The Movement for Reform Judaism in the UK would like to see a thriving and successful Israel which is a true ‘Light unto the Nations’. A country that is defined by peace, justice, and equality. We pray that the new Israeli government will deliver these ideals and to this extent we wish Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government every success.
However, we are all witness to the many proposed policies of the new hardline government that appear to contradict our Progressive Jewish values and we are concerned that some of them may even go against the clear vision of Israel’s founders.
We remind ourselves of the inspiring words from the Declaration of Independence: ‘THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice, and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or gender.’
Our cause for concern is that these hopes of a just society may be eroding in front of our eyes. The Reform Movement in the UK is fearful that Israel’s Reform Movement, along with its leadership, may be under threat from the new coalition. The Reform Movement is fully aware that the acceptance and funding of its Israeli Reform sister is a struggle connected to other social justice causes – justice, equality and human rights – and we will stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners in Israel who pursue those values and causes.
In addition, we see a threat to the rights of women, LGBTQ+ citizens, and Arabs being carried out by government ministers and officials. We also hear of risks to the funding of our partner organisations in Israel who work tirelessly to promote social justice and equality.
The Movement for Reform Judaism is closely monitoring the ongoing events in Israel and will coordinate our response alongside the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the Union for Reform Judaism, Artzenu, and other Progressive movements and organisations worldwide, to deliver a greater and more forceful statement. Meanwhile, The Reform Movement joins its youth movement, RSY-Netzer, and will not be meeting or engaging with the members of Knesset representing extremism, racist, homophobic or misogynistic ideology or policies.
With this in mind here is the latest media release by IMPJ on the day the new government was sworn in.
“In light of the coalition agreements that were signed regarding changing the Law of Return and cancelling reform conversions the Reform movement responded:
Reform conversions have been recognized in Israel for the purpose of the Law of Return for many years, so the decision to cancel these conversions is actually cancelling the Law of Return and surrendering to extremist ultra-Orthodox views regarding the question of “who is a Jew?”. The meaning is that the State of Israel will cease to be the state of the Jewish people.
Cancelling the recognition of Reform conversion will not only lead to an irreversible rift with diaspora Jewry, but also to a decrease in the motivation of immigrants, and cause irreversible damage to the LGBT community in Israel – since almost all surrogate children in the community are Reform converts. The designated government must open its gates to all Jewish men, women, parents, and children who wish to align themselves with the State of Israel. It must not exclude entire communities from Israel. We believe this would be an immoral and un-Jewish act, and it would distance Jews and Judaism from Israel, instead of bringing everyone closer together.”