Social Action Committee #2

on Monday, 03 September 2012.

Action as a Liberal Jew - Rabbi Jacobs

Jews come in as many varieties as other groups of human beings. Just as Catholicism has the Inquisition and also St Francis, we have Murder Incorporated and Hadassah. Jews shuddered when Jewish villains were exposed, since it reflected on all of us and historically could be a pretext for persecution. My white-bearded zeydah taught me 70 years ago that “when we can be as bad as everyone else, then we will know we are free.” At least in America, I believe we he have achieved that state and can say we are free. There are still white supremacists and neo-nazis that would like to do us harm, but we live in a society that overwhelmingly rejects them and have a legal system that prosecutes them. Baruch haShem.

So in a world with Jews who we must acknowledge as bad, how do we behave regarding their behavior? Liberal Jews are not necessarily Reform, but Reform Jews who take their Judaism seriously must be Liberal Jews. If you do not remember the first blog in this series, please review it and check whether you agree with that statement. In that context I will quote from the leader of our movement, Rabbi Rick Jacobs.

Reform Judaism … offers a unique religious worldview that combines the timely with the timeless: the latest scientific and philosophical thinking with a spiritual inheritance of millennia. In our tradition, God … helps us to find ourselves – in synagogues that are deep and serious; where we settle for nothing short of excellence; where we welcome Jew and non-Jew, those of any culture, race, and background who seek the wisdom of the Torah and a community to call their own.

In the context of the opening of this blog and Rabbi Jacobs statement regarding the nature of our Movement, I am printing an entire statement that Rabbi Jacobs put on the Internet regarding the inclusion of a learned rabbi, the chief rabbi of Safed on a commission of Mogen David Adom (Israeli Red Cross). This learned rabbi has issued statements that would bring joy to the neo-nazis if only the word Arab were to reverse roles with the word Jew In his statements. The fruit of rabbinic statements by learned haredim such as the rabbi of Safed was the near lynching of o young Arab by a mob of young haredim in Jerusalem last week. That rabbi was appointed to a position by Mogen David Adom, and that aroused an international Jewish condemnation. It also elicited this statement by the leader of our movement.

From a profound commitment to the Jewish people and progressive Jewish values we are joining the campaign to raise the alarm about the appointment of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu by Magen David Adom (MDA). Rabbi Eliyahu, as the chief rabbi of Safed, has used his position of authority to incite to racism and xenophobia. His extreme views pose a real danger to Israeli democracy and have no place in such a worthy organization. 
MDA assists people in their most difficult moments regardless of race, religion or creed. We admire MDA for their holy work and we share with them a profound belief in the values of equality. As friends, we now turn to MDA to question the unfortunate decision to appoint Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu on their halachic committee. 

Martin Buber teaches us about Ahavat Israel: "Love your neighbor as yourself: turn to your friend with love, with acts of love, as a brother". It is with these sentiments that we ask MDA to make the right choice in this matter.

In the past weeks, many of you have corresponded with MDA branches around the world to express your support of the work that they do, and to protest the appointment of Rabbi Eliyahu. You have received the following answers:

1. Rabbi Eliyahu has no authority to set policy within MDA. He is not the only member on the committee. 
We want to respond by saying that the appointment of Rabbi Eliyahu by the MDA taints the entire organization with the racist remarks that he continues to make, and validates him as a leader in Israel.

2. Rabbi Eliyahu was cleared of all charges of racist incitement 

History shows that Rabbi Eliyahu not only allows himself to incite to racism, he also has no hesitation to deny it after the fact (for example, he denied having made the statements in his own op-ed published in Haaretz in 2008). 

Use this link to continue emailing MDA offices worldwide. We have made a special page on our website with information about the latest developments in this campaign. You can also click here to read more about Rabbi Eliyahu’s statements.

On behalf of the Reform Movement in North America and Israel, we want to convey a clear message to MDA: We support you in your work and we demand that you stand by our shared values. This issue is not going away, and we trust your leadership to find a solution so that we can all be blessed by your work.

Yours kindly,

Rabbi Rick Jacobs
President, Union for Reform Judaism


He speaks for me, and I had already sent a message to MDA. What is your response to the situation and to Rabbi Jacobs?

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