WATCH: A message from President Andrew Rehfeld, Ph.D. pledging HUC-JIR’s commitment to the welfare of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state during this time of great conflict and turmoil. We are proud of our staff, students, faculty, and alumni who have organized, led, and joined with the protests, even as we respect and support those who choose other forms of action. A full transcript of President Rehfeld’s message appears below.
May peace and justice, descend upon Jerusalem, Israel and our entire world.
I am Andrew Rehfeld, President of Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion. I am recording this message on Monday afternoon, March 27, Jerusalem time, I am heartbroken at what is transpiring in Israel.
HUC-JIR remains committed to the welfare of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Our graduates—rabbis, teachers, scholars, and activists—are supporting congregations and communities throughout Israel, though study, prayer, and action.
It is because of this commitment that we are proud of our staff, students, faculty, and alumni who have now organized, led, and joined with the protests, even as we respect and support those who choose other forms of action instead.
Israel was founded: to secure the protection of the Jewish People; to promote the flourishing of Judaism in all of its diversity; and to do so through the creation of a modern, democratic state, that would protect the rights of all under its power.
The current government proposals and other statements of intent by senior leadership appear to undermine all three of these founding ideals.
Rather than ensuring the safety of the Jewish people, they threaten the security of all Jews, in Israel and abroad.
Rather than promoting Jewish pluralism, they seek to limit religious expression to a narrow extremist Jewish view.
And rather than strengthening its democratic foundations as expressed in its own Declaration of Independence, they seek to eviscerate Israel’s claim to be a modern democracy at all.
There is another path even at this late hour. And we appreciate President Herzog’s courageous attempts to slow down the judicial legislation and move quickly towards dialogue and compromise. Only with a broad consensus can Israel thrive.
Our Prophets railed against those who would wield the power of the sword to undermine the principles of justice that that very same sword was established to protect. Our prophets foreshadowed the catastrophe of what would happen to such abuse of power that we are seeing today, a prediction that tragically led to the exile of the Jewish People from their homeland.
Not once, but twice before.
On Passover next week we will celebrate the freedom that our people gained from slavery. Weeks later at Shavuot we celebrate the choice our people made at Sinai to create a vibrant Jewish people, who would advance Justice in our world.
We pray that as Passover comes this year, it again will lead towards that vision of Sinai for the State of Israel: a path of security for the Jewish People, the flourishing of Judaism in all of its diversity, and the deployment of state power to protect the rights of all.
What can you do?
Well, now is time to follow so many Israelis in showing up, in demonstrating, in expressing your concern. And no matter what happens in the weeks ahead, HUC-JIR’s work in Israel will be that much more important in supporting those whose lives and communities will be most at risk. For that commitment, I remain so proud of the courage and determination of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and deeply grateful to those who continue to support our work.
May peace and justice, descend upon Jerusalem, Israel, and our entire world.
Chag Sameach, and may it yet be a joyous Pesach ahead.