Adrian Shanker and Matt Adler today delivered a letter with the signatures of 48 high school and college leaders to the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). While gratefully acknowledging the UN-brokered ceasefire, the letter urges the URJ leadership to officially declare its support for a sustained bilateral ceasefire and peace negotiations in the Middle East. The letter decries the killing of over 700 civilians, both Arab and Israeli, during this latest round of fighting. While the students applaud the URJ for condemning Hezbollah, they take the Union to task for not addressing the young leaders’ concerns about Israel’s response. As Reform Jews, the students value the diversity of opinion within the movement, but feel that their pro-peace viewpoint has been excluded.
The letter began as an idea of Matt Adler, the Kesher Liaison to Washington University in St. Louis. Adler believes that “[w]e have a responsibility to speak out when we see injustice- be it Hezbollah firing rockets at Israeli civilians, or the IDF killing Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. People’s lives are not acceptable targets.”
Adler partnered with another college student, Adrian Shanker of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. Shanker is also a Kesher Liaison to his campus. Shanker says the reason for this letter “is not to condemn Israel or the URJ, but rather to make clear that no peace can come from war and that the civilian casualties are just too high.”
The full text of the letter follows.
August 15th, 2006
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President
Robert Heller, Chairman of the Board
Union for Reform Judaism
633 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017-6778
Dear Rabbi Yoffie and Chairman Heller,
We, the college and youth leaders of the Reform Movement, urge the Union for Reform Judaism to take a stand for the Jewish values of peace and justice by declaring its support for a sustained bilateral ceasefire and peace negotiations in the Middle East.
As the future leaders of the Reform Movement, we heed the call of Rabbi Hillel to “be from the students of Aaron, love peace and pursue peace.” As we see events unfold around us, we look to fulfill our religious obligation by speaking out on the moral issues of our day. As Jews, we declare our commitment to protect our historic homeland, Israel, and to ensure the safety and well-being of its inhabitants. As Jews, we also believe that upholding the sanctity of all human life is of the utmost importance.
In a month of war in Lebanon, over 700 civilians, both Lebanese and Israeli, were killed. During the same period of time, while the world was focused on Lebanon, over 150 Palestinian civilians were killed in the Gaza Strip as well.
In light of these facts:
- We applaud the Union for condemning Hezbollah’s and Hamas’s violent and terrifying rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, who have been put in grave danger by the ongoing conflict. We support the Union’s denunciation of these groups’ destructive behavior, which has harmed the lives of thousands of innocent Israelis and Arabs. We express solidarity with our Israeli brothers and sisters, who are bravely coping with the mental and physical hardships of war. We support and appreciate the Union’s ongoing efforts to ease the trauma of Israelis in this difficult time, as well as provide for their safety, security, and well-being.
- We urge the Union to likewise condemn the Israeli Defense Force’s killing of unarmed Lebanese and Palestinian civilians, as well as its premeditated targeting of civilian infrastructure, which has put additional lives at risk and hampered relief efforts. As we recall, in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, God agrees to spare the cities if Abraham can find even ten innocent civilians. In light of this, we implore the Union to make clear that these actions violate our religious values, and are morally unacceptable responses to Hezbollah’s and Hamas’s provocations. Furthermore, we ask the Union to support humanitarian aid efforts underway in Lebanon and Gaza, in the same spirit of chesed which has guided its support for relief work in Israel.
We are proud to be part of the Union, a movement that has declared its support for the principle of peace negotiations. As indicated by the resolution “Support of the Peace Process,” the Union called on “the United States Government to continue to lend its good offices to the ongoing negotiations for peace” (General Assembly – November 30 – December 3, 1995 Atlanta). The precedent for the Union to advocate for diplomacy in the name of peace has already been set.
We therefore call upon the Union for Reform Judaism to declare its support for a continued bilateral ceasefire and renewed peace negotiations in the Middle East. Only dialogue, diplomacy, and mutual understanding will bring a lasting peace and guarantee the security of all peoples. We recognize that there are a variety of opinions within the movement on the current conflict. As is appropriate for our Reform tradition, we embrace a diversity of viewpoints. Unfortunately, we feel that our voice has been excluded from Union statements and materials, and we ask for inclusion. We look forward to beginning a healthy and meaningful dialogue in the name of peace, here and everywhere.
College – Kesher
- Matt Adler, Kesher Liaison, Washington University in St. Louis, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
- Adrian Shanker, Kesher Liaison, Muhlenburg College, Temple Shaaray Tefila, Bedford Corners, NY
- C. Lauren Arnold, Kesher Liaison, NYU, Temple Israel, Memphis, TN
- Sarah Baracks, Kesher Social Action Vice President, American University, Temple Isaiah, Stony Brook, NY
- Julia Baskin, Kesher songleader, Washington University in St. Louis
- Shaun Bernstein, Kesher member, York University
- Isaac Binkovitz, Kesher member, McGill University, Temple Beth Shalom, New Albany, OH
- Nick Burka, Kesher songleader, University of Maryland, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
- Alex Bookbinder, NFTY member, Temple Har Zion, Markham, Canada
- Matt Carrick, Kesher member, University of Pittsburgh
- Rebecca Dautoff, Kesher member, Wellesley College, Temple Beth Am, Seattle, WA
- Abby Dobbs, Kesher member, Northeastern University, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
- Meredith Dobbs, Kesher member, Tufts University, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
- Nate Dumtschin, Kesher Liaison, University of Cincinnati, Vice President AEPI, Temple Beth Or, Dayton, OH
- Emily Flaxman, Kesher member, Yale University
- Chase Foster, AEPI President and Kesher Liaison, Purdue University, Wise Temple, Cincinnati, OH
- Matthew Goldenberg, Kesher member, St. Olaf College
- Ben Gorban, Kesher member, American University
- Natanya Green, Kesher member and fmr. RCVice President NFTY Central-West Region, UC Davis, Congregation Bnai Israel, Sacramento, CA
- Sara Gunning, Vice President Jewish Students Association, American University, Temple Beth Emet, Evanston, IL
- Katie Helfand, York University, Narayever Synagogue, Toronto, Canada
- Stephanie Helfman, Kesher member, York College of PA, Baltimore Hebrew Cong., Baltimore, MD
- Neal Karlin, Kesher member, Towson University
- Zachary Krensky, UNC-Greensboro, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
- Rachel Levine, Kesher member, NYU, Temple Menorah, Redondo Beach, CA
- Shayna Liberman, Kesher member, University of Michigan
- Bridey Maidhof, Kesher songleader, University of Kansas
- Phil McCauley, fmr. Northern Vice President NFTY Mid-Atlantic Region, University of Maryland, Temple Adas Shalom, Havre de Grace, MD
- Ryan McDonald, Kesher member, Washington University in St. Louis
- Gabriel Merlin, Kesher member, Washington University in St. Louis
- Elizabeth Moorehouse-Stein, McGill University, Temple Emanu-El, Toronto, Canada
- Marissa Patterson, Kesher Liason, Bryn Mawr College, Temple Israel Dayton, OH
- Eric Reif, fmr. Membership Vice President NFTY-Mid-Atlantic Region, Washington University in St. Louis, Temple Rodef Shalom, Falls Church, VA
- Emily Samuels, Kesher member, University of Michigan, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
- Adam Schloss, Kesher member, Carnegie Mellon University, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
- Dave Shapiro, Kesher member, Washington University in St. Louis, Congregation Beth Elohim, Brooklyn, NY
- Anna Steinberg, Kesher Liaison, University of Buffalo, Temple Beth Zion, Buffalo, NY
- Amy Tilles, Kesher member, Indiana University, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
- Kyle Wassell, Kesher member, Drexel University, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
- Alicia Wolman, Kesher member, West Virginia University
- Kilby Yarbrough, fmr. Kesher Chapter Treasurer, Washington University in St. Louis, Beth Israel, Jackson, MS
High School – NFTY
- Rachel Boochever, CBEYG Programming Vice President, Congregation Beth Emeth, Albany, NY
- Caryn Cohen, BATY member, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
- Rachel Eisen, BATY President, Temple Beth Ami, Rockville, MD
- David Gross, Social Action Vice President Texas and Ohio Region, Temple Beth El, San Antonio, TX
- Jeremy Sanders, CBEYG President, Congregation Beth Emeth, Albany, NY
- Rebecca Wolchok, CBEYG Religious and Cultural Vice President, Temple Beth Emeth, Albany, NY
- Dan Zarchy, Pace University, Temple Emanuel, New Hyde Park, NY
- Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation, Chicago, IL