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ARZA Condemns Vandalism and Incitement against Kehilat Ra'anan and Reform Jewish Leaders

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Rabbi Neal Gold

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For the sake of Zion I will not be silent,
For the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still.
(Isaiah 62:1)

The Association of Reform Zionists of America condemns the shocking act of hate and violence against Kehilat Ra’anan in Ra’anana on Thursday. We send our loving support to all our friends in the Reform community there, and we call upon the police to swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice. We demand that all of Israel’s leaders condemn the climate of incitement that makes an act like this possible.

 

As many of us prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family, we are staggered by the bloodthirstiness and severity of the vandalism and death threats against the leaders of the Reform movement: Rabbi Gilad Kariv, President & CEO of the Israeli Reform movement; Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center; and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism. These intolerable threats—couched in the language of scripture and Jewish tradition—must be condemned and disavowed from every sector.

 

We have no doubt that the environment of hateful provocation that has been allowed to fester in Israel has brought us to this moment. As Reform Judaism continues to make inroads in Israeli life—including the government’s promise of egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall—radical rabbis and extremist politicians have labeled non-Orthodox Jews heretics, animals, abominations, and worse. Our history teaches us that the rhetoric of hate inevitably spills over into violent acts, as the citizens of Ra’anana can bear witness this morning.

 

ARZA has launched an immediate campaign to purchase and install security cameras for Kehilat Ra’anan. A synagogue—including a kindergarten for children, a sanctuary for prayer, and a gathering-space for acts of kindness—should be a space of safety and security for everyone who enters its domain. The safety of these Jewish worshippers in the Jewish state must be assured.

 

Furthermore, we remain more committed than ever to being the antithesis of the intolerance and hatred that all too often has the imprimatur of religious authority in Israel. We call upon every responsible leader in Israel to condemn incitement before, God forbid, Jewish blood is shed.

 

The Talmud teaches that two thousand years ago, the Temple was destroyed because of unchecked hatred among Jews (Yoma 9b) and because of zealotry run rampant (Gittin 56a). Today’s zealots threaten the Jewish people as a whole, as we see in Ra’anana. We pray that our people will heed these lessons from our tradition.

 

On a day when Americans sit down to Thanksgiving meals with hearts of gratitude, it is heartwrenching to consider this act of Jew-against-Jew hate. But we remain grateful for the flourishing expressions of Reform Judaism and religious pluralism in Israel, which the forces of hate and intolerance cannot stop. We are grateful for the progress we have already made and for the vision of a Jewish future that is inclusive, pluralistic, and welcoming for all.