The Israel Religious Action Center and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism out in support of democracy
The cacophony of concerns being expressed both in Israel and the Diaspora about the policies of the new Israeli government is almost deafening.
In the space of a couple of days deep concerns have been expressed by the Chair of the World Zionist Organisations Yaakov Hagoel, the Chair of the Jewish Agency Doron Almog, the World Chair of Keren Hayesod Sam Grundwerg, the Chair of the Board of Trustees Keren Hayesod Steven Lowy, Chair of the Jewish Agency of Governors Mark Wilf, President and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America Eric Fingerhut, Chair of Jewish Federations North America Julie Platt, Vice President of the URJ and Executive Director of ARZA (US) Rabbi Josh Weinberg, MK Gilad Kariv and UPJ Co-president David Knoll.
The direction being taken by the new Israeli government under Benjamin Natanyahu is the basis for the deep concern being expressed which it is believed could “potentially undermine the status quo and threaten Israel’s ties with world Jewry”.
Specific concerns relate to:
- The Israeli Justice Minister’s plans to reduce the power of the Israeli Supreme Court which has been described as “destroying the court’s independence”. Legal experts have described it as a dangerous plan and others like Ex Chief Justice Barak say it “will strangle democracy”.
- Threatened changes to the Law of Return and conversions to Judaism which govern eligibility for citizenship, which many believe would destroy Jewish Peoplehood and the cornerstone of the national home for Jews who were persecuted and scattered among the nations of the world.
- The threat to remove the law’s “grandchild clause”. This additional clause was only added in 1970, even though grandchildren had always had the right to citizenship. Despite the outrage to this proposition, Netanyahu has agreed to set up a committee to examine Israel’s policies in this area and specifically as it relates to grandchildren of Jews abroad.
- The policies related to Jewish identity, Jewish heritage and education are apparently the responsibility of several controversial ministers in the new government, with authorities, directorates and two separate departments for education. One for Jewish education and the other for Education. This looks like a recipe for confusion and territorial disputation between rival ministers.
These are but a few of the concerns being raised loudly in Israel and across the Diaspora. It is my hope that we as a Progressive/Reform Movement can speak with one global voice to influence the way forward while in unison with David Knoll strongly supporting Eretz Yisrael as the home for the Jewish People.
Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President