write Jewish Literacy. As far as I know they are both Orthodox.
        Why would anyone imagine that Prager was Reform?

        • devilinpgh

          I thought he was Conservative, mainly because he teaches at American Jewish University.

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