Stand and Deliver
by Eytan Kobre
Am Echad Resources
April 5, 2002
It's difficult to think of another time in which Israel has needed the
support of every Jew as desperately as right now. And according to leading
Israeli Reform Rabbi David Forman, writing in the Jerusalem Post, the CCAR,
American Reform's rabbinical organization, held its annual meeting in
Jerusalem this year to demonstrate that "the Reform Movement stands with the
Yet Rabbi Forman goes on to warn that "[o]ne must not take this support for
granted." Why? Because Reform rabbis "have a hard enough time convincing
their members to stand behind Israel" in the best of times, and all the more
so when those congregants get "upset" at the "blatant violations of human
rights that Israelis perpetrate against Palestinians."
What is more, Rabbi Forman asserts, "Israel cannot afford to alienate the
majority of the Jewish world. If Orthodoxy persists in maintaining its
[religious authority in Israel, then Reform rabbis] will find it harder and
harder to encourage their laity to support Israel." Apparently, the Reform
movement's resolve to "stand with the Jewish State" in its time of need is
Not so long ago, Rabbi Forman castigated American Reform Jews for pinning
"their disenchantment with Israel on the fact that Reform conversions and
rabbis are not recognized." On that occasion, he maintained that "agreement
or disagreement with Israel's policies should have no bearing on one's
commitment to a Jewish state."
Now, however, in an apparent about-face, the rabbi seems to have embraced
precisely such a linkage. This, despite his own admission that "Israelis
feel that while they are fighting to maintain Jewish survival, Reform
Judaism is doing its best to combat Jewish survival" and that "so powerful
is the image of [religious anarchy] in Reform Judaism, that even if the
Reform Movement were formally recognized here [in Israel], its membership
would not increase, nor its impact be felt."
The CCAR's decision to convene in Jerusalem is commendable, but Rabbi Forman
ought to think twice before trying to sway Israelis on the pluralism issue
by invoking his American colleagues' weekend convention.
For, at this very moment, thousands of young American Orthodox men and women
are living and studying in Israel for a year or more. This has been the case
for many years, and continues to be so, even as the enemy attacks have
become more deadly and pervasive. And, unlike the Israeli branch of Reform's
Hebrew Union College, which abruptly ended its school year a
month-and-one-half early to enable nearly a third of the student body to
return to America, the Orthodox students will, overwhelmingly, remain there
for the duration. Perhaps even more astoundingly, the New York Jewish Week
reports that the numbers of American Jews moving to Israel this year "will
be 30 percent to 40 percent above recent years' totals of about 1,500. . . .
Most of the new crop of immigrants-to-be are . . . young, Orthodox
Despite their supposed "triumphalist" tendencies, Orthodox groups haven't
issued press releases touting the great sacrifices being made by these
scores of Orthodox families and thousands of Orthodox students. That's
because the latter are simply doing, with great determination but without
fanfare, what might be expected of Jews who believe deeply in a G-d-given
Torah that guarantees the eternity of this Chosen People and the holiness of
To be sure, not every such Jew will do so; in fact, there's a case to be
made that not every such Jew, given his or her individual circumstances,
should do so. And, certainly, no one can fault the multitudes of Jews whose
religious leaders have taught them that the Jewish nation is no more chosen
or indestructible than any other, and that the Book that a hundred
generations of Jews cherished as the Divinely-given deed to this land is
actually the handiwork of deeply flawed humans, for not doing so.
But just as surely, when the movements that so vocally presume to speak for
"the majority of Jews in North America" next press their claims upon the
Israeli public, the latter will have to look no further than the arrivals
terminal at Ben Gurion and the scores of Jerusalem mens' and womens'
yeshivos to know who it is that truly "stands with the Jewish State."
AM ECHAD RESOURCES
[Eytan Kobre is a lawyer residing in Queens and part of Am Echad's pool of
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