JCRC, Minneapolis Jewish Federation, St. Paul Jewish Federation, and Rabbis of the Minnesota Rabbinical Association Statement on Recent Events in Israel

July 20, 2018

Minneapolis, MN – Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement on recent events in Israel:

“As we prepare for Tisha B’Av, which commemorates many of the major calamities that have befallen the Jewish people, it has not been an easy week to be an Israeli or an American Jew.

“In Israel’s south, the arson attacks from the Hamas regime that controls the Gaza Strip, which escalated last weekend into rocket attacks on synagogues and farming communities, continue unabated. While most of the world remains in complicit silence, our Jewish community stands in solidarity with Israelis and in support of the right of Israel to defend itself. Israelis, who more than anything want to live in peace, should know they are in our hearts and in our daily prayers.

“At the same time, recent events in Israel that also affect the future of the Jewish State have undermined pluralism in Israel and strained relations between Israel and the Diaspora. These events also require our collective voice.

“We were shocked and outraged by the treatment of Rabbi Dov Haiyun, a Conservative rabbi from Haifa, who was taken into police custody and questioned for nothing more than officiating weddings. Rabbi Haiyun has been marrying couples for years, including some who are unable to marry through the official government rabbinate because of its religious policies.

“We were also deeply disappointed by two recent bills passed through Israel’s Knesset. The surrogacy bill discriminates against Israel’s vibrant LGBTQ community by excluding single men and gay couples from legislation which expands eligibility for state-supported surrogacy to single women (Previously, state support was only given to married heterosexual couples).

“Similarly, the ‘Nation-State Bill’ needlessly increases barriers to the full inclusion of Israel’s Arab minority and contains patronizing provisions intended to inhibit the ability of the Diaspora Jewish Community to effectively promote religious pluralism within the Jewish State. We join the AJC and others in respectfully asking Israel’s government ‘to reaffirm the core principles and values that make up the very foundation of Israel’s vibrant and admired democracy.’

“As American Jews we know that it is both possible – even necessary sometimes – to love our own country and still be deeply concerned about the decisions of our American government. We also know that when confronted by such challenges, the answer is not despair but engagement. Therefore, we were encouraged that due to forceful advocacy both within Israel and the Diaspora, the most problematic portions of the ‘Nation-State Bill’ were removed.

“Similarly, through the Partnership2Gether initiative, we are building meaningful relationships between Minnesotans and Israelis living in Rehovot and the Sovev Kinneret. This platform of person to person connection empowers Americans and Israelis to better understand our commonalities and differences. The expectation is that while we won’t always agree, we can maintain mutual respect as Jews committed to strong Jewish communities in the Diaspora and in Israel, who are all part of one Jewish people.

“Collectively, our Jewish community is committed to doing its part to ensure that Israel forever remains a safe home for all Jews and an inclusive nation for all its citizens. This means educating the community and our fellow Americans about why and how Israel must defend itself. It also requires our standing up for the kind of pluralism and religious freedom in Israel that both ensures Israel upholds its commitments as a Jewish State and as a pluralistic, multi-ethnic democracy, and that Jews in the Diaspora maintain our connection to the people and State of Israel from generation to generation.”