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Message From Greater Miami Jewish Federation President and CEO Jacob Solomon Regarding Recent Actions by the Government of Israel

June 27, 2017

I am writing today from Jerusalem, where I have been attending the Board of Governors Meetings of The Jewish Agency for Israel, one of the Federation system’s longtime overseas partners.

As you may have read, the Government of Israel made two unexpected decisions on Sunday, which – unless reversed or significantly modified – will have serious and negative implications regarding the nature of Israeli society in the future and its relationship with Diaspora Jewry. As a result of pressure from certain factions within the governing coalition, a decision was made to suspend the hard-fought compromise regarding the accessibility of the Kotel (Western Wall) to Reform and Conservative groups wishing to use the space for prayer. In addition, the Cabinet made the decision to allow a piece of legislation to advance, one which would have the effect of giving the Chief Rabbinate the exclusive right to control the conversion process in the State, a significant and troubling change from the status quo.

As a result of these decisions, The Jewish Agency leadership revamped the entire agenda of our meetings, focusing almost exclusively on determining the most effective means of encouraging the Government to reverse or amend its decisions. Remarkably, a resolution was passed unanimously (not a common occurrence at Jewish Agency meetings!). Multiple meetings also have already taken place with various elected officials – including the Prime Minister himself, and just this morning there was a memorable meeting with more than 25 Members of Knesset – members of the Lobby for Strengthening the Jewish World – in which MKs from both the coalition and the opposition voiced regret for the decision, understanding its importance to our work in the Diaspora. They pledged to work with us to find a constructive and satisfactory path forward on both issues.

I am gratified to report to you that all these meetings have been characterized by tremendous respect and complete civility, and the depth of engagement and dialogue is a positive sign for the future. That said, the struggle against the delegitimization of the religious identification of the overwhelming majority of American Jews requires both these kinds of short-term interventions as well as long-term strategies. The Jewish Federations of North America has been extremely active on the issue and is fully supportive of the position of The Jewish Agency, and especially of its Chairman, Natan Sharansky, who has provided moral authority and an influential voice in dealings with the Government and in representing the interests of the Jewish world – and especially the next generation of Diaspora Jews – to the Israeli public.

Below are downloadable PDFs, in English and Hebrew, of full-page ads published this morning by The Jewish Agency in six Israeli newspapers, including The Jerusalem Post. I also am sharing an update (below) sent to Federation executives from JFNA President and CEO Jerry Silverman about the Government of Israel’s actions on Sunday, June 25. I will update you on the situation as I have information to share.

Jacob Solomon
President and CEO
Greater Miami Jewish Federation

Jewish Agency Ad - English
Jewish Agency Ad - Hebrew

--- JFNA UPDATE ---

Dear Colleagues,

This afternoon we met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express our communities’ deep disappointment with two actions taken by the Government of Israel that threaten to undermine the special relationship between the State of Israel and world Jewry:

  • The Government’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a proposed law that threatens the status quo on conversion to Judaism and dramatically expands the authority of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.
  • The Government suspended its January 2016 historic decision to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel (Western Wall).

The Jewish Federations stand in full partnership with Keren HaYesod and the World Zionist Organization in support of the unanimous resolution approved by the Jewish Agency for Israel this morning. We strongly believe yesterday’s actions by the Government of Israel, suspending the Kotel resolution and introducing new conversion legislation, represent a severe threat to Jewish unity.

Jewish Federations have played a central role in combating previous efforts to pass harmful conversion legislation that would disenfranchise significant groups in Jewish communities around the world and in Israel. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky to negotiate a compromise on the Kotel, Jewish Federations were crucial partners in keeping all parties at the table through long years of negotiation.

Jewish Federations, together with our partners — The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren HaYesod, and the World Zionist Organization — have denounced these harmful actions. They threaten decades of work by our Federations to build and nurture the Jewish State, to settle millions of immigrants and refugees, and to inspire generations of youth to connect with Israel and the Jewish People.

At a time when the State of Israel looks to our communities as strategic partners in combating the delegitimization of the Jewish State, these Israeli Government actions complicate this task.

We will continue to keep you updated.

Sincerely,

Jerry Silverman
President and CEO
The Jewish Federations of North America

Articles and op-eds:

http://www.jpost.com/Diaspora/Jewish-Agency-cancels-Netanyahu-dinner-after-Western-Wall-decision-497932
http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.797855
http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.797842
http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/israel-diaspora-relations-on-a-dangerous-path/
http://jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain/220942/24-short-sober-comments-sudden-death-kotel-compromise/
http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Analysis-Another-move-in-the-Israeli-chess-game-of-religion-and-state-497962

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