Progressive activist group Jews For Racial and Economic Justice are demanding an
Progressive activist group Jews For Racial and Economic Justice are demanding anGili Getz
(JNS) Most of my happiest memories between the ages of eight to 20 are from my Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) summer camp or high school semester in Israel. I grew up in URJ synagogues in Texas and Kansas. But I no longer recognize the Reform movement I grew up in. Today, it is essentially the Jewish wing of the Democratic Party.

From 2022 through April 2024, URJ employees made 82 contributions to Democratic candidates and PACs. Not one employee gave to a single Republican candidate or PAC, according to Federal Election Commission records..

I have been pushed away from Reform Judaism by its increasing politicization. I started my journey towards Modern Orthodox Judaism in college because I genuinely believed Orthodoxy had a lot to offer that Reform Judaism did not. But I also liked that the Orthodox Union (OU) isn’t political [re the US]. Even more importantly, I think OU’s support for Israel is ironclad.

In the 2010s, the URJ took many political stances I agreed with, but I fundamentally disagreed with them taking any political stances at all. In college, I had the chance to say as much to URJ President Rick Jacobs when he visited my campus, the University of Maryland. He seemed receptive, but the URJ put out a highly political press release only a few days later.

The Democratic Party has become less supportive of Israel and increasingly tolerant of antisemitism over my lifetime. Unfortunately, the URJ is no different. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see the URJ strongly condemn the Oct. 7 massacre, but this should be the absolute bare minimum for a Jewish organization. Its youth did not, however.

The URJ issued a press release after the Knesset passed a Basic Law prohibiting Israel’s Supreme Court from overruling decisions based on a standard of “reasonableness.” The release referred to “Israel’s already fragile democracy” and, noting the then-upcoming observance of Tisha B’Av, alleged that “the modern Jewish state of Israel is being threatened by extremists.”

Implying a parallel between the Israeli government and the actions for which Jews were punished with the destruction of the Second Temple was the opposite of unity with and support for Israel.

Worse still, the URJ called the Biden administration’s May 2023 strategy to counter antisemitism “strong and innovative.” But the strategy included the highly anti-Israel and antisemitic Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The URJ said absolutely nothing about this.

CAIR’s Jew-hatred is well documented. For example, its Los Angeles Director of Policy and Advocacy Shaheen Nassar said at a June 2021 conference that antisemitism “was a way of persecuting a group of people for … this false historical allegation that they had descended from historic Palestine.” CAIR did not apologize or condemn Nassar.

CAIR’s San Francisco Bay Area Executive Director Zahra Billoo declared that Zionists are “your enemies.” She warned followers to “pay attention” to “Zionist synagogues, Hillels and Jewish Federations.” The group’s National Executive Director Nihad Awad has “alleged that pro-Israel groups have ‘corrupted’ the U.S. government,” the ADL reported.

The URJ ought to have strongly objected to the inclusion of such an organization. It did not.

During Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021, which happened to be during Ramadan, the URJ did manage to condemn Hamas. But it also “urge[d] Israel to protect the freedom of worship of Muslims in the holy month of Ramadan” and called for “all possible restraint as the Israeli security forces work to address the unrest and violence by Palestinian protestors”—referring to antisemitic violence in Israel’s “mixed cities.”

These are exactly the kind of double standards used by the international community to demonize Israel. Aside from a press release condemning the antisemitism that resulted from the 2021 war, the URJ failed to call out these double standards or encourage its constituents to speak out in support of Israel.

When the American embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the URJ expressed concern rather than celebration. Jacobs himself claimed that the move was an obstacle to peace, so his lip service to the fact that “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel” is questionable.

I suspect that the URJ did not object to CAIR because it feared losing credibility among leftist organizations. Indeed, the URJ constantly advocates for left-wing causes that have nothing to do with Judaism or are antithetical to traditional Judaism. These have included transgender athletes in competitive sports, gun control, abortion, the George Floyd murder trial and the highly controversial Inflation Reduction Act. Such advocacy does nothing but divide people.

URJ also misappropriates halakhah and weaponizes the poorly understood concept of tikkun olam to claim biblical or Talmudic support for virtually anything advocated by the Democratic Party. It should understand that the old joke “two Jews, three opinions” applies to secular politics and stoking political divisions is the best way to ensure the collapse of the Reform movement itself.

Indeed, the URJ is essentially telling all Reform Jews, “This should be your political stance. If you disagree, you do not belong in the Reform movement.” This is ironic given the URJ and its leftist allies’ obsession with “inclusion.” The Jewish community is small enough as it is, even the Reform movement, which consists of one-third of American Jews. Why make the community smaller by unnecessarily dividing it?

I’ve met wonderful people whose political beliefs differ from mine in every Jewish community of which I’ve been a part. I couldn’t care less. I would hate for anyone to feel ostracized for their political beliefs and for their communities to miss out on their contributions.

Reform leaders are missing an opportunity to bridge the gap between a small but significant number of Americans on both sides of the aisle. That opportunity is Judaism. Sadly, the URJ has done nothing but widen the gap.

Naomi Grant is a writer in Washington, D.C. She holds a master’s in international relations from Johns Hopkins University