Knesset Members stand up in solidarity with Reform Jews
Charedi Member of the Knesset Israel Eichler’s comparison on Feb. 23 of Reform Jews to mentally ill patients diminishes not only Reform Judaism, but all who suffer mental illness and who struggle with disabilities of all kinds.
The best response is to quote from the Knesset members representing different political parties who, one day after Eichler’s remarks, addressed 330 Reform Rabbis representing 1.7 million Jews worldwide at a special meeting of the Israeli-Diaspora Knesset Committee.
Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union and leader of the opposition): “I congratulate all of you for the recent decisions on the Kotel to create an egalitarian and pluralistic prayer space and the Supreme Court decision giving rights to Reform and Conservative converts to use state-sponsored mikvaot. The decisions of the Israeli government and the High Court of Justice are not acts of kindness. They are based in Jewish responsibility and democratic principles, which is what the state of Israel is meant to advocate. Religion in the state cannot be monopolized by the ultra-Orthodox. You in the Reform movement are our partners and will always be our partners.”
Tamar Zandberg (Meretz): “Those who are a provocation are those who prevent religious freedom, not those who demand it!”
Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union): “There is an excitement today because you Reform rabbis have come to the Knesset. Judaism is about values, about being inclusive and not being closed by hatred. We are one Jewish world family. Every Jew must be made to feel at home in the state of Israel because Israel belongs to the entire Jewish people.”
Amir Ohana (Likud): “A Jewish state should not be halachic. We cannot do to others what has been done to us. We should not slander each other. We need more respectful discussion. Israel is the home for all the Jewish people.”
Rachel Azaria (Kulanu): “Every day, all the tribes of Israel awake each morning hoping that another will disappear; but no one will disappear. We’re all here. Our task is to create a country where everyone has a place around the table.”
Dov Khenin (Joint List): “One of the great struggles in the State of Israel today is the struggle for democracy, which is under serious threat. We need to stop the censorship, which is contrary to the foundations of the state.”
Michal Biran (Labor): “We are partners. We share the same Jewish and Zionist values. Our democracy must fight against racism, discrimination and bigotry.”
Nachman Shai (Labor): “The Charedi MKs don’t understand democracy.”
Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union): “Judaism isn’t just for people dressed in black. People who call you names don’t understand Judaism or democracy. You are partners in our struggle.”
Michael Oren (Kulanu): “Zionism is faith in the nation state of the Jewish people. We are committed to implementing the government’s agreement at the Kotel.”
Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union): “As the only Arab MK in a Zionist party, I want to say that you [Jews] deserve a nation state and the Palestinians, too, deserve a state. How is it possible that Jews can recognize that they suffer and that the Palestinians do not? I cannot deny the pain of a Jewish mother or the pain of a Palestinian mother. Do not overlook the universal values we share.”
Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid): “Jewish pluralism means that there are various ways to explore our souls and to be on the journey of being a Jew. We are part of you and we bless you.”
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, president of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, made an important point in telling the story of the funeral of Richard Lakin, who was killed in a knife attack by a Palestinian terrorist. Kariv officiated at the funeral in a Charedi cemetery. Though Lakin was a Reform Jew and a member of Kol Haneshama synagogue in Jerusalem, he was lowered into the grave by Charedi Jews.
This is an example of what ought to be the relationship between our different streams, not the sort articulated by Eichler, a member of United Torah Judaism.
We concluded the meeting by rising with the Knesset members to sing “Hatikvah,” a moment I will never forget.
Rabbi John Rosove is the senior rabbi at Temple Israel of Hollywood.