January 9, 2023
The Central Conference of American Rabbis is committed to the principles of democracy in North America, in Israel, and around the world. In addition to the free exercise of voting rights, those principles include the right, and even the responsibility, to hold democratically elected leaders to account. In that spirit, we join with our Israeli colleagues and millions of Israelis from north to south, who have significant concerns about the government coalition established in recent days by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The new Israeli government coalition, composed of the Likud Party as well as ultra-Orthodox and extremist parties, has been established by a coalition agreement that violates central values of Judaism—above all, K’lal Yisrael, the unity of the diverse Jewish community, both within Israel and worldwide; and ahavat ha-ger, loving the non-Israelite in our midst.
This new government threatens to attenuate the very democracy by which it was propelled into office. Vowing to leverage a majority vote in the Knesset to overturn any decision of the High Court of Justice, the coalition threatens minority rights that are central to any democracy. The rights of Israel’s women, ethnic and religious minorities, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and Reform and Conservative Jews are particularly at risk.
The coalition agreement places key government offices into the hands of extremists who support acts of terror against Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, who aim to undermine basic democratic principles, and who celebrate their own forms of hatred, including homophobia. Moreover, at the very moment that Ukrainian Jews and their families are seeking refuge in the Jewish State, the new government promises to limit the immigration rights of tremendous numbers of Jewish people who are not considered Jews by ultra-Orthodox rabbis. This violates the foundational value of the “ingathering of the exiles.”
Next month, Reform rabbis will gather in Israel in large numbers for the annual convention of our Central Conference of American Rabbis, held in Israel every seventh year. We will go to Israel to be in solidarity with our Israeli rabbinic colleagues and the communities they serve at their hour of deepest concern and this time of marginalization. We will go to Israel to more deeply understand the challenges facing the State of Israel, all of its citizens, and others who are subject to its rule. We will go to Israel to speak truth to powerful government leaders. We will go to Israel to express our solidarity with all Israelis who support democracy, who uphold K’lal Yisrael, and who love the stranger in our midst.
“For the sake of Zion, [we] will not be silent” (Isaiah 62:1).
Rabbi Lewis Kamrass, President
Rabbi Hara E. Person, Chief Executive
Central Conference of American Rabbis