GOPers Seek To Derail Reform Shuls’ Iraq Pullout Resolution

By Jennifer Siegel

Published March 09, 2007, issue of March 09, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Jewish Republicans are mounting a campaign to derail a resolution, proposed by leaders of the country’s largest synagogue movement, opposing President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq and calling for a timetable for an American withdrawal.

The Reform movement’s 80-person executive committee has slated the resolution for consideration at its March 12 meeting. Last week, in a March 1 e-mail alert, the Washington-based Republican Jewish Coalition urged its members to participate in an electronic and phone campaign targeting the Union for Reform Judaism, which represents more than 900 Reform congregations.

“It is vital that each of us do all we can to keep our civic and faith organizations from being hijacked by politically motivated efforts to undermine the War on Terrorism,” the RJC wrote. “If you or someone you know is a member of the Reform movement, you should know that the movement’s leadership is pushing… to adopt a dangerous and wrongheaded resolution opposing the U.S. efforts in Iraq.”

Although a recent study by the Gallup Organization found that 77% of American Jews think the Iraq War was a mistake, most Jewish organizations have avoided speaking out against the war, and at times they have displayed support for the administration. Earlier this month, the Iraq issue was low on the agenda at the plenum of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs — the community’s main public policy coordinating body, which is made up of the major synagogue movements, several prominent national organizations and 122 local Jewish federations.

The Reform movement — America’s most liberal and activist denomination, as well as its most populous — has come under pressure from both the right and left as it has waded into the Iraq issue. In 2005, Jewish anti-war activists, led by the Philadelphia-based Shalom Center, criticized the URJ’s silence on the war and launched a campaign urging the organization to adopt an anti-war stance at its biennial conference in Houston. Despite some last-minute Republican opposition to a proposed anti-war resolution, the Reform rank and file approved the measure, which called for a reduction of troops in Iraq and for the adoption of a “clear exit strategy” for the war.

Since the new, stepped-up anti-war resolution was released to congregations across the country in mid-February, the URJ has received dozens of phone calls and e-mails from members both for and against the measure, Reform officials said.

According to URJ spokeswoman Emily Grotta, the URJ had received about 110 e-mails, split evenly for and against withdrawal, before the RJC launched its campaign last week. Grotta said her office received a flurry of opposition calls March 1, when the RJC first sent out its action alert, but few calls since.

The RJC’s executive director, Matt Brooks, told the Forward that “close to a dozen” people are spearheading grass-roots opposition among Reform members, but none would speak with the Forward on the record. One vocal critic of the URJ’s proposed resolution is Newsweek columnist and Reform Rabbi Marc Gellman.

“My most profound moral dispute with the resolution is the fact that there is not a single word in it about what will happen to the people we leave behind,” Gellman told the Forward. “There should be some acknowledgement that our withdrawal from Iraq will produce a bloodbath and a power vacuum in which thousands, perhaps even millions, will be killed, or tortured or oppressed in a horrible way.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the movement’s Religious Action Center, said he is concerned about the Iraqis and believes there “may be more chaos” if American forces remain.

Despite the uncertainties, Jewish groups — even those that may disagree with the URJ — have a responsibility to weigh the facts and speak out on the issue, Saperstein said.

“I think it is not enough to talk in moral abstracts,” Saperstein told the Forward. “Three-thousand years of the Jewish prophetic tradition have mandated that we apply those moral abstracts to the very real challenges that face our nation and humanity, and we make the best judgment that we can.”

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war?
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah:
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.