Congregation Etz Chaim of DuPage County

Standing With Israel

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 11:40am -- Rabbi Cosnowsky

When I was seven years old, my Congregation, Greenburgh Hebrew Center, took us to my first march to support the State of Israel. The photo of me holding one end of my congregation’s banner that came out in our regional newspaper, the Reporter Dispatch, sits proudly in my scrap book. At a young age, I marched in support of Israel.

Today, I wondered if today I could still march with Israel. I heard the news reports of Netanyahu’s capitulation to the ultra-Orthodox, and I felt a sense of rejection and sorrow. These decisions will certainly affect the relationship between America and Israel in the years to come.

First, Netanyahu reneged on his plan to allow egalitarian worship at an area close to the Western Wall. In January 2016, a “One Wall for One People” compromise/agreement was made with Reform and Conservative Jews. However, today, this agreement was nullified essentially by Netanyahu’s caving into pressure from the ultra-Orthodox members of his coalition government. This decision shows that Netanyahu has, by this action, turned his back on Diaspora Jews. This will essentially change our relationship between Israel and pluralistic Jews all over the world.

In the past, American Jews have been asked to support Israel despite our reluctance to always defend Israel’s actions. For instance, Israel has never solved the Palestinian refugee issue, America offers billions of dollars in support for Israel’s military, and American Jews fall on both sides of the Iranian nuclear deal. But all that American Jews have asked for is to be recognized as a full partner at the Israeli table. However, this decision has succeeded in giving the ultra-Orthodox minority more power than ever before, shutting out the voice of pluralistic American Jews.

To add insult to injury, on the same day, a conversion bill gave the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate total control over all conversions in Israel. For Jews who support Israel, this is an insult to our sensibilities. These two decisions have been rejected by groups all over the world as a rejection of Zionism - the idea of collective pluralistic Jewish peoplehood.

But ultimately, I believe yes, I can still march with Israel. Why? Because we have to remember that it’s important to separate our disappointment in the policies of any particular government with the commitment of our ideals and vision of our Jewish state.

Some American Jewish groups are calling for American Jews to stop our support of Israel, others are assessing their positions, waiting to see what actions to take. I agree with the positions of both the URJ - Union of Reform Judaism, and ARZA - The Association of Reform Zionists of America, who have said publicly that we need to stand with Israel more than ever before. This is the time to strengthen the political and religious opposition to the ultra-Orthodox faction of the government. The way we can do this is to take action:

  • Please consider joining or renewing your commitment to ARZA! ARZA is our lobbying body that will continue to work toward building the vision of a Jewish and Democratic State for the future.
  • Please consider getting more educated about the history of Israel. I will be offering a Melton class during the day starting in October, on the complexities of Israel’s history. More information about this class will be forthcoming.
  • Please consider joining me and our Educator Emerita, Anne Stein, for a family congregational trip to Israel next May/June. Itinerary and details to follow.

This is the time to stand together, despite our various opinions about Israel, and once again, march in support of Israel. May we together bring about a time when pluralistic Judaism will be a vibrant and thriving option for all Israelis and Jews around the world.