We Know, We Know14 November 2013
"We who are active in the American Jewish community know that the conversation has moved on from ‘Israel-right-or-wrong’ to asking a deeper question: How can we help our Israeli cousins build an Israel that is right?"
We mourn. We don't avenge.02 July 2014
There are many Israelis working toward a vision of an Israel in which every voice and every life is respected. They need our support now.
We Must Not Be Silenced by Spin12 February 2014
Rachel Liel responds to recent campaigns designed to intimidate progressive voices in Israel.
We Will Not Be Deterred29 April 2014
It seems silly at first. 100 men and women are planning to blow shofars outside the UJA-Federation office in New York this evening. They're calling on the UJA to exclude NIF, Partners for a Progressive Israel, and B’Tselem from New York's Celebrate Israel Parade based on the phony charge that we support the global BDS movement.
We Won the Battle...06 April 2011
But the war for democratic values in Israel will go on.
Yesterday, the leadership of the Kadima party decided not to support a proposed Committee of Parliamentary Inquiry into the New Israel Fund and the human rights organizations it supports. The proposed inquiry, initiated by a Kadima MK, was in response to a vicious campaign launched against NIF two weeks ago by a new right-wing group, attempting to blame Israel’s human rights community for the Goldstone report on Gaza. The immediate threat of a Knesset inquiry has abated for now.
Because of the outcry of thousands of people of conscience like you, and hundreds of Israeli and American Jewish leaders, journalists, academics and activists across the political spectrum, extremists in the Knesset will not at this time hold NIF and democratic values hostage to a frightening ideological agenda. But those in Israel and elsewhere who equate the work of human rights groups, the monitoring, reporting and self-examination so critical to the functioning of a democracy, with treason will not stop their efforts to shut us up and shut us down.
So we, too, cannot stop fighting.
The New Israel Fund has never invested resources in “building its brand” or PR for the sake of PR. Every dollar we raise that is not spent on basic operations goes towards building a better Israel, in direct or indirect investments in grassroots social change. But the days of being the strong, silent type are over.
In the coming days and weeks, we will work with you, our friends and supporters, and with the organizations we support in Israel to take a positive stand on behalf of human rights and social justice. In Israel and in the U.S., in Canada and the UK, we will take every step to emphasize the vision of Israel founders, the Jewish and universal values that must underlie a democratic state, and the real reasons that Israel can refer to itself as the “only democracy in the Middle East.”
Please, continue and increase your support. Be ready to contact the Prime Minister and Ambassador Oren. Involve your friends and families, your temples, youth groups and other progressive organizations. If ever there was a time to take a stand for the Israel we can be proud of, that time is now.
Your help last week made a huge difference. Stand by to speak out again.
Chief Executive Officer
We're Fighting for the Soul of Our Community09 August 2011
The Washington Post published this weekend two articles related to Israel that, at first glance, may appear unrelated, but are as good as an example as I have seen of late of the disconnect between Israel and the American Jewish community.
On Sunday, the Post ran "Israelis stage massive economic protests," which details the strength of the public voice of debate and dissent in Israel. Though opposition opinion has sadly been under siege of late in Israel, there nevertheless remains a culture in Israel that promotes and respects the airing of differing views. In the picture that accompanies the story, one can see an Arabic language sign, indicating the willingness and ability of Israeli Arabs to participate in these protests. Not only does this provide a remarkable juxtaposition with protests throughout the Arab world, but it also reminded me of an article from the previous day.
In Saturday's "Theater J incident illustrates larger dialogue on Israel at Jewish institutions," the Post demonstrated how the vibrant protests and debate underway in Israel are simply not possible in the American Jewish community. Although Israelis were debating economic policy, rather than settlements, such political protests are also commonplace in Israel. Yet in the American Jewish community, we no longer seem able to practice our Jewish religious (and artistic) heritage, which is rooted in honest debate and disagreement -- indeed, the Hebrew word for "struggle" is at the core of the Hebrew word "Yisrael."
Theater J's Director, Ari Roth, summed this issue up best in the Saturday article when he said, "Look at what we’re doing: We’re fighting for the soul of our community. We are enacting dramas, and the subject is the embattled soul of the Jewish people. It’s a community and a people that are split and torn, and we sit on the seams of that divide and we need to reflect that schism: that person who looks deeply at himself, and is divided." That is the essence of the word "struggle," the core of what the community should be celebrating, not censoring.
Sadly, it would appear that those who have pushed to marginalize the Peace Cafe and other brave efforts byTheater J have abandoned both the teachings of their culture and the lessons being taught by Jews and Arabs in Israel: if you believe that what you stand for is just, you should not be afraid to defend it against those who disagree. Perhaps this indeed is the best evidence of all that the settlements and related policies put under the microscope by Theater J are simply indefensible.
What full partnership in Judaism means in Israel24 October 2013
By Ilan Chaim, October 2013
The goal of furthering women's rights in the secular realm is not the same goal as women becoming full partners in modern Judaism. Eliminating various glass ceilings and ensuring equal pay for equal work is attainable through legislation. But for a woman to become a full partner in the modern Judaism of Israel means only one thing: she must belong to an egalitarian form of Judaism. Only by strengthening Israel's Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist communities will truly modern Judaism ever evolve in Israel.
Ilan Chaim is a former chief copy editor of The Jerusalem Post and information consultant to Israel's Foreign Ministry. He belongs to egalitarian congregation Mevakshei Derech in Jerusalem.
What My Rabbi Taught Me23 October 2013
By Naomi Rivkis, October 2013
When I think about equality in Judaism, the rabbi who comes to my mind first was male. His name was Arnold Jacob Wolf, and I'm told now that he was famous. All I knew was that he was my rabbi, my teacher; the person whom I turned to for advice and inspiration.
One of Rabbi Wolf's biggest themes was that Jews cannot stand idly by in the face of bigotry and injustice. Not among gentiles, and certainly not among our own people. He publicly upbraided other rabbis in the 1960s, suggesting that the place where they belonged was not at a rabbinical conference eating bagels and discussing Halakha, but out in the streets of Birmingham, helping to fight for racial equality in the United States. Because that's where the need was. Because he believed the place for every Jew was where the need was.
I never spoke with Rabbi Wolf about the Women of the Wall, but I don't have to in order to know what he would have thought. For they are standing in the place he wanted us to be -- on the front lines of the fight for equality. I honor them because he would have honored them, and I will do everything I can to support their cause, and the overall effort for gender equality in Israel. Because Rabbi Wolf would want me to; because he taught me to. Because Jews cannot stand idly by in the face of bigotry and injustice.
Naomi Rivkis is a licensed massage practitioner in Seattle, Washington. She attended college at the University of Chicago, and was fortunate enough to encounter Rabbi Wolf there. For ten years she attended his synagogue, KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation, in Hyde Park. She is now a member of Congregation Beth Shalom in Seattle.