Rabbi Rick Jacobs Responds to Harsh Critique of Zionism

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the President of the Union for Reform Judaism, published a piece yesterday in response to “Zionism Unsettled,” a recent publication produced by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  “Zionism Unsettled” is a congregational study guide which asserts that the cause of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is the “pathology” of Zionism. Publication of the piece, which uses language befitting Israel’s harshest critics, has created a rift between Presbyterians and Jews in advance of the June conference of the Presbyterian Church at which the denominational body will vote on whether to divest from companies doing business with Israel.

Rabbi Jacobs’ piece addresses two issues discussed in “Zionism Unsettled”: the relationships of religious denominations and Israel and the relationship between different religious groups.

In response to the publication’s harsh narrative of the history of Israel and its inhabitants, Rabbi Jacobs wrote:

Love is at the core of the Jewish and Christian faiths. And for the love of God, we must address a looming rupture between us regarding Israel.

Let me be clear: Israel is not immune from criticism. On the contrary, we hold it to a godly standard of justice. We also firmly hold that our own people’s liberation, exemplified in Israel, should not come at the expense of the Palestinian people who deserve to live in freedom and dignity, in an independent state where they can thrive and escape the decades of war and animosity. We believe in a Palestinian state next to Israel, the nation state of the Jewish people and its citizens.

And in response to the importance of religious groups maintaining open lines of dialogue and cooperation and mutual respect with one another, Rabbi Jacobs said this:

My faith requires me to build a world of peace by following a threefold biblical commandment to love your God, to love your neighbor as yourself and to love the stranger. Judaism and Christianity are both built upon these divine commands, and they compel me toward relationships of love and respect with Palestinians and all God’s children.

As I, and the majority of my fellow Jews, extend ourselves to find a way to share that volatile corner of the Earth, I hope and pray that my Presbyterian friends will make sure that love and respect guide our relationship. There can be no place for “Zionism Unsettled” in a relationship of love and respect.

You can read the full text of Rabbi Jacobs’ piece here.

As a Reform Jew, I am inspired by Rabbi Jacobs’ words and by the Reform Jewish Movement’s commitment to Israel, the peace process and interfaith dialogue and partnership.

Be sure to check out the RAC’s issue page on Israel and our page on the Reform Movement Policy and Resolutions to learn about the Reform Jewish Movement’s support for Israel and the peace process.  Also be sure to take a look at the RAC’s issue page on interfaith affairs for more information about how the Reform Jewish Movement collaborates with other religions on a wide variety of issues.

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Deborah Goldberg

About Deborah Goldberg

Deborah Goldberg is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. She graduated in 2013 from Washington University in St. Louis and is originally from Deerfield, IL where she is a member of Congregation B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim.

One Response to “Rabbi Rick Jacobs Responds to Harsh Critique of Zionism”

  1. Rabbi Jacobs’ piece in the Washington Post is very nice, but it is also too defensive. Zionism, the recognition of the Jewish People’s historic connection to Eretz Yisrael, is a central theological tenet of nearly all strains of Judaism. So-called liberal or mainstream Christian denominations should not get away with neo-supercessionism by claiming that Jesus replaced the covenantal relationship between Jews and its homeland. Although we Reform Jews may not treat the Torah as literal word of God, we should and mostly do take seriously the “brit”/covenant first ordained with Abraham that establishes this connection with our homeland.

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