A Response to the Israel Elections

Like any other election, no one is every going to be happy with the results. And the elections in Israel is challenging for us as American Jews because, while we want to have a stronger hand in what is happening in Israel, we are not registered to vote there. Yes, there is a way for our voices to be heard through the World Zionist Organization Elections happening now and coming to a conclusion April 30. Visit: https://www.reformjews4israel.org/ to Register and then vote “ARZA”

Trying to unpack everything from the election is challenging, however, here is an important statement from the Reform Movement.

We pray for peace and stability for Israel and for all the world.

Reform Movement Leaders React to the Elections in Israel

Today we join supporters of democracy around the world in marveling at the vibrancy of Israeli society and the openness of her electoral process. We stand ready to work with the Prime Minister, the leaders of the new government, and those in the opposition as well, to ensure that Israel remains strong and secure, and to advance the values of democracy, peace, and pluralism to which we are unshakably committed.

While nothing can displace our celebration of democracy, we do have deep concerns about the result and about some campaign tactics. We are concerned because yesterday’s triumph for democracy in Israel may have come at the expense of the Jewish and democratic values we hold dear.  
In a video message to his supporters yesterday noting that “Arab voters are coming out in droves,” Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to use demographics as a wedge that threatens voter engagement. No public figure should lament fellow citizens exercising their right to vote freely, expressing themselves openly, and peacefully in accordance with the values of a democracy.
We are concerned about the approach a new government may take to working with Israel’s Palestinian neighbors, and, especially with the Prime Minister’s 11th hour revocation of his professed support for a two state solution. When the Prime Minister says that if he is elected there “will not be a Palestinian state”, we are left to wonder what type of future he envisions. A non-democratic future in which a Jewish minority rules over a Palestinian majority? Or a non-Jewish future in which democracy is preserved, but, inevitably, the Jewish character of the state will disappear?
We recognize what a challenging moment this is, but we also know that a negotiated two-state solution remains the optimal way to resolve the conflict, the burden of which we must not let fall on future generations. 
We will work with all those who share our commitment to an Israel in which the government does not dictate religious practices and offers a pluralistic and open approach to religious expression. We urge the Prime Minister, that when he forms a new governing coalition, it be one that reflects openness and pluralistic values for all of Israel’s citizens, a coalition that will not reflect discrimination of one religious denomination over another, a coalition that will reflect the democratic and pluralistic values expressly stated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. 
Ironically, perhaps, one result of yesterday’s election is that our role as Diaspora Jews becomes even more important. There is significant work to be done in mending the bruised but still strong – and still critical – U.S./Israel partnership, and we are committed to finding creative and effective ways to be a bridge between the two governments. We encourage all of our members to exercise their democratic responsibility to influence and impact the Jewish State through voting in the elections for the World Zionist Congress – the Parliament of the Jewish People.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin casts his vote in March 17th elections.
(Image source: Israel Government Press Office).
As we continue to work to prevent a nuclear Iran, the Israeli government will need more than ever to focus on restored relations with the United States. The threat Iran poses to Israel, to American interests, and to global stability must remain at the top of our agenda.
We also recognize the work ahead of us in reaching out to those, especially younger Jews, who are more critical of Israeli politics, especially when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. They will be especially concerned about yesterday’s results, and we will work to educate them, to train them, and to support them as they develop what will surely be a distinctive and thoughtful pro-Israel sensibility.
We remain united in our commitment to Israel’s security, and to the values that can make her the “light unto nations” as we have prayed for generations.

American Conference of Cantors (ACC)
Cantor Mark Goldman, President
Rachel Roth, Managing Director
Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA)
Rabbi Josh Weinberg, President
Rabbi Bennett Miller, Chair
Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)
Rabbi Denise Eiger, President
Rabbi Steve Fox, Chief Executive Officer
NFTY: The Reform Jewish Youth Movement
Debbie Rebinoqitz, President
Michol Zimmerman Burkman, Director
Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ)
Blair Marks, President
Rabbi Marla Feldman, Director
World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) 
Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President
Mike Grabiner, Chair
Union for Reform Judaism (URJ)
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President
Steve Sacks, Chair of the Board of Trustees

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Everyone Can Be Brought to Torah

Every Jew has the right to be brought to Torah. Our children can be brought to Torah when they are 13. Some choose to wait till later in life. Some may not be given the opportunity when they are younger and choose to come to Torah later in life. But no matter when, every Jew has the right to be brought to Torah no matter one’s ability. It is all in one’s heart.IMG_2664

Moorea is one whose heart was so moved and whose parents wanted more than anything to bring their daughter to Torah. However, Moorea has semi-lobar holoprosencephaly, and no one ever thought it would be possible for her to become Bat Mitzvah. But when her parents, Evelyn and Andrew approached me asking if Moorea could become Bat Mitzvah and be brought to Torah, there was never any doubt, of course she can!

She does not have the ability to speak and her parents are two of the few who understand her. Her eyes sparkle when you sing to her and like any other teenager, she can get frustrated when something does not go her way. She needs 24/7 care and her parents are truly angels who love this beautiful gift God gave them unconditionally.

Family and friends gathered at Moorea’s home for a festive celebration. Many had no idea what to expect or even know what becoming Bat Mitzvah meant. But everyone knew that this was going to be a very significant moment for Moorea and her family.

Moorea spends much of her time confined to her wheel chair or bed. However, her parents invested in a “stander” that with the help of a sturdy structure and straps to keep her steady, Moorea can stand tall for about 30 minutes. After getting her dressed in a beautiful red dress for the occasion, setting the house for the celebration, and ensuring everyone was there, Moorea was secured into the stander and brought outside to the backyard. A sanctuary can be anywhere one seeks God.IMG_2675

Everyone ahh’d as Moorea came forward, we don’t get to see her standing very often. Her brother, Jules, also grinned from ear to ear and searched for the perfect vantage point to see what would happen next. Moorea’s grandmother presented Moorea with her tallit and wrapped it gently around her shoulders. Cantor Reinwald welcomed us all together in singing and together we entered a holy moment.

IMG_2699Moorea’s stander has a small table, just enough for me to balance the Torah so it could be right in front of her. Her parents held her arms and together they chanted the blessing on her behalf, Cantor chanted the portion and the entire honor of Aliyah l’Torah belonged to Moorea, we had just become her agents.

As Moorea stared down at the Torah you could see the look of IMG_2715amazement. She truly understood this moment. The look in her eyes was undeniable; she loved Torah. Her father spoke to her and she smiled widely feeling his loving blessing. Her mother spoke words of IMG_2720love and gratitude and a tear went down Moorea’s cheek. If anyone ever doubted if Moorea would understand the significance of this moment, it quickly dissipated as she soaked up each blessing and every moment.

We were all in the presence of God and witnessing one of God’s miracles, a young woman became a Bat Mitzvah and she blessed us.

Every Jew can be brought to Torah, Moorea taught us that, and I was blessed to be in that moment, a moment I will hold on to forever.IMG_2728