Ronald Lauder’s extraordinary Op-Ed, “Israel, This is Not Who We Are” that appeared in this week’s New York Times powerfully reflects core issues that the Masorti movement in Israel has been focusing on this summer. Our leadership salutes Lauder’s deep concern that a radical ultra-Orthodox minority in Israel is threatening to alienate millions of Jews worldwide. In his brilliantly written piece, Lauder sounds a much needed alarm that both the democratic and egalitarian dimensions of Israel are being tested to the limits.
With wisdom from his work as a prominent Jewish leader with impeccable credentials as a stalwart defender of Israel, Lauder rightfully points out that the Jewish homeland should reflect Judaism’s central place as the world’s moral compass – and right now it is headed in the wrong direction. He reminds us that the “Zionist movement has been unwavering democratic from the very start. Writ large upon its flag were liberty, equality and human rights for all.” Having been inspired by this vision, Lauder speaks for countless Jews around the world who love Israel when he sadly states, “So now, when Israel’s government appears to be tarnishing the sacred value of equality, many supporters feel it is turning its back on Jewish heritage, the Zionist ethos and the Israeli spirit.”
It is with the same passion to promote a pluralistic, liberal State of Israel that Sophie Fellman Rafalovitz, chair of the Masorti Movement in Israel, wrote her Op-Ed “Opposing Liberal Judaism in Israel Erases People Like Me”. In her piece, which appeared in The Forward this past Sunday, Sophie asks all Jewish people who value an open, inclusive Judaism to demand that the “frightening, fundamentalist direction that Israel is heading in” come to an end.
We must take the messages of Lauder and Rafalovitz to heart. Time is running short to ensure that Israel survives as a Jewish and democratic state that embraces a Judaism that bonds people together – not tears them apart. It is encouraging to see these two courageous Jewish leaders, one from the Diaspora and one from Israel, share a unified vision for Israel at a time when the ongoing positive relationship between Israel and Jews in the Diaspora is increasingly under threat.
Let’s be motivated by their example, and raise our voices through the synagogues and community agencies we support to hold Israel to its original and eternal aspirations as stated in Israel’s Declaration of Independence to always strive to fulfill its mission to be a Light Unto the Nations.
This is the first Masorti Foundation blog by Alan Grossman, who is the new Assistant Director of Development for the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel. Alan comes to the Foundation with extensive experience in the field of development/marketing on behalf of numerous Jewish communal organizations. He has directed major fundraising and communications initiatives that have driven greater philanthropic support and volunteerism for such agencies as the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University, the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey, and the Jewish Agency for Israel.