Read the letter to the Israeli government and Knesset members from HUC-JIR president, Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Read the letter to the Israeli government and Knesset members from HUC-JIR president, Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman

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Tuesday, April 1, 1997


Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, President 
Erev Pesach 5757


We are dismayed and outraged by the first reading of a bill to ban conversions performed in Israel by non-Orthodox rabbis. We shall not permit you to delegitimize our students or graduates in the land of Israel nor destroy our presence here.

The Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is in Jerusalem and will remain in Jerusalem. We ordain rabbis to serve the Jewish people in the land of Israel and shall continue to do so. Your attempts to destroy our program by nullifying the work of our graduates, your clear indication that we are not welcome in Israel, your efforts to restrict our graduates' ability to serve the Jewish people will not succeed.

We shall rally the voice and conscience of the Jewish people everywhere in response. Your action will alienate the vast majority of the Jewish people wherever we live and destroy the connection which binds us to each other, a connection we all need. Already the reaction has set in. Do not presume that you will ever be welcomed again in North America, in our College, congregations, or movement.

What you do in Israel impacts on us all. We who train Jewish leaders for service around the world established a campus of our school in Jerusalem because we believe in the inherent unity of the Jewish people. We believe in an open, inclusive, and democratic society in Israel. That is why we are here in Jerusalem and why we shall stay. Our rabbis will serve in this land as rabbis. Nothing less will be acceptable.

As we approach Pesach, we call out for freedom -- freedom for our graduates, the Reform rabbis who serve in Israel, and freedom of expression and practice for all Jews in Israel. Let Pesach truly be z'man cherutenu!

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.