Rabbi Jacobs Goes to Jerusalem
Last week, I was proud to welcome to Israel our partner from the URJ, Rabbi Rick Jacobs. We visited the Knesset together and we had formal meetings with nineteen Knesset Members from both the left and the right. Rick expressed the URJ’s love and commitment to Israel. It was an opportunity for Knesset members to speak to the current leader of the American Reform movement. It seemed like they had been waiting for this opportunity for years!
They were fascinated by Rick’s message about Judaism. They asked him rabbinic questions: about Kashrut and prayer, about same-sex marriage and Jewish education. MKs spoke about their concern for the Jewish identity of their children and grandchildren. They were looking for advice from a leader of the American Reform movement on how to nourish Jewish identity in Israel like in North America.
The atmosphere was collegial and welcoming. Rabbi Jacobs brought our movement’s commitment to justice to every conversation. He spoke about Israel’s vision, and about our Jewish values. He spoke against gender segregation and for women’s rights. He spoke about the Kotel and about freedom of marriage and divorce in Israel. He voiced his concern about the rise of racism in Israel and called for pluralistic, egalitarian education.
I was glad members of Knesset could hear directly from a Rabbi of Rick’s stature about problems Reform Jews face regarding their status in the Jewish state. When Rabbi Jacobs told them about a girl he converted as a child who was not treated equally in Israel, even though she had been Jewish her whole life, I could see how moved the MKs were.
Normally, Israeli lawmakers defend the Orthodox monopoly on Jewish life, but the level of respect and rabbinic dignity they saw in Rabbi Rick Jacobs gave them pause.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs and the Union for Reform Judaism are partners we can always count on. From the Kotel to the segregated buses to the Knesset itself, they have stood with us and will continue to do so until pluralism can finally flourish in Israel.