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November 27, 2015 / 15 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Rick Jacobs’

The Vote Heard ‘Round the World

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

To the chagrin of supporters who confidently predicted otherwise, J Street failed to receive the votes it needed for admission into the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. So now, they have a new spin.

Had J Street won the vote, of course, its supporters would have claimed the vote was a victory for a “wider range of views on Israel” and, of course, democracy. But having failed in their efforts, supporters have responded with unbecoming condemnation of that same democratic process. The Conference of Presidents followed its by-laws which require a new applicant to receive the support of two-thirds of the members present, with at least three-quarters of the total membership in attendance.

“An analysis of the vote,” argues the Forward, “indicates that J Street enjoyed the support of liberal groups, Reform and Conservative organizations and several major players, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. The majority voting against it were right-wing and Orthodox organizations, as well as smaller groups with no clear ideological leaning.”

The Conference has 49 voting members, of which 17 supported the admission of J Street, 3 abstained, 22 voted against, and the others didn’t care to attend. To claim that the majority of the members, 34 organizations, are right-wing, Orthodox, or have no clear ideology, is untrue and ridiculous.

In this case, perhaps more than most, the vote represented the consensus of the American Jewish community, which regards J Street and its policies to lie beyond the pale. Even the Anti-Defamation League President Abraham Foxman, in announcing that he would vote in favor, said he did so, not because the ADL supports J Street’s views, but to define American Jewish advocacy more broadly.

Nonetheless, Reform leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs has responded to the vote by announcing that the Union of Reform Judaism may consider dropping out of the Conference of Presidents entirely. Similarly, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, has claimed the vote was unrepresentative, and called on the Conference of Presidents to examine their structure – claiming that J Street would have won the popular vote of the organizations’ memberships.

It is interesting to note, the Reform and Conservative movements each have 4 votes in the Conference: Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American (Reform) Rabbis, Women of Reform Judaism and ARZA, Association of Reform Zionists of America, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbinical Assemly (of Conservative Rabbis), Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and Mercaz, the Zionist Organization of the Conservative Movement. They constituted almost half of the positive votes that J Street received, and they claim the system was unfair; it was, in their favor, and they still lost the vote.

In addition, the Conference by-laws were last updated under the committee chairmanship of Rabbi Joel Meyers, then, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism. This reminds me of the kid in the school-yard who makes the rules, in his favor, but when he loses the game, claims it was unfair.

In making these declarations, Rabbis Jacobs and Schonfeld presume to speak for the aggregate membership of the Reform and Conservative synagogues nationwide. Is the majority of the membership of AIPAC not comprised of Reform or Conservative Jews? Needless to say, they don’t support J Street. Many Reform and Conservative Jews that I have spoken to in the last few weeks have told me, that they believe that J Street is not healthy for Israel. I wonder what the individual members of these movements really think.

Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements like to say that they represent the majority of American Jews. The recent findings of the Pew report debunk that myth. Today, unfortunately, the “Jews of no religion” are the fastest-growing Jewish group; they care little, if anything, about Judaism or Israel. How many families in these movements joined congregations because membership (and Hebrew school) were prerequisites for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and not because they endorse the positions or policies advocated by the Rabbis?

Thank You J Street (You Too, Reform Movement)

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

In the aftermath of being denied entry to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, J Street has fulfilled the predictions and warnings of those who foresaw divisiveness and petulance within the ranks had  J Street been admitted.

Rather than taking the vote as a sign that the organization had not yet become sufficiently established for the mainstream organizations to feel confident it would play nicely in the sandbox with others, J Street began a letter-writing campaign ridiculing the long-serving and highly respected executive vice president Malcolm Hoenlein. That campaign also attacked the manner in which the vote had been taken – a vote in accordance with the bylaws of the organization.

J Street lashed out at those who dared to apply the same rules to it as the Conference has applied to every other new member.

The sophomoric message J Street posted on its website sought to rebuke the Conference of Presidents, and to claim that the fact it was rejected proves its conceit:  its positions are bold, brave and absent from the Conference and the fact it was rejected proves its voice is needed.

J Street suggests that without its voice as an essential and robust part of the conversation, the Palestinian Arabs will continue to be victims of the Israeli aggressors and deprived of their rights to at least half of the sliver of land to which Israel is currently in control, either due to a global licence or as the result of a defensive war.

The emptiness of those claims is revealed when one actually looks at the membership of the Conference of Presidents.

Of the 49 voting members, well more than half are easily classifiable as either center, center left or simply left, when it comes to support for Israel.  And J Street’s claim and dominant focus is Israel and Israeli security.

Americans for Peace Now, the Jewish Labor Committee, the four or five organizations which represent the Reform movement, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the four or five organizations which represent the Conservative movement, and Ameinu all represent the leftist end of the spectrum of American Judaism.

The core center is well-represented by at least a dozen other organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, Hadassah, B’Nai Brith International, the Jewish National Fund, American Jewish Congress, American Gathering/ Federation of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America, the American Zionist Movement, Amit, the Anti-Defamation League, B’Nai Zion, Israel Bonds, Hadassah,  NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia, ORT America, Alpha Epsilon Pi,  and the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

So J Street claims that its rejection from the club is because the Conference of Presidents rigged the system to exclude J Street, or that without its voice at the table American Jewry is deprived of a desperately needed view, or that J Street is entitled to an admission process different than the one  applied to every other application is yet more affirmation that the organization and not the Conference needs to change.

This is J Street’s message to its supporters:


Yesterday’s rejection of J Street’s bid to join the Conference validates the reason for J Street: those claiming to speak for the entire Jewish community don’t in fact represent the full diversity of pro-Israel views in our community.

The Conference of President claims to be the “the proven and effective voice of organized American Jewry.” Last night’s vote removed that pretense.

So join us in thanking Malcolm Hoenlein for for clarifying this situation and revealing to all what we’ve long known: a new voice is needed to represent the true majority of American Jews–and non-Jewish supporters of an Israel at peace.

US Reform Jews Following Same Path as in 1940s

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom haShoah. Although I agree with those who say that preservation of the historical record is a necessary part of preventing its repetition, I am very uncomfortable with its use to produce an emotional catharsis, which often stands in the way of facing the real threats against the Jewish people today. The same people who cry over the dead Jews of the 1940s often have no problem taking anti-Zionist positions today — or supporting politicians like Barack Obama, whose policies are inimical to the continued existence of the Jewish state, and therefore the Jewish people.

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) as seems not to have noticed Yom haShoah this year — at least, I can’t find anything on its website. Individual congregations, like the one in our town, are holding commemorative events. Possibly they have decided to deemphasize the observance.

But the URJ’s drift in the direction of anti-Zionist politics hasn’t stopped. Under the leadership of its President Rabbi Richard ‘Rick’ Jacobs, we find the URJ supporting the phony ‘pro-Israel’ organization J Street in its bid to join the Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. J Street — which called for a cease-fire on the first day of Operation Cast Lead in 2009, which supported an anti-Israel resolution in the UN Security council (which the US vetoed), which consistently opposed sanctions on Iran, which supported the conclusions of the Goldstone Report (later repudiated by its author) that accused the IDF of war crimes in Gaza and introduced Goldstone to members of Congress, which has invited viciously anti-Zionist and pro-BDS speakers like Mustafa Barghouti, Rebecca Vilkomerson and James Zogby to its annual conferences, but which refused to allow liberal Zionist Alan Dershowitz to speak — is anything but pro-Israel. It is, however, very pro-Obama.

It is ironic, then that the liberal wing of the Jewish establishment in the US is following the same path as it did in the 1940s, when, out of loyalty to a liberal president and his party, it worked against the true interests of the Jewish people. The danger is not as immediate today as it was in the dark days of WWII, although the Iranian nuclear project, which is being facilitated by the policy of the Obama Administration, could very quickly change this.

I am therefore taking this occasion to republish the following, which I wrote several years ago. It is even more timely today.


The failure of the liberal Jewish establishment, then and now

by Vic Rosenthal, 8/7/2011

400 mostly Orthodox rabbis march to the White House on October 6, 1943. Roosevelt avoided meeting with them.

It’s well-known that the Roosevelt Administration did little to help European Jews during the Holocaust. Unfortunately, part of the blame falls on American Jewry, which was sharply divided about how to respond — a fact which caused good men in the government to hesitate, while it gave antisemites an excuse to resist taking action.

The NY Times has published a piece by Isabel Kershner that may bring more attention to the shameful stupidity of the Jewish establishment during that period:

The Bergson group formed in 1940 when about 10 young Jews from Palestine and Europe came to the United States to open a fund-raising and propaganda operation for the Irgun, the right-wing Zionist militia. The group was organized by Hillel Kook, a charismatic Irgun leader who adopted the pseudonym Peter H. Bergson. [Samuel] Merlin was his right-hand man.

Reform Sell Half of Its HQ to Raise Cash for Youth Programs

Friday, December 13th, 2013

The Union for Reform Judaism has sold off half of its headquarters in New York and is investing $1 million from the proceeds to overhaul its youth programming.

The sale of one of the union’s two floors at its midtown Manhattan headquarters closed on Wednesday; Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the movement’s president, announced the sale in his speech Thursday at the Reform biennial in San Diego. He said $1 million from the sale would be used to supplement major foundation grants awarded to the union to reshape its youth engagement strategies.

Among the new initiatives Jacobs announced are the expansion of the Reform youth movement, NFTY, the National Federation of Temple Youth, to include sixth through eighth graders; a new partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation to help make Reform institutions more open to people with disabilities; and a deepening of the union’s ties with Hebrew Union College.

Hartman to Reform Biennial: Kudos for Not Abandoning Israel

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

The Union for Reform Judaism awarded one of its highest honors to an Orthodox rabbi, the late David Hartman, at the opening plenary of the union’s biennial conference in San Diego.

On Wednesday evening, the union’s president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, presented the Alexander M. Schindler World Jewry Award to Hartman’s son, Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and, like his father, an Orthodox-ordained rabbi.

In accepting the prize, Hartman hailed the persistence of Zionist sentiment among Reform Jews despite Israel’s treatment of Reform Judaism, saying, “The truth is you should have walked away from Israel a long time ago.”

“How much insult, how much alienation, how much lack of respect should a person take before they say enough and walk away?” Hartman said. “Your love for Israel is measured in the fact that you’re willing to fight for it.”

In presenting the Schindler award, Jacobs credited David Hartman with inspiring him to become a Reform rabbi.

“David taught us to question traditional beliefs,” Jacobs said.

Nearly 5,000 people are attending the Reform biennial, the first since Jacobs took over the helm of the movement a year and a half ago.

The Wednesday evening presentation included a video message from Vice President Joe Biden, who said he had been asked by President Obama to give a shout-out to Reform’s youth movement, NFTY, the National Federation of Temple Youth.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/hartman-to-reform-biennial-kudos-for-not-abandoning-israel/2013/12/12/

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