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Israel Must Act Quickly To Win Back American Jewish Support

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It is no secret that criticism of Israel has been proliferating from the mainstream American Jewish community over the past couple of years. It seems like every week, there is a new Jewish organization, synagogue, or communal leader haranguing Israel or her current government, and the situation becomes increasingly dire when we consider American Jews under thirty.
 
Israel has had the misfortune of having one tough situation after another thrown at her, and the culmination of this array of circumstance mixed with some controversial decision making has directly led to many American Jews turning their backs on the Jewish state.
 
Now there are many issues where I feel that untempered criticism of Israel is unfair, unjustified, and a double standard. Often times, even when I am personally against a specific policy that Israel enacts, I feel that the international backlash and haranguing of Israel steps over the line.
 
However, there is one area where Israel desperately needs to improve on and that is its stance towards non-Orthodox forms of Jewish practice and worldview. Israel desperately needs to change its policies, for not only the sake of the international Jewish community, but for its own sake and for the sake of keeping the American Jewish community connected to Israel.
 
Israel is the one Jewish state in the world created as a place for every Jew to feel welcome, safe and at home. However, Israel has increasingly pushed away liberal American Jews when it comes to religious policies, yet it expects full support both in terms of donations and PR from that very same community.
 
When it comes to issues of security and immigration, I fully respect that Israel may not be able to avoid controversial decision making that will distance American Jews. However, enacting reforms that show blatant disrespect for non-Orthodox Jewry is avoidable and will be extremely detrimental if not curbed.
 
The next generation of young American Jews is simply not going to be ardent defenders of Israel if they don’t feel like their practice of Judaism is respected. I’m talking about Reform conversion, LGBT marriage, and somehow lessening the chokehold that the Ultra-Orthodox community maintains on the government.
 
Inherent within Judaism is a multiplicity of ideas and opposing viewpoints. From the opening pages of Tanakh, through the massive corpus of rabbinic literature and philosophy, we see that there are multiple ways to practice and believe in one’s Judaism.
 
While Orthodoxy is one such way to interpret our religious texts and traditions, it is not the only one, and the Israeli government must account for this fact. Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and other forms of Judaism are all legitimate ways of practicing one’s Judaism - and it should never be up to a government to decide which of these forms is “better” than the other.
 
Technically, Judaism is not even a religion in any classical sense of the word. An individual is Jewish not because of their beliefs or practice, but rather as a direct result of their mother (or according to many non-Orthodox groups, their father). All in all, Israel is not the Orthodox-Jewish state, but rather the Jewish state, and it needs to start acting like it.
 
This means egalitarian prayer spaces at Jewish holy sites. It means an acceptance of non-Orthodox conversion for the right of return. And, amongst other things, it means finding a way to add either a civil marriage or a non-Orthodox marriage option so members of the LGBT community can have equal rights in the Jewish state.
 
Failure to do all of this is not only a slap in the face to Jews who do not identify as Orthodox but will quickly spell doom for much of the American Jewish support of Israel.
 
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