17 March 2023
Federation believes that Israel must be a democratic state for all of its citizens and, simultaneously, a homeland for the global Jewish people. We remain committed to continuing to strengthen Israel’s dual identities as democratic and Jewish.
As American Jews, we must also grapple with the knowledge that these core ideas are under threat in Israel. Some Israeli leaders now seek to elevate the rights of Jewish citizens over the rights of other Israeli citizens and reject that Israel must continue to engage the full scope of global Jewry.
It was amidst this backdrop and proposed judicial reform that I traveled to Israel this week with a delegation of North American Federation leaders to engage in dialogue with Israeli leaders across the political and religious spectrum, including President Isaac Herzog.
We sought to convey our core beliefs as representatives of American Jewry, emphasizing the need for Israel to strengthen both its democratic institutions and its role as a center for global Jewish peoplehood. The meetings surfaced varied answers to the current and evolving challenges and during each conversation, we worked to center our values and use our collective voice to articulate concern over the proposed changes.
Since my return from this whirlwind visit, I’ve continued to wrestle with the questions we as American Jews must continue to ask ourselves.
- What role can or should we play in furthering an Israel that reflect the full diversity of all its citizens?
- How might we work within our community and with Israelis so that we each see the other as core to our own identity and part of a larger Jewish people?
- How does Israel as the Jewish homeland reflect and represent the full breadth and depth of the global Jewish people and continue to serve as a core component of Jewish aspiration?
- What will be the impact on North American Jewry’s connection with Israel if its leaders diminish core democratic institutions and violate basic values?
Even as North American and Israeli Jews grow increasingly apart, our local Jewish community continues to come together to engage with Israel and Israelis and mark Israel’s 75th year of independence. As passionate stakeholders in Israel’s and Jewish Greater Washington’s collective future, it is imperative that we continue to pursue answers to these questions. This is a defining moment for the Jewish people, and our communal voice and leadership are essential. I look forward to continuing our work together as we rise to meet these evolving changes.
P.S. Our conversation continues this Sunday, March 19th at 9:00 AM ET. I invite you to join Federation and our partners, the Shalom Hartman Institute, on Zoom, for a keynote address on this pressing topic by Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute, live from Shared Destiny | Separate Paths: A Leadership Forum on American Jewry & Israel. Together, we’ll explore the forces driving this wedge, and consider why this is the moment to imagine a new grand narrative – a unifying meta-story – that redefines Jewish peoplehood. Register for the webinar here.