Jun 30, 2017
In Support of Jewish Unity – in Israel and the Diaspora
Through triumphs and tragedies over the millennia, we have learned that the security and the well-being of Israel and our Jewish people rest on Klal Yisrael, our shared commitment to each other across differences of geography, culture and observance.
Israel has always been defined as the homeland of all the Jewish people, with strong ties and responsibilities far beyond its own borders and citizens. Created not only as a Jewish state, Israel was founded in the spirit of securing Jewish identity and peoplehood—and these aspects are no less critical today.
Therefore, as leaders of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, we were dismayed by this week’s stunning pair of decisions by the Israeli Prime Minister and his cabinet. Reversing hard-fought, broad-based compromises, these decisions threatened the unity of the Jewish people and Israel-Diaspora relations.
First, the government advanced a bill to codify sole authority over conversions to the Chief Rabbinate. We were pleased to learn of the Prime Minister’s announcement today that the controversial conversion bill will be frozen for six months.
Second was their suspension of the historic “One Wall for One People” Kotel Agreement, painstakingly negotiated over several years, to enable egalitarian prayer on an equal basis in a separate area of the Western Wall. The Kotel has called to us for thousands of years, and was returned to us in a moment of unprecedented Jewish unity fifty years ago. Those whose courage and sacrifices made that possible represented a diversity of our people. They included many who had hopes for access to pray at the Wall according to their Jewish beliefs and practices.
In our community, we know that Jewish unity does not require uniformity. We have seen how we are stronger when we speak openly and respectfully, continuing to engage with each other while honoring our varied Jewish paths. We know that while we may observe differently, we are all devoted Jews, proud of our heritage and proud of our homeland. That pride and our support are unwavering.
We urge the Israeli government to uphold the cohesion of Jewish peoplehood by restoring the landmark agreement of “One Wall for One People.” We hope the six month pause regarding the conversion bill will give the government time to reconsider. And we urge all who care about our homeland and our people to raise their voices for the unity that sustains us.
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom,