We, a group of rabbinical students of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the Schechter Rabbinical Seminary write from Jerusalem to express our deep concern and unease following the current US administration’s reckless decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city outside the context of just and respectful negotiations for peace with Israel’s Palestinian neighbors.
Jerusalem has been the subject of Jewish longing for millennia. It is the holy and eternal capital of the Israel we read, study, pray, and dream about. We feel the Heavenly Jerusalem, ירושלים של מעלה, as we walk along its sacred streets, as we spend our academic year learning, growing, and living here. We also feel the weight of ירושלים של מטה, the Earthly Jerusalem: the deep pain in its stones, the complicated reality of a rich, bloody history. Though the president called for a continued hope for a two-state solution, he has done nothing to show honest dedication to advancing such a goal—or any lasting solution toward peace in the region. To validate this counterproductive move would be to normalize a political moment that continues to stretch itself far beyond the bounds of what is normal.
Our movement was founded upon a love for Torah, God, and our sacred traditions. As future Jewish leaders who benefit from that commitment, we are ready to fight for a Jerusalem that validates and recognizes the holy Godliness in every resident. We envision a Conservative Movement that honors the tradition of social justice that cries out to us from our sacred texts. We stand with the words of our beloved Torah in our hearts and upon our tongues:
(׳׳והיה כי–תבוא אל–הארץ אשר ה׳ אלהיך נתן לך נחלה וירשתה וישבת בה…׳׳ (דברים כו:א “When you enter the land that Hashem Your God has given you for an inheritance, and you possess it and settle in it…” (Deuteronomy 26:1)
The Torah frames this entry into and possession of the land of Israel as contingent upon actions that are born of a collective memory of oppression. We recite our plight in Egypt, our generations of suffering, and our responsibility to all of God’s creations as guidelines for governance. As we reside in the ancient, holy, and beautiful land of Israel, we are commanded, year after year, to remember that we are but tenants of God’s eternal domain and have the crucial responsibility to uphold the dignity of every person who resides in our midst. As temporary and permanent residents of Jerusalem and as future rabbis, we expect the Jewish state to govern with this holy mandate of equality and humanity for all peoples in mind. We therefore envision a Judaism, a generation of American rabbinic leadership, and a State of Israel that heeds the cries of our Palestinian brothers and sisters who currently live with neither a path to citizenship nor self-determination.
With all this in mind, we have engaged the leaders of our institutions in conversation around this issue. We learn in environments of diverse opinions and we cherish this richness. This statement does not attempt to speak for all Conservative institution affiliates or students, but rather to share what many of us hold dear as we move collectively ever forward, God willing, toward a more peaceful and just world.