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Rabbi Eric Yoffie’s Gigantic Glass House

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, past President of the Union for Reform Judaism, had a pretty clear message for Sheldon Adelson and his Campus Maccabees initiative in yesterday’s Ha’aretz — when it comes to fighting the movement to demonize and delegitimize Israel, apparently, “you’re doing it all wrong.” Oh, and by the way, “stick to Birthright.”

Rabbi Eric YoffieRabbi Yoffie’s critiques of Adelson come off as little more than partisan bluster, and Yoffie’s arrogant attitude towards the first individual to step up and offer substantial funding to besieged Israel supporters on college campuses is, at best, unwarranted. If Yoffie truly cares about countering the BDS movement, rather than criticizing Adelson, he should look first at the ranks of the rabbinate of the Reform movement that he himself led until 2012.

If Rabbi Yoffie feels inclined to start schooling someone on the right and wrong ways to do things, he ought to begin with his successor, Rabbi Rick Jacobs. Rabbi Jacobs’s performance at last year’s Divestment vote at the Presbyterian Church (USA) was, to put it nicely, an abject failure. As Tom Wilson wrote in Commentary at the time, “as Rabbi Jacobs laid out his argument [in an interview on CNN] it became quite clear why he and other liberal Jews failed to prevent that BDS vote and why they will continue to fail to do so in the future. Jacobs’s argument hinged on one point: votes like this hurt Jewish feelings. But that’s a pretty weak argument.” Accounts of the Presbyterian Church’s meeting indicate that Rabbi Jacobs simply failed to counter the many falsehoods about Israel put forth by BDS proponents. It is Rabbi Jacobs, not Mr. Adelson, who appears in need of Rabbi Yoffie’s advice to “tell the truth about Israel.”

Rabbi Jacobs, however, misguided as he may have been, was at least well-intentioned. If Rabbi Yoffie is truly concerned about BDS, the individuals that he must take to task are the five Reform rabbis working with the pro-BDS Jewish Voice for Peace. Rabbi Yoffie himself calls JVP “an anti-Israel group if ever there was one.” Yet, as I wrote in the Jewish Press in August, JVP “Rabbinical Council” members Lev Baesh, Haim Beliak, Michael Davis (ordained as a Cantor), Art Donsky, and Margaret Holub all hold ordinations from the Reform movement.

As Rabbi Yoffie himself has acknowledged, Jewish Voice for Peace and its “Rabbinical Council” were indispensable in last year’s vote at the PC(USA), as well as in other divestment votes in smaller church movements. It is also JVP that legitimizes the BDS movement on college campuses by claiming that the BDS movement’s demonization of Israel is not anti-Semitic. It is long past time for both the Reform and Conservative movements to make clear to their rabbinates that actively working to delegitimize the world’s only Jewish state is inconsistent with a rabbinical title.

With this type of crisis in the Reform rabbinate, an emeritus leader of that movement who is opposed to BDS, as Rabbi Yoffie claims to be, surely has his own work cut out for him.

About the author

Picture of Mirabelle

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.
Picture of Mirabelle

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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