As a progressive Zionist and lover of the people, Land, and State of Israel, I cannot nor will I turn my back on the Jewish State despite the rise of the most extremist ultra-Orthodox and nationalist government in the history of the State that threatens Israeli democracy, human rights, and Israel’s good name.
We Diaspora Jews need Israel as a source of our American Jewish pride for its extraordinary accomplishments to world Jewry and humankind since its founding 75 years ago, as well as the source of our security in Diaspora communities especially in an era in which antisemitism has emerged as a threat to American Jewish well-being and American democracy.
Israel needs us North American Diaspora Jews for our political support in the halls of the American government and for the wisdom we have gained living as a minority in a democracy that respects the constitutional freedoms of religion, speech, and press assured by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. The vast majority of Israelis who oppose the extremist, racist, homophobic, misogynist, and illiberal policies of the new government need us in America for our emotional and financial support.
As the new government of Israel threatens that nation’s democracy despite what the in-coming PM Netanyahu promises to disallow related to the traditional role of Israel’s judiciary, the rights of LGBTQ individuals, non-Orthodox Judaism, women’s rights, and Palestinian rights, we American Jews have a difficult decision to make.
As I indicate at the top of this piece, turning away from the greatest accomplishment of the Jewish people in the last 2000 years of Jewish history is not in ours or in Israel’s best interest. Visiting Israel, living in Israel, teaching our young people about Israel and sending them to establish personal relationships with Israelis and to learn about Israeli society, and contributing to organizations that support Israel and our own liberal Jewish values is what we must now do with even greater urgency than we may have done in the past.
We American liberal Jews represent 70% of the American Jewish community. Many others who are more conservative also are alarmed as we are by what Israel’s new government threatens to do against Israeli democracy.
I have my favorite American and Israeli organizations that promote liberal Jewish values, justice, compassion, human rights, and peace in Israel to which I have been contributing for years. They include:
The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA); Kehilat Kodesh v’Chol, my synagogue’s sister synagogue in Holon, Israel; the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), the umbrella organization for all Reform congregations in the State of Israel; the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the social justice organization of the IMPJ; the New Israel Fund (NIF), an American organization promoting justice and equality for all Israelis; Ir Amim, an Israeli human rights organization supporting Israel-Palestinian peace in Jerusalem; Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli human rights organization; Project Rozana, an Israeli organization that seeks to build bridges to better understanding between Israelis and Palestinians through health; and J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace, and pro-democracy American political and educational organization based in Washington, D.C.
There are many others that one can support. I urge everyone who cares about Israeli democracy, equal rights in the State of Israel, Israeli-Palestinian peace and justice, and Israel’s well-being and good name to direct your charitable donations going forward away from those American Jewish organizations that make no demands upon Israel to maintain and promote its democracy, and give your tzedakah funds instead to other American and Israeli organizations that promote liberal Jewish and Zionist values upon which the State of Israel was founded and upon which Israel has distinguished itself as a bastion of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.
Note: This same blog under the title “U.S. Jews Cannot Turn Our Backs on Israel” appears at The Times of Israel – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/us-jews-cannot-turn-our-backs-on-israel/ .
Barbara Mutterperl said:
This is helpful and constructive. Thanks!
Stanley M Davids said:
John – I agree with your positions and even with your list of organizations to sup[port.
My only quibble is that I cannot agree with a call to boycott or reduce support for the North American Jewish Federation system. JFNA does a huge amount of good – and its support for the Jewish Agency is critically important to meeting the needs of widely diverse groups of Israelis. We must give more directed support to those agencies which are devoted to fighting the expected insanity of Israel’s new government – but not at the expense of our support for JFNA.
Fred Guttman said:
I hear you but here is the problem. Israel took in some 71,000 refugees last year and much of the funding for this came from JAFI. More than 1/2 of these refugees came from Ukraine and Russia. Now do not get me wrong. JAFI is far from perfect. But if we damage Israel’s ability to defend itself or to absorb refugees, are we not being destructive and actually turning back on Jews who need us? I totally agree with making contributions to the Israeli organizations you mentioned.