Address by Natan Sharansky, Chairman, Jewish Agency for Israel, at the Groundbreaking of The Taube Family Campus

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Natan Sharansky and Tad Taube

Taube family and Tad Taube, Ambassador Shapiro and Ambassador Chodorowicz, my friend the Mayor, the leaders of the Reform Movement, the rabbis from New York and from Israel, I tell you frankly, I'm glad to see so many friends. There is one person whom I'm missing – Rabbi Dick Hirsch, my very good friend, who not only was the leader of Reform Movement in America, very active in human rights movement, and gave his orders for Martin Luther King in Washington to prepare his great march. But it was Rabbi Hirsch who in 1967 decided that the Movement that wants to have a future must have it set in Jerusalem. And that's when he moved here to Jerusalem to create this center of Reform Movement in Jerusalem.  And later in the Prime Minister’s office during our long, tireless negotiations, the Reform Movement was the first religious Movement that decided that you cannot be rabbi in Israel, of the Jewish people, if you don't spend one year in Jerusalem. And that's when this center became such an important educational center.

Dick Hirsch invited me to another dedication ceremony here 20 years ago, in the middle of another controversy between Reform Jewry and the government.  I'm young minister of the government and here there are shouts from here and there: "What you are doing in that government?"  At the same time, Dick explained, "Dear friends, Israel is so much bigger than any of our disagreements. It's such a great for us to enjoy life in Jerusalem. Let's be joyous about it." And suddenly, I think everyone thought for a moment,  "Okay, yes, of course, we have all these disagreements. But we are here in the middle of this miracle called the State of Jews," about which just now our Mayor spoke. And it's so inspiring.”  

Now, as head of Jewish Agency I can say that we have many programs of connection between Israel and Jewish communities all over the world.  It's great to have your leaders as our partners, as members of our Board. We just now came back from Paris, where we could see the challenges the Jewish communities face and the assistance which we all together can give them. So it's really good. But I can tell you frankly you are not using enough Jewish Agency resources to fill many of the programs we have for bringing young Jews here for six months and for 12 months and for six weeks and for 10 days.

We have great cooperation. Much more can be done. And just now in other discussions regarding the programs for the rabbis who are coming here to learn, hopefully the Jewish Agency will add to the curriculum that you are building for them. There are some other ideas.

I'm here to say it is so important for Jewish people, for Israel, and for the Israel government, even if they don't know it, that you are here in the heart of Jerusalem. Thanks to the great support of friends like the Taube family, you can have an even more beautiful center and attract more and more Jews from all over the world. Thank you and mazal tov.

Read More: The Taube Family Campus Named at Groundbreaking of Jerusalem Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

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 men and women for service to 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, 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.