Can liberal US Jews be more patronizing?

Last week I wrote a message for American Jews on the occasion of Yom Hashoah. Now I have another one. It’s this: Can your leaders get any more patronizing?

Here’s the latest from Rabbi Eric Yoffie, former President of the Union for Reform Judaism:

Nonetheless, I have real concerns about Israel’s future. I am concerned about the growing rift between the U.S. and Israel, as well as the likely return of the ultra-Orthodox parties to Israel’s governing coalition. I am concerned about settlement expansion beyond the green line and the fact that liberal Jews cannot be married by Reform rabbis in Israel or pray according to Reform custom at the Western Wall. Souls that for 2000 years have longed for Zion and Jerusalem must not be denied the right see Israel’s holy places as their own. And the Torah, the spiritual legacy of the entire Jewish people, should never become an instrument of coercion, discrimination, or political fanaticism.

Still, as real as these problems are, when it comes to Israel, I remain filled with hope. Israel is a good country in a bad neighborhood where most people, most of the time, care about justice and work for peace.  And our Reform Movement in Israel is Israel at its best. It offers us a glimpse of what Israel is capable of and how we, as Reform Jews, can transform Israel’s reality.

Rabbi Yoffie, it’s 2015, not 1990. There isn’t going to be a “2-state solution,” there is no partner now or in the near (or not so near) future, the Gaza precedent makes it impossible, and the geopolitical situation in the neighborhood is atrocious — in the most literal sense of the word — and getting worse. Did you not notice this?

The “settlement expansion” that people are concerned with here is the explosion of European-financed Arab building that is going on in Area C, the part of the territories that is supposed to be under full Israeli control. Unlike the building within existing settlement blocs and Jewish neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem, this really is illegal.

The fact that liberal Jews can’t be married by Reform rabbis in Israel is unfair, and the Orthodox authorities that control the Western Wall do give women a hard time when they try to do various things that offend them. I don’t entirely disagree, but this is issue no. 749,563,721 on the list of priorities for 90% of Israelis. They are more concerned with Hizballah’s missile launchers, the imminent Iranian bomb, and the fact that the Russians are supplying Iran with an advanced air defense system to endanger the Israeli pilots who will now have to bomb Iran because the American President has decided that it is entirely acceptable for the crazy mullahs to have nuclear weapons.

They are also concerned with Arabs who run people down at bus stops, stab them in the street, throw rocks at them from moving cars, throw firebombs at them, and so on. I guess these are not the ones that care about justice and work for peace.

And then there is the danger that the Haredi parties will be in the coalition. I too would prefer that they not be. But if the alternative is a unity government with people who think that the national anthem is “racist” and that it’s OK to refuse to serve in the military because of ‘the occupation’, well, then it’s not that simple.

So you want to “transform Israel’s reality?” Liberal Jews, with the support and encouragement of the Obama Administration, tried to do that in the recent election by financing anti-Netanyahu activists. It didn’t work, but there is another way.

The URJ could encourage its members to make aliyah. Then they could do truly transformative things like serving in the army and voting here. They could even learn Hebrew so they wouldn’t be stuck in 1990. Meanwhile, do you realize how offensive your patronizing tone is?


I do agree with Rabbi Yoffie that the relationship with the US needs to be repaired. I suggest that he talk to his President, the one that the overwhelming majority of Reform Jews still support, about that.

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3 Responses to Can liberal US Jews be more patronizing?

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    This is a justified corrective for an American Jewish leader who just does not have his priorities right. All the minor injustices he would make major pale before the threats to our survival.
    I would also wish that American Jewish liberals had more guts in taking on the various boycotters and demonizers of Israel from the Left.
    PS A gap has apparently opened between many from the Left who live in Israel and those outside. Even people like David Grossman understand that the Iranian nuclear threat is real, and that President Obama is endangering Israel in his pushing for the phony agreement with Iran.

  2. You are right about the rational Left and Iran. Ari Shavit, for example, is another one. And sometimes it’s hard to tell Buji from Bibi on this subject.

    Of course the irrational Left is still hoping for an Iranian bomb, because it would Serve Us Right.

  3. Stuart Kaufman says:

    I disagree with this column in one major regard. You call the Reform movement “Jewish,” and you give Yoffie unearned respect by calling him “Rabbi.” The Reform movement should have no greater standing in Israel than any other non-Jewish sect. As to Yoffie’s political views… screw him!

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