Photo Credit: Tzedek Chicago Website

Members of the progressive “Tzedek Chicago” congregation voted last month to affirm “anti-Zionism” as a core value of its organization, taking it a step further from its former self-designation as “non-Zionist.”

The unanimous board decision on March 27 followed “a months-long series of membership meetings and collective discernment,” the congregation said in a statement on its website.

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“From the outset, our founders made a conscious decision to state that Tzedek Chicago would not be a Zionist congregation,” the board said in its statement.

“Most Jewish congregations in North America are Zionist by default. Among other things, Tzedek Chicago was created to provide a Jewish congregational community for those who did not identify as Zionists – and who did not want to belong to congregations that celebrated Zionism as a necessary aspect of Jewish life.”

The congregation board added that Israel has sought to maintain a Jewish demographic majority by “systematically dispossessing Palestinians from their homes through a variety of means, including military expulsion, home demolition, land expropriation and revocation of residency rights, among others.”

The congregation claimed that it is becoming “increasingly difficult to deny the fundamental injustice at the core of Zionism, quoting a 2021 report, by the anti-Zionist B’Tselem organization that claims Israel is an “apartheid state,” describing it as “a regime of Jewish supremacy from the river to the sea.”

The board also quoted a similar 2021 report by the far-left Human Rights Watch group stating Israel’s “deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.”

According to its 2015 core values statement, congregation membership is not restricted to Jews or those who are partnered with Jews.

“While we appreciate the important role of the land of Israel in Jewish tradition, liturgy and identity, we do not celebrate the fusing of Judaism with political nationalism. We are anti-Zionist, openly acknowledging that the creation of an ethnic Jewish nation state in historic Palestine resulted in an injustice against the Palestinian people – an injustice that continues to this day.

“We reject any ideology that insists upon exclusive Jewish entitlement to the land, recognizing that it has historically been considered sacred by many faiths and home to a variety of peoples, ethnicities and cultures. In our advocacy and activism, we oppose Israel’s ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people and seek a future that includes full civil and human rights for all who live in the land – Jews and non-Jews alike,” the congregation’s core values statement says.

And yes, dear readers, we know exactly what you’re thinking about this congregation right now. But please share anyway.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.