Reform Jews praying in Jerusalem (illustrative)
Reform Jews praying in Jerusalem (illustrative)Yossi Zeliger/FLASH90

Leaders of the North American Reform movement decried President Trump’s Wednesday announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city and ordering the State Department to begin the process of relocating the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. A day later, however, the Reform movement seemed to backtrack, commending the president for the move.

On Tuesday, a day before the much-anticipated statement by the president recognizing Jerusalem, Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the largest organization affiliated with the Reform movement, released a statement criticizing the president for altering the status quo vis-à-vis Jerusalem without a peace deal including the Palestinian Authority.

“President Trump’s ill-timed, but expected, announcement affirms what the Reform Jewish Movement has long held: that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Yet while we share the President’s belief that the U.S. Embassy should, at the right time, be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, we cannot support his decision to begin preparing that move now, absent a comprehensive plan for a peace process.”

A day later, however, the URJ appeared to backtrack, praising Trump for affirming “an age-old dream of the Jewish people”.

“Jerusalem is, in fact, the capital of Israel. That is how it should and must be. The President correctly noted that a sovereign state is entitled to name its own capital. The Reform Movement has also long held that the U.S. Embassy should be moved to Jerusalem.”

While Wednesday’s statement again noted that the Reform movement believes Jerusalem’s borders should be determined via negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, its criticism of Trump’s move was more muted.

“We still believe that they ought to be implemented in a manner that enhances the peace process and contributes to ensuring the safety and security of Israel. We continue to have significant concerns. In separating today’s decisions from a broader strategy, they may well undercut the Administration’s peace process efforts and risk destabilizing the region.”

“We do, however, commend the President for affirming the importance of moving the peace process forward, and clarifying that these decisions are not intended to restrict final status decisions of the Israelis and Palestinians -- including the borders of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and border issues generally.”

Other Jewish organizations were more explicit in their praise of the president’s decision.

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, an umbrella organization representing Orthodox Jewish communities across the US, lauded President Trump for the “historic change” in US policy.

“While Presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama each pledged to implement this commitment, none of them did. Today, President Trump began to fulfill this promise.”

Another Orthodox organization, the National Council of Young Israel, also expressed strong support for President Trump’s Wednesday announcement.

"The​ National​ ​Council​ ​of​ ​Young​ ​Israel​ ​applauds​ ​President​ ​Trump’s​ ​decision​ ​to​ ​move​ ​the​ ​American Embassy​ ​from​ ​Tel​ ​Aviv​ ​to​ ​Jerusalem.”

The Coalition for Jewish Values called the move “correct” and urged the president to complete “his pledge to move the embassy”.

TORA, the organization of Traditional Rabbis of America, ‘applauded’ and “expresses our deep gratitude” to the president, while The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said it was “gratified” by President Trump’s decision.

The American Jewish Congress hailed the Wednesday announcement as a “historic acknowledgement”.