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A mid-Passover message during a time of pain in Israel and Palestine


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Three sacred seasons are overlapping - Passover, Ramadan, and Easter - days of holiness that celebrate liberation, humility, compassion, and rebirth. We dearly wish that we could be marking this confluence of holy days with celebrations of steady and courageous steps forward towards peace, justice, and co-existence in Israel and Palestine. And while it is true that many brave and creative NGOs and civic movements continue to organize, teach, and grow their impacts in Israeli and Palestinian society, nevertheless the headlines of this season tell a painful story we have come to know all too well. 

It is a story of terrorist attacks against Israelis in pubs and residential neighborhoods, and of unchecked settler violence against Palestinians in their orchards and villages. It is a story of Israeli military raids that kill non-combatants caught in the crossfire or exercising their right to demonstrate, and a story of Hamas and Islamic Jihad publicly praising terrorist attacks. It is a story of Israeli evictions of longtime Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem neighborhoods, and of demolitions of Palestinian homes when impossible-to-obtain building permits are found lacking by Israeli officials. It is a story of Hezbollah building up rocket arsenals and fanning flames of hatred of Israel in religious terms. And it is a story of a 54-year-long Occupation at the heart of an asymmetrical power dynamic that maintains an unjust and unsustainable order in which Israeli authorities rule over and control the daily lives and physical movements of millions of Palestinians. 

In the last few days, the downward spiral has accelerated dangerously. Israeli extremists have staged provocative marches in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Palestinians have thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at Western Wall visitors. Israeli police have raided the Al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan, injuring hundreds of worshippers. Once again, Israel and Palestine are on the brink of the kind of war that took place last spring - a war of rockets fired on Israeli civilians and Israeli aerial bombardments of crowded Gazan neighborhoods, accompanied by street violence between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

What can we do, as members of a small, creative movement of Judaism centered in the Diaspora? Facing these times is not easy. We have deep bonds of love, family, and tradition with the Israeli-Jewish community. We fear for their survival. We know the lessons of the long course of Jewish history, of what Jewish powerlessness has led to repeatedly.  

At the same time, we also reckon with the reality that Israel has far more military, economic, and political power than does Palestine. Our tradition teaches that those with greater power have greater responsibility for taking action to prevent violence, safeguard innocent life, and guarantee justice for all. It also teaches that everyone, whether powerful or not, has some moral agency - everyone has a responsibility to do what they can to act with restraint and move back from the brink. 

Knowing all of that, there are some things we can do. We can reach out to our family and friends in Israel and Palestine and ask how they are doing, and listen to them with open hearts and minds. We can call on our own political leaders to do all they can to help defuse the situation and strengthen Israeli and Palestinian groups who continue to work tirelessly for tzedek (justice) and shalom (peace), in keeping with the highest teachings of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. We can model civil discourse in our conversations and social media posts. And we can pray for peace and support the organizations we believe are working for a better future.  

Public Statements, Israel, Israel

Statement on Terrorist Attacks in Israel


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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association are horrified and saddened by yesterday’s terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, and by the recent attacks against Israelis in Beersheva, B’nei Brak, and Hadera. For those of us with friends and family in Israel, or who call the land home ourselves — these attacks are all the more frightening. Terrorist violence is unjustifiable, cruel, and devastating to the possibilities for greater peace and justice for all who live in the region. We pray for comfort for the families and friends of all those killed and for speedy healing for the wounded.

Responding to Amnesty International’s report on Israel and the charge of apartheid


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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association have issued the following statement in response to the recent Amnesty International report:

Apartheid is one of the most shocking words in the English language, conjuring images of the brutal and racist South African regime that decades of struggle brought to an end in 1994. Last week, Amnesty International became the latest human rights organization to accuse Israel of the crime of apartheid. Amnesty’s report follows reports by Human Rights Watch and by the Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, both of which level the same charge. Over the past several days, we have taken the time needed to study Amnesty’s 280-page report and develop our response.

Like B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch before them, Amnesty states that they are not making the claim that Israel is enacting the same kind of racialized system that governed apartheid-era South Africa; rather, they are claiming that the crime of apartheid as defined in international law covers a much broader set of circumstances, and that Israel is in violation of it. 

Amnesty’s report claims that from its founding, Israel’s efforts to ensure a Jewish majority within its boundaries were inherently discriminatory and fostered an apartheid system. The report emphasizes the ways in which Israel’s creation has been catastrophic for Palestinians, including Israel’s policies of designating lands previously owned by Palestinians as “abandoned” and then claiming them for the State, and its refusal to readmit Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war. The report calls for a total and unrestricted right of return for all Palestinian refugees and their descendants. It also recommends bringing diplomatic pressure to bear on Israel’s government until it outlaws not only all forms of unequal treatment of Palestinians, but also any policies intentionally designed to maintain a Jewish-majority state. 

Problematically, the report downplays the ways in which Israel’s creation provided refuge for and saved the lives of many of the world’s most desperate Jews in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust. It does not address the historical reasons why Jews have needed refuge from systemic and recurring antisemitic violence in many parts of the world, nor does it address the existential threats that Israel has faced and continues to face today.

As a movement, we affirm our longstanding position that the state of Israel as a democratic national homeland for the Jewish people is historically just and necessary. To the authors of Amnesty’s report, we ask how the recommendations of their report would account for Jewish safety in the future, and why their report appears to dismiss the idea that there was any justice or wisdom behind the U.N.’s 1947 decision to partition the land in order to ensure that it would include a Jewish state capable of receiving a massive influx of Jewish refugees as a humanitarian imperative? We ask how the report accounts for the unique situation of the Jewish people before 1948 –  dispersed, repeatedly persecuted, and nowhere sovereign – yet maintaining profound historical, spiritual, and cultural ties to their ancient homeland?  

At the same time, we cannot ignore or dismiss the report’s documented examples of systemic Israeli human rights abuses, especially relating to the now 54-year-old Occupation, which our movement has opposed for decades. The Occupation’s web of military checkpoints, disproportionate use of West Bank natural resources for the settlements, land confiscations, home demolitions, and its two-tiered legal system represent serious human rights violations. In light of this report and many of the recent events we have witnessed, including evictions of Palestinian families in East Jerusalem and increased violence by extremist settlers against Palestinians, we urge our political leaders in the US, Canada, Israel, and elsewhere to act boldly to stop settlement expansion, to prevent Israeli annexation of West Bank territory, and to reinvigorate a serious Israeli-Palestinian peace process that will end the Occupation and the unequal treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel, and that will result in compromises on all the outstanding issues, including refugees and Jerusalem. 

Amnesty’s report comes to a world that is surging with renewed antisemitism, as well as a world in which Palestinians have no state of their own and continue to face daily humiliations, losses, and systemic violence from Israel. While we do not use the word “apartheid” to describe the basic notion of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, we also take seriously the warnings of Israeli leaders like former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who in 2017 warned that Israel is on a “slippery slope toward apartheid,” and would inevitably reach that status if a Palestinian state is not established alongside it. We want the human rights violations that Amnesty’s report documents to end, even as we worry that Amnesty’s report will be misused by those who fuel antisemitism or seek to endanger Jewish communities around the world. As Jews whose lives are deeply connected to our Jewish-Israeli brethren, we cannot turn our backs on their safety and vulnerabilities, but we also cannot turn our backs on our Jewish vision of justice for all, and on the many Israelis who are fighting for it in their own country.

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association join letter urging US Senate to fund Iron Dome replenishment


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Today, Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association along with 10 other national Jewish organizations urged the Senate to quickly approve funding for the replenishment of Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system. While the House overwhelmingly voted, on a bipartisan basis, to fund its replenishment last year, the legislation has stalled in the Senate.

Spearheaded by the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, this letter asks Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), both longstanding supporters of Israel’s security, to continue to use their good offices to see this legislation through. The Senate’s failure to act so far has regrettably impacted America’s support for the security of our ally Israel, which remains a target of terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. This can be rectified by moving the legislation forward.

The letter, co-signed by a diverse array of Jewish organizations spanning diverse religious, political, and policy spectrums, shows the strong support that exists across the Jewish community for getting the funding approved. The Jewish community stands ready to work with Senate leadership to guarantee swift passage of this legislation.

You can find the full letter below.

Honorable Charles E. Schumer
322 Hart Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Honorable Mitch McConnell
317 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell:

We are grateful to you for your longstanding support for the State of Israel and for our country’s ironclad commitment to support its security. We, the undersigned 12 (twelve) national Jewish organizations, are therefore writing to ask you to take firm action in support of Israel’s security by moving the Iron Dome Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2022 (H.R. 5323) forward. This legislation, which passed the House in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 420 – 9 on September 23, would provide $1 billion in appropriations so that Israel can replenish this critical defense system to counter terrorist threats.

As American Jewish organizations dedicated to maintaining strong support for Israel’s security, we implore you to not allow any more needless delays in passing this legislation. Every day that goes by without this funding is one more day of danger and insecurity for the Israeli people.

In particular, we are deeply troubled by maneuvers to delay consideration of H.R. 5323 by the full Senate. Blocking immediate consideration of the legislation weakens our entire nation’s commitment to our Israeli ally’s security. It is time to stop the delays, and we call on you to lead your colleagues to do so.

As you know, our country helped to create Iron Dome in 2011 in response to the unending rocket threats made against Israel by regional terrorist groups. It is estimated that more than 250,000 rockets are currently aimed at Israel from nearly all sides, a threat that keeps the Israeli people on edge.

The Iron Dome is a purely defensive system that proved its worth during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and the terrorist organizations Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). In these 11 days of hostilities, more than 4,300 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, with estimates that Iron Dome successfully intercepted roughly 90 percent of them. And while the threat from Gaza persists, so does the menacing peril from the north, where Hezbollah possesses nearly 130,000 rockets and missiles that can strike virtually every city in Israel.

It’s also worth noting that the proposed supplemental funding for Iron Dome aligns squarely with the U.S. defense strategy towards Israel, codified in 2016 in the U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). That MOU commits the U.S. to provide $38 billion in security assistance to Israel over a 10-year period, including $5 billion for missile defense. As part of the MOU, the U.S. is also committed to helping Israel replenish the Iron Dome when needed as a counterweight to the ceaseless and rising missile threats from the region.

The need for this appropriation is critical now because Israel’s Iron Dome infrastructure has been significantly depleted. The cost of a single Iron Dome interception can be as much as $80,000, with the cost of the batteries themselves and their operation also high. Rebuilding the supply of interceptor missiles takes time, due to the relatively slow manufacturing process, with cost being an inhibitor. On the other hand, terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PIJ use less sophisticated rockets that are manufactured quickly, at a much lower cost, but that are no less deadly.

We as American Jews believe that Israel has no better friend or partner than the United States and we are proud to be supporting a defense system that protects all of Israel’s citizens, regardless of their religious background or ethnicity. Unfortunately, Israel’s enemies do not distinguish amongst its diverse population, with rockets directed at all members of Israeli society. To put it simply: the Iron Dome saves all Israeli lives – Jewish, Muslim, and Christian alike – targeted by Hamas, Hezbollah and the PIJ.

We therefore urge you to ignore the unfortunate gamesmanship that is taking place right now in the Senate and to press forward in bringing the House-passed legislation to the floor for a vote. President Biden has made it clear that he will immediately sign such legislation, and with the House having done its work, it is time for the Senate to act. The result will no doubt be another overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in favor of this aid, honoring the longstanding U.S. commitment to provide for Israel’s security.


American Jewish Congress
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Agudath Israel of America
B’nai B’rith International
Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America
Israel Policy Forum
Jewish Women International
Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative Movement)
Reconstructing Judaism
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
Union for Reform Judaism
Zionist Organization of America

Reconstructing Judaism joins Progressive Israel Network to welcome indefinite postponement of settlement construction in E-1 Area


Responding to news that plans to advance settlement housing units in the E-1 corridor linking East Jerusalem to the northern West Bank have been indefinitely postponed, the Progressive Israel Network issued the following statement:

The Progressive Israel Network (PIN) welcomes the news that the Israeli government will not be building Jewish settlements in the E-1 for the near future. We applaud the Biden Administration’s efforts to prevent such construction, and urge them to continue to push back against settlement expansion more broadly. 

The vast majority of American Jews and so many Israelis oppose settlement expansion because building Jewish settlements in the West Bank simultaneously undercuts any future contiguous, viable Palestinian state and continues an illegal process of de facto annexation that will only deepen the conflict, pushing Israelis and Palestinians further towards a permanent and unequal one-state reality. The E-1 area is a particularly sensitive spot. It serves as a vital corridor for Palestinian communal life, connecting the major Palestinian cities of Ramallah north of Jerusalem to Bethlehem south of Jerusalem. As was noted by 26 House Democrats in a November letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken, these proposed settlements are so dangerous to the prospects of a two-state solution that they have been referred to as “doomsday settlements.”

Just as past US administrations made their strong opposition to settlement construction in this strategic area clear to Israeli governments, we, members of the Progressive Israel Network, see this as a positive step even as we remain concerned by the simultaneous advancement of 3,500 settlement housing units south of Jerusalem.

You can learn more about this in our E-1 explainer here.

The Progressive Israel Network is a coalition of leading organizations representing Americans committed to pursuing democracy, equality in Israel and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The network members signed on to this statement are Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair USA, Jewish Labor Committee, J Street, The New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism and T’ruah. 

Calling on Gantz to reconsider designation of Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as “terrorists”


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The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA) and Reconstructing Judaism express deep concern over last week’s decision by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to declare six Palestinian human rights groups to be “terror organizations.” Absent compelling evidence, this policy enacts a draconian measure that will criminalize critical human rights work.

This decision makes no distinction between those waging a violent struggle against the state and the people of Israel and those organizations that defend human rights. We agree with the members of the Israeli government and Israeli human and civil rights communities who have expressed dismay, apprehension, and doubts about the legitimacy and soundness of such a measure. The timing of this announcement coincides with an alarming rise in violence by settlers, accompanied by an alleged failure of the IDF to protect Palestinian civilians.  While it can be difficult for diaspora Jews to criticize the Israeli government on matters of security, at this time we  are concerned that such actions undermine Israel’s international standing and further undermine the prospects for peace.

The RRA and Reconstructing Judaism are committed to the principles of democracy, the strengthening of democratic institutions and the development of civil society for all people.  This action, without compelling evidence, is destructive to those values.

Public Statements, Israel

Statement on the Spiraling Violence between Israelis and Palestinians


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The spiraling violence that began in Jerusalem and now includes all of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank is heartbreaking and frightening. We condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas and Islamic Jihad that have targeted civilians, claimed Israeli lives, and terrified children. We also mourn the scores of dead in Gaza, including dozens of children, and we call on Israel’s leaders to remember that their powerful military response can be devastating for families and children there.   
We are also deeply shaken by the many eruptions of street violence in several Israeli cities. Gangs of Palestinian-Israelis and Jewish-Israelis have smashed storefront windows of the Other, attacked citizens on the street, and chanted slogans of hate. We call on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take decisive action to bring the violence to a halt, and we honor the many civic organizations and leaders that have mobilized to try to quell the violence. 
Finally, we call for an honest reckoning regarding the multiple events that have taken place over the past few weeks that provided so much kindling for the fires that have erupted. The attempt to evict Palestinian families from the East Jerusalem homes they have lived in for generations is unjust and cruel. The attacks on pedestrians — some carried out by Palestinians and some by Jews — have been brutal. The gathering of Jewish extremist marchers in Jerusalem shouting “Death to the Arabs” is appalling. The polarizing and hateful language that has been unleashed on all sides, in all the languages of the region, is the literal embodiment of l’shon hara — the evil tongue. So many lives hang in the balance of what happens next, and we pray for a retreat from the brink of even greater devastation. This horrifying cycle serves only the agendas of extremists, adding new layers of death, destruction, and trauma that fuel future generations of hatred, cynicism, and hopelessness. 

In her poem, The Smoke Has Not Cleared: A Prayer for Peace, Hila Ratzabi cries out to God: 

Lift us up, lay us down, 
Hold us in our grief, 
Quiet the trembling earth, 
Quiet our trembling hearts, 
Make peace for us right now 
Because we can’t  
Do this alone,  
Because parents are grieving 
And the land is ravaged 
And the smoke 
And the smoke has not cleared.  

Rabbi Alanna Sklover writes, “…we are united in knowing that the situation on the ground is not tenable for anyone, and that every single human being — Israeli and Palestinian — deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, and to live without fear.” May we do the work of pursuing peace even when it seems beyond all possibility, and may we draw inspiration from all who struggle for this violence to end, all who labor for a future of mutual respect, justice and peace for Israel and Palestine. 

Public Statements, Israel

A Welcome Israeli Supreme Court Ruling on Non-Orthodox Conversions


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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association welcome the recently announced landmark ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court to recognize non-Orthodox conversions carried out in Israel for the purposes of matters relating to eligibility for Israeli citizenship. The historic 8 to 1 court decision represents an important step forward towards the goal of equal recognition for all non-Orthodox movements of Judaism by the Israeli government. We congratulate our courageous friends at the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), who led a legal effort spanning 15 years and multiple appeals, culminating in this historic ruling.

Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association join chorus of Jewish voices opposing KKL-JNF plan to purchase West Bank land to expand settlements


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Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association strongly oppose the plan of Keren Kayemet L’Israel / Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) to expand Jewish settlements by purchasing private land in the West Bank. We join our friends and colleagues in the Reform movement, the Masorti (Conservative) movement, Liberal Judaism (UK), the Reform Movement in Israel, the World Union for Progressive Judaism, and many others in the global Jewish community in speaking out against this plan. 

Buying land on behalf of West Bank settlements is dangerous to Israel’s future as a democracy, entrenches the occupation, and adds to the obstacles to securing a lasting and viable peace. We urge the leadership of JNF-KKL to listen to the voices of so many Jews around the world who have spoken out against this plan and reject this destructive proposal. We continue to work, with love and conviction, for a just and peaceful two-state future for Israelis and Palestinians.

In support of Israeli organizations urging their government to provide immediate access to the COVID-19 vaccination in the West Bank and Gaza


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Nurse holding COVID-19 vaccine
Currently, Israel is vaccinating its citizens, as well as Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, at a faster pace than other countries. Millions of Israelis have already received injections. In addition, Israel’s government has shared 20,000 doses with the Palestinian Authority for the purpose of vaccinating front-line healthcare workers. But, while vaccinating Jewish settlers in the West Bank, Israel’s government has declined to provide doses to vaccinate the Palestinian general population in the West Bank and Gaza. 

Israeli human rights groups, including Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Zazim Community Action, the New Israel Fund, Rabbis for Human Rights - Israel, and many others, are advocating that Israel’s government make its vaccine supply available now on an equal basis to all Palestinians living in the occupied territories. 

At this time, as new and more contagious strains of COVID-19 are spreading, Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association join the call of the many Israeli organizations that are urging their leaders to act quickly and cooperatively with the Palestinian Authority to develop a vaccination plan that will meet the urgent public health needs of everyone living in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Because COVID-19 knows no boundaries, the wellbeing of Palestinians is inextricably connected to that of Israelis. The Israeli organizations advocating that their government change its current policy are brave and determined, and they deserve our support.

Public Statements, Israel


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