When the history of Reform Judaism is written a century from now, its authors will ask many questions: Did Reform Jews study Torah, perform mitzvot, bring justice to the world? But most important of all: Did we do enough to safeguard the security and well-being of the State of Israel?
I am worried now, not because we don’t love Israel, but because we are distracted. As we learned in the aftermath of the stock market crash of 1929, during tough economic times North American Jews turn inward, focusing on personal problems and not the problems of the Jewish people. Though understandable, this is a huge mistake at a time when the government of Iran, supported by Russia and China, is inching toward the nuclear threshold—and the potential to deliver on its off-repeated promise to destroy the Jewish state. Not since the Yom Kippur War has Israel’s survival been more precarious.
What Israel needs from us now is unconditional support. It needs our visits, our dollars, and our engagement. And it needs our political activism. We must call upon the U.S. and Canadian governments, both devoted friends of Israel, to impose the toughest possible economic sanctions on Iran—with others if possible, unilaterally if necessary—if it refuses to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Iran will stop its nuclear program only if it feels real pain, and what has been done up to now is not sufficient.
Israel needs our help in other ways, too, and this means hearing our criticisms. Unconditional support is not the same as uncritical support. We love the Jewish state, but we must hold firm to our vision of a Jewish, democratic, and pluralistic Israel. We cannot accept settlement in the heart of the West Bank, where a Palestinian state must one day arise. We cannot accept the relegation of Orthodox women to the back section of buses in Jerusalem. And we cannot accept the denial of Reform Jewish rights by Israeli lawmakers. We will always reach for the highest ideals of the Zionist dream, seeking justice for all of Israel’s citizens and for her neighbors as well.
At this critical juncture, however, let us not forget, even for a moment, that all will be lost if Tehran has its way. Time is running out. God and history will not excuse us if we are silent.
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
President, Union for Reform Judaism
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