There’s a general fear among rabbis about speaking honestly about their complicated relationships with the State of Israel — they worry that doing so might alienate members of their communities and risk their own professional futures. For rabbinical students, the fear is even greater — will anyone hire me if I criticize Israel? We hope that by establishing that there is a large group of Conservative rabbinical students who care about a just and peaceful future, we can take away some of the stigma around speaking openly. We hope to invite conversations with our communities centered around honesty over fear.
We, future clergy of the Conservative Movement, write to express our absolute opposition to President Trump’s “Vision for Peace” and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s stated intentions to unilaterally apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea, and all Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Each of these proposals flies in the face of decades of diplomatic efforts to achieve a just and peaceful future: Trump’s plan would leave Palestinians with a handful of discontiguous territories surrounded by settlements, and Netanyahu’s would make permanent the status quo in which millions of Palestinians live under Israeli military control without civil rights. Trump’s irresponsible vision and Netanyahu’s objective of annexation will move the region closer to catastrophe and even further from peace.
We are deeply disappointed that some American Jewish groups have applauded this disastrous plan. As emerging Jewish leaders, we wish to make clear that any political decision that strips Palestinians of their rights is antithetical to our belief in human dignity. We dream of a democratic Israel that affirms the humanity and agency of all who dwell there, and of a government that honors the shared history of Jews and Palestinians in the land.
We read in last week’s parasha of the moment when the Israelites stand on the banks of Yam Suf, freedom within reach but still beyond the mighty waters of the sea. As Pharaoh’s armies draw near to recapture their former slaves, the Israelites face a choice: return to Mitzrayim, accept the status quo, and cement injustice — or step into the waters of freedom, bravely imagining the liberated society they will build on the other side. To affirm Trump’s plan as a genuine step towards peace is to walk backwards towards Mitzrayim, towards disaster. Let us instead, American and Israeli Jews alike, walk in the path of our ancestors, stepping into the difficult task of dismantling injustice as we build and support a grander vision of a shared destiny with our Palestinian siblings.
As the next generation of American Jewish clergy, we are unafraid to express our open support of human rights for all people, even as it means confronting inconvenient truths about the State of Israel. We believe in the possibility of a homeland that affirms the values of our Jewish tradition, one that honors the Divine in every one of its residents. May we walk together towards this dream, a new song of freedom and peace upon our lips.
כן יהי רצון
May this be God’s Will
Adam J Gillman