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Israel & Zionism: A Contemporary Challenge

Where Next?

With the recent restructuring of the Reconstructionist movement comes a renewed commitment to providing a clear voice on issues regarding our collective relationship to Zionism and to the Jewish State.  In 2004, the movement’s Israel Policies Task Force produced a superb and comprehensive report. This 53-page document, available as a PDF here, emerged from a movement-wide process that solicited thoughtful input from Reconstructionists across the country. A dedicated committee of rabbis and lay people developed the positions and proposals laid out in the report. Unfortunately, the Task Force’s proposals were never implemented, and the report languished.  Our revived Israel Task Force will be using the 2004 report as our foundation for moving forward. While much has changed over the past decade, most of the earlier report’s framework and recommendations are still compelling and sound.

While the new Task Force is still in formation, and it will not be officially in gear for several months, the broad direction of our work is clear:

  • We will stand publicly for the more than century-old vision of liberal Zionism: a state of Israel that is a vibrant and powerful center for the Jewish people and a state that holds at its core the ideals of justice and equality for all of its citizens.
  • We will advocate for those in Israeli politics and society who know that it is untenable to continue to rule over a Palestinian population that has no right to vote and no control over their own collective future, however remote and unclear a solution to that dilemma might be.
  • We will build relationships with some specific organizations in Israel that are developing indigenous, creative and new expressions of and approaches to Jewish life – Israeli Reconstructionists, if you will. Our Israel Gateways project has already begun this work.
  • We will remind American Jews and all others that Israel operates in a wildly volatile and dangerous region, that anti-Semitism is a real and vicious threat, and we encourage our constituents to take thoughtful and well-informed positions.
  • We will oppose those who presume that Israel, unique among the nations, needs some special justification in order to exist.
  • We will model respectful public discourse, despite the all-too-common human impulse to shout down and berate people with whom we disagree. Following our Reconstructionist principles, dissent will be welcome. We do not expect, let alone require, consensus.

Reconstructionism has a well-documented and consistent identity in support of a vibrant and revived center of Jewish life in our ancient homeland, a center that works to manifest the highest ideals of justice that our tradition champions. The Israel Task Force will be speaking for that Zionist vision. We reserve the right to criticize the government of Israel when it does not uphold the clear mandate of equal treatment for all of its citizens as expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, just as we will fiercely defend Israel against the forces arrayed to delegitimize or destroy it.

While our movement is small in numbers, the size of its influence on Jewish thought has been considerable. Now too, we have the opportunity to speak in a uniquely clear and compelling voice that can cut through the current cacophony of overheated rhetoric and simplistic analysis.  

We approach our task humbly, hoping to contribute to Israel’s well being and to strengthen our bonds to Israel. It is our responsibility to speak up for the vision of Israel that we hold dear, and it is our labor of love to build and nurture life-giving connections between our communities here in North America and like-minded communities in Israel. We welcome your input as we pursue these goals.

Rabbi Jonathan Kligler (Chair, Israel Task Force)

Adina Newberg, Ph.D. (Director, Israel Engagement)

 

Israel Task Force
Rabbi Jonathan Kligler chairs the Israel Task force. He served as the spiritual leader of Kehillat Lev Shalem in Woodstock, New York for 26 years. He now serves as the Senior Scholar of the Lev Shalem Institute. Adina Newberg, Ph.D. is director for Israel Engagement of RRC and the Jewish Reconstructionist Communities. She has taught Hebrew at RRC and the University of Pennsylvania, and has served as an organizational consultant for religious and nonprofit organizations. In her current position, she serves as the channel for involvement with progressive Israeli Judaism in general, as well as the new Israeli-Jewish renaissance.

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