We have an unconditional familial relationship with Israel. From weekly prayers for the State of Israel, the Israeli Defense Forces (Tzahal), and for the release of Gilad Shalit, to the presence of Israel and American flags in our synagogues; from Israeli cultural programming to community pilgrimages, Israel is in our collective soul, and we have therefore had a very hard week.
As you may have heard, early yesterday morning, the UC Berkeley ASUC Student Senate passed a bill calling upon the UC Berkeley administration and the UC Regents to divest from companies due to their business relationship with the Israeli government. We must stand with and in support of our sister organization, Berkeley Hillel, who are working with student leaders to have this bill rescinded.The official Hillel statement can be found on the Berkeley Hillel website (pages.berkeleyhillel.org).
If you would like to help Berkeley Hillel respond to the Student Senate bill, please be in contact with UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau(firstname.lastname@example.org), University of California President Mark G. Yudof (email@example.com), and the Associated Students of the University of California elected representatives of the UC Berkeley student body (bit.ly/auu3mz).
This awful bill comes in the aftermath of two other problematic events in Israel that have galvanized a fiery diaspora response.
One was the "Rotem Bill", introduced in the Israeli Knesset which proposed that anyone converting to Judaism in Israel would not be automatically eligible for citizenship through the Law of Return. This provision would also be applied retroactively, stripping any converts of their citizenship.Read the Forward's account of the impact American Jewry had on the bill's being stopped. (An analysis of the proposed bill by Masorti Rabbi Reuven Hammer is here: bit.ly/9ULaWD.)
The other traumatic event occurred Tuesday morning, when Women of the Wall gathered in the women's section of the Kotel for their monthly davening.This time, a few Charedi men threw chairs over the mechitza (divider) at the women's group.And, for me, this time was even more awful.As can be seen on the YouTube video of it happening, my sister was in that group that morning.They are all physically fine.Our people's soul is not fine. Mine is not either.
Of course, we've also been paying close attention to the recent tensions that arose when Vice President Biden visited Israel, only to be confronted with an Israeli decision to build in Ramat Shlomo, a contested area close to Jerusalem.As an email from Seymour Kessler, cochair of Bridges to Israel-Berkeley, put it this week: "Whether or not you are a J-Streetnik, AIPACer or neither, you need to be aware that the discourse in U.S.-Israel relations has hit a disturbingly new low."There are important steps Israel must take, with the American Jewish community's needed support and critique, to strengthen itself in the community of nations and in the global Jewish community.
Chevreh, I write you this extended email in the hopes that you will be at least as engaged as you have been.We are a large community with many strong opinions about everything.But the framework for this particular conversation is that we labor for the body and the soul of Israel. Groups must begin to form and work to help create support networks to strengthen the Masorti (Conservative) Movement, which is dedicated to pluralism and progressive social politics.
Our family needs us.May we all feel the need to respond so that tomorrow we can transform hatred and mistrust into Ahavat Chinam, free-flowing love. May Israel, her neighbors, and the world know peace one day soon.