Yom Ha’Truah 5778 – A Call for Religious Action

By Rabbi Daniel Allen

Rosh Hashanah 5778 should be an opportunity for liberal Jewish services to be free and available across the length and breadth of Israel: from concert halls to beaches and from kibbutzim to the Knesset. Taking various forms, these Rosh Hashanah experiences and services should be made available to the people of Israel by a coalition of the Reform and Conservative/Masorti movements. Our goal should be to provide a thousand opportunities – reflecting to Israeli society what creating an inclusive Jewish community truly means.

Regardless of what the organized Jewish community including federations, the Jewish Agency and others choose to do on the political front with the Israeli government, what is really needed is an expression of love from the Diaspora to the Jews of Israel. This Rosh Hashana can and should be a start of a newly energized expression of that love.

We are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our might. Nowhere is it said that we are commanded to agree on how we choose to express these commands.

The actions of the Government of Israel regarding our wall and the conversion bill are acts of hate not love. They are acts of political ego that will harm Israel. The irony is that these actions are carried out, at least in part, by Jews who do not support Israel as a Jewish let alone a Zionist or democratic state.

To be successful this year, Yom Ha’Truah needs to be a grand coalition of all arms of the Reform and Conservative/Masorti movements. The people of Israel do not generally concern themselves with the distinctions which we make among ourselves within these movements nor should we at this turning point moment.

A serious effort in Israel will require serious funding. We need a United Jewish Appeal throughout our movements. The original UJA played a major role in the development of the State of Israel, it’s social welfare system, and the ingathering of the exiles in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel. Now it is time for the new United Jewish Appeal, sponsored by the liberal Jewish movements, to provide the funding for the spiritual security of the Jews of Israel and by extension our own.

Each year the Israeli government, with taxpayer money, spends literally millions of dollars on the support of exclusionary Judaism. Each year the Israeli government, with taxpayer money, denies the legitimate rights of the variety of Jewish religious expressions through the official rabbinate’s control of Jewish status issues.

Through our movements, and with the contributions from federations and the Jewish Agency for Israel, a valiant effort has been made to support the variety of Jewish religious expression in Israel. Alas, our efforts over the past 25 years in real dollar terms amount to less than one year of Israeli taxpayer money spent to support exclusionary Judaism where many of whose adherents deny the legitimacy of the state from which they receive support

I urge the leadership of our American Reform and Conservative/Masorti movements to launch a campaign to fund a massive effort for Yom Ha’truah 5778. We need you to act along these lines or similar ones quickly, decisively, and together. Do not put your faith in princes, governments or other organizations.

If we are not for ourselves no one else will be for us. It is time to present to the people of Israel, through our Israeli movements and supported by us, a massive demonstration of love for them and their ability for Jewish self-expression. It is time that Yom Truah will usher in a new year of liberal Jewish community building in Israel, a new year that will bring Israel closer to fulfilling the promise of its Declaration of Independence:

“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles….. it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture” for all its inhabitants.

Rabbi Daniel Allen is the Executive Vice Chairman Emeritus of the United Israel Appeal. He served as a Senior Vice President of the Jewish Federations of North America, CEO of the Masorti Foundation and the Association of Reform Zionists of America.