A recent report from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) found that one third of American rabbis are reluctant to express their views on Israel because of intimidation by extremist voices in their communities and out of fear of losing their positions. That needs to change, and so the Rabbinic Cabinet of J Street, Americans for Peace Now, and T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights co-wrote a petition calling upon all American rabbis and cantors to speak up now in support of Secretary Kerry’s mission to assist Israel and the Palestinians in resolving their conflict in a two-states for two peoples agreement that ends Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and justly resolves all issues and claims, including security, borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, and water between Israelis and the Palestinians.
The petition says:
We are American Rabbis and Cantors, united in service of the Jewish people and committed to the people and the land of Israel. We have studied in Israel, and taught about Israel, visited countless times and brought members of our communities with us. We have lived in Israel and immersed ourselves in her history and culture. Many of us have family, friends, and colleagues who live there. Some of us hold Israeli citizenship. We, as a community, have dedicated ourselves to support for Israel, to her long-term security and to her future as a Jewish homeland and a democracy.
All of us believe that for Israel to have a future as a Jewish and a democratic state, living within secure, defined and recognized borders, there must be a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
At this moment, Secretary of State John Kerry - backed by President Obama - has made heroic efforts to bring all the parties to the negotiating table. Months of negotiations are beginning to bear fruit. Secretary Kerry has taken up the challenge of the Psalmist to “seek peace and pursue it,” but he cannot bring peace on his own. “We really are at a critical point,” said Secretary Kerry “as Palestinians and Israeli leaders grapple with difficult and challenging decisions that lie ahead.”
We must now heed the call of our tradition, and loudly and clearly proclaim that it is because of our commitment to Israel that we stand up and act for the two-state solution. “For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not rest.”(Isaiah 62:1). And so we commit to be active supporters of those who work day in and day out to bring about a peace agreement.
The voices of those who support peace and justice must rise up above the din of doubt and denial. We pledge that we will speak from our pulpits, in our classrooms, at our camps and in our newspapers, to deliver a message of hope and faith. We will speak of the urgency of this moment and of the necessity of communal action. We will speak up for Israel, against the occupation and for peace.
Our voices will not be silenced. Our loyalties cannot be called into question. The time now is too critical, the stakes too high.
We will speak up in support of peace, heeding the words of Theodor Herzl: “If you will it, it is no dream; and if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay.”
It goes without saying that there must be mutual agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in whatever is worked out between them, and this includes security guarantees, an “end of claims” and “end of conflict” clauses in any deal.
This is the spirit in which these three rabbinic organizations have produced this petition. I therefore invite my rabbinic and cantorial colleagues from every American religious stream to sign the petition and make known publicly their support for current peace efforts.
I ask readers whose rabbis and cantors are inclined to support Secretary Kerry’s efforts, but have not done so publicly, to send them this blog and encourage them to sign as well.