US Reform movement vows deeper connection to Israel

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) announced plans to boost Israel education with a “broad set of strategic initiatives.” 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) vowed to strengthen its connection to Israel with a “broad set of strategic initiatives,” the group announced Tuesday in a statement.

“Now, more than ever, it’s time for us to redouble our commitment to Israel and bring North American Jews and Israelis closer together,” Rabbi Rick Jacobs, URJ’s president, said.

One of the initiatives will be greater support for the Reform Movement’s arm in Israel in order to encourage its growth and ability to advocate for recognition in the Jewish State.

The Reform Movement has faced challenges for acceptance in Israel where the Orthodox stream of Judaism exercises significant political and religious influence. Much of the conflict in recent years has centered around the issue of egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, where the Reform Movement has fought to create a space for men and women to pray together at the area abutting Judaism’s holiest site.

Political issues, too, divide the Reform Movement from Israel’s government. Rabbi Jacobs, who served on the Board of Directors of J Street, a left-wing U.S. group calling for a Palestinian state, has publicly quarreled with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling on him to resign.

Despite the differences, the URJ in June officially adopted the Jerusalem Program, the official policy platform of the World Zionist Congress, explicitly identifying itself with the Zionist movement. It was the first religious organization to adopt the program.