JCRC Shares Collective Frustration over Israeli Government Actions

Our community must remain committed to engaging with our Israeli partners in order to secure mutual respect and understanding

June 28, 2017

Minneapolis, MN – Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement. The Minnesota Rabbinical Association joins in the statement of the JCRC:

“The JCRC is dismayed and disappointed in the Israeli government’s recent decision to renege on its agreement to establish a permanent egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel (the Western Wall).

“This historic January 2016 agreement between the Diaspora community, led by the Jewish Agency for Israel, Jewish Federations of North America, Women of the Wall, the Reform and Conservative movements, and members of the Israeli government, including the ultra-Orthodox authorities that control the holy site, should be honored and implemented to its full extent, as the Israeli High Court has instructed the government to do.

“Additionally, the government’s support of legislation that requires Israel to solely recognize conversions conducted under the supervision of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate is deeply troubling, as it further monopolizes a single perspective on religious matters in Israel. If enacted into law, hundreds of thousands of Diaspora Jews could be barred from emigrating to Israel, marrying in Israel, stripping them of legal recognition as members of the Jewish people in their historic homeland.

“We join our colleagues in communities across the Diaspora in calling on the government of Israel to promptly restore and implement the Kotel agreement and reverse its position on the harmful conversion bill, thus affirming the value of Jewish unity and the promise of Israel as a Jewish state for all of the Jewish people.

“The JCRC is proud of its efforts to build bridges between our Jewish communities here in the United States and our partners in Israel, especially through our annual State Legislator Trips to Israel and our participation in the Partnership2Gether (P2G) initiative, which fosters meaningful connections between Minneapolis and Rehovot, as well as St. Paul and the Sovev Kinneret. We echo the sentiment expressed in a letter from the Israeli and Diaspora Chairs of the P2G and welcome their affirmation of support:

‘We are gravely concerned that both of Sunday’s government decisions are liable to cause significant, long-term damage to Israel-Diaspora relations and should thus be reversed. In short, working against everything that we in P2G strive to achieve on behalf of the Jewish people.

‘We are gravely concerned that there is a strong sense among many Diaspora Jews that their modes of religious practice are not recognized by the country’s establishment is a source of growing anger and frustration, leading to alienation, particularly among the younger generation, and a reduction of the support of Israel. As a result of these steps, we are concerned that Israel will be weakened without the support and advocacy on its behalf from world Jewry.’

“Our communities are stronger because of these bonds. Our shared goal of religious pluralism and mutual respect between Israelis and American Jews can only be realized through continued engagement.

“In 1968, the Cowles Education Corporation (a media holding company with a strong Minnesota connection) and United Press International co-published a special edition magazine for Israel’s 20th birthday, Israel Comes of Age (The photograph at the top of the page accompanied the article). It contained an article titled ‘A Divided City United: Jerusalem.’ We must continue to press for the premise and promise of the article. As we celebrate 50 years of the unification of Jerusalem, we recall that our people have prayed for centuries for the return to Zion and Jerusalem. Now that we have returned, we stress the importance of religious pluralism, so that all prayers may be heard and answered at our holiest site in our historic homeland.”

As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.