The Reform Movement's Moment of Truth

Israel's existence is at stake, but Reform Judaism, relatively safe in the United States, continues its toxic messages on Israel and supports the Iran deal.

Dr. Moshe Dann

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Despite widespread opposition in the Jewish community to President Obama’s deal with Iran, a petition by 340 Reform/Reconstructionist “progressive rabbis” (and some from the Conservative Movement) supports the deal.

Although support for Obama’s deal by American Jews might be considered an expression of their primary loyalty, the response from Israeli Reform leaders is stunning. A survey which I conducted of two dozen Israeli Reform leaders regarding Obama’s deal and the supporting petition elicited only two responses.

Uri Regev, head of Hiddush and former executive director of the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center and President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism wrote: it’s “political;” “I don’t deal with it.”

Hiddush, an organization devoted to “religious freedom” in Israel was founded by Stanley Gold, head of Shamrock Holdings, an LA investment company which is owned by the Disney company. Gold, a board member of the Hebrew Union College and active in the LA Federation reportedly organized a petition of Hollywood personalities and others in support of Obama’s deal with Iran.

In 2012, Gold defended Abigail Disney’s statement on Ahava Dead Sea Products (a focus of the BDS campaign) in which Shamrock invested: ”I cannot in good conscience profit from what is technically the ‘plunder’ or ‘pillage’ of occupied natural resources and the (Ahava) company’s situating its factory in an Israeli settlement in the Occupied West Bank.”

Levi Weiman Kelman, head of Kol Haneshama congregation in Jerusalem wrote:

“I don't think the critics (of the deal) offer realistic alternatives; they only offer no deal. I believe that this deal is better than no deal.”

Although extremely disturbing, no one should be surprised by Reform/Reconstructionist support for Obama’s deal with Iran. It exposes a deep-seated antipathy for Israel and a disregard for the fate of Jews in Israel.

Organizations like the American Council for Judaism (ACJ) led by Reform “rabbis” Elmer Berger and Alfred Lilienthal opposed the establishment of a Jewish state and lobbied for a secular Palestinian state. After the state was established, the ACJ became a fringe anti-Zionist group within the Reform Movement, albeit with political clout, as described in Thomas Kolsky’s Jews Against Zionism (1992) and Jack Ross’s Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism (2011).

According to scholars, during World War II, Rabbi Stephen Wise, prominent leader of the Reform Movement and confidante of President Roosevelt urged Jews not to emphasize the slaughter of Jews in Europe. See: David Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews (1984) and his Blowing the Whistle on Genocide: Josiah E.DuBois, Jr and the Struggle for a U.S. Response to the Holocaust (2008).  

Their enemy is not Iran; it's Jews in black hats and knitted kippot, especially those who live in Judea and Samaria.
Reform Movement leaders supported the infamous Goldstone Report (later repudiated by its author) which condemned Israel for its response to Hamas terrorism in the Cast Lead war (2008-9). And they join condemnations of Israel for its ongoing war with Hamas and its "settlement policy." Their power is enhanced by alliances with political organizations and NGOs with a similar agenda.  

J Street, for example, absorbed Brit Tzedek v’Shalom’s chapters and its clergymen's wing, which claims membership of a thousand Reform/Reconstructionist and Conservative rabbinic leaders.

Led by Eric Yoffe and Rick Jacob, the Reform Movement, through its Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), Religious Action Center, and Union for Reform Judaism heads a network of organizations which are critical of Israel including Women of Reform Judaism, World Union for Progressive Judaism, Association of Reform Zionists in America (ARZA), Men of Reform Judaism, American Conference of Cantors, Association of Reform Jewish Educators, National Association of Temple Administrators, Progressive Association of Reform Jewish Day Schools, North American Federation of Temple Youth, etc.

The Union of Reform Judaism collects congregational dues through its Maintenance of Union Members (MUM) which gives the Hebrew Union College (HUC)-JIR a third of their budget and supports other Reform Movement activities including an unrelenting battle against Jews who live in communities over the “green line” (Armistice lines of 1949) – the “settlements.”

Active in many American Jewish organizations, like Truah, J Street, NIF, Hillel, and Federations as “rabbis” and communal leaders, they are influential. And their message regarding Israel is toxic: destroy the "settlements", “end the occupation” and establish an Palestinian Arab state.

Working through the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism they support, directly and indirectly,  pro-Palestinian organizations in Israel like Americans for Peace Now, the Israel Policy Forum, Yesh Gvul, End the Israeli Occupation, Yesh Din, Rabbis for Human Rights (an Israeli action group associated with the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem that works with pro-Palestinian groups fighting alongside Arabs and against Jews), and  Tayyush which attacks Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

They are critical of Israel, however, not only because of its policies -- self-defense and support for settlements -- but because Israel represents to them the power of observant Jews. Their enemy is not Iran; it's Jews in black hats and knitted kippot, especially those who live in Judea and Samaria, and, of course, PM Netanyahu.    

This explains why so many American Jews turn their back on Israel.

Having been indoctrinated by Reform/Reconstructionist/Renewal movements against Israel, it’s no wonder that some American Jews would support Obama’s potentially genocidal deal with Iran. Relatively safe, they can take chances. With Israel’s existence at stake, however, it’s difficult to understand why “progressive” Israelis also support that deal actively or passively.  


The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.