On the morning of July 12, I read a piece in the Opinion Page of the New York Times titled “Israel to American Jews: You Just Don’t Matter” by Thomas L. Friedman. In this piece, Friedman states that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu has yielded to the whims of the Orthodox and has basically said to the Diaspora, “Who needs you?”
When I got married in 1977, I discovered that my family on my father’s side had been Jewish since before the Edict of Expulsion was issued against the Jews of Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella on March 31, 1492. Both my wife and I began researching our roots, and we were surprised that we were not alone. The rabbi that we had the good fortune to meet and befriend, Joseph Melamed, had told us of the experiences that he had in Panama. He said he had discovered many Judaic articles in the homes of practicing Catholics. He was told that these artifacts had been in their families for years and that they wouldn’t part with them. In November 1980, I proudly converted to Reform Judaism and became part of the Diaspora. Israel was now my homeland; if I ever wished to make aliyah, I would be granted immediate citizenship in the State of Israel.
As the years have gone by, I found that I wasn’t the only one questioning Israeli policies.
Under the administration of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as well as that of Netanyahu, I saw that many of the organizations — like B’nai B’rith, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (forward.com/tag/AIPAC) and others — continued to support the oppressive tactics that Netanyahu was practicing. It wasn’t until J Street came along that I found I could love Israel, which we refer to as the land of milk and honey, and also believe in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If it weren’t for the Diaspora, Israel would not be the state it is today.
We, not just the Orthodox, have been the ones who have supported Israel with our devotion, love and money. Perhaps the time has come for Netanyahu to step down and for Israelis to elect a government run by the Israeli Labor Party. As a proud member of the Reform movement, I urge the Union for Reform Judaism, under the leadership of Rabbi Richard Jacobs, to begin to exercise pressure by withholding funds for the many Israeli charities that depend on the Disapora for its very survival. I ask that our friends who are affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism join with us in order for Netanyahu to get the message as well.
This is the most difficult piece I have ever written. The Diaspora isn’t ready to sit in the back of the bus.