My Reform Colleagues Were Wrong on Jerusalem

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As Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky pointed out, “The Reform response to the recognition of Jerusalem was terrible. When a superpower recognizes Jerusalem, first you welcome it, then offer disagreement. Here it was the opposite.”

Sharansky was referring to the Dec. 5 statement issued by all 16 North American Reform organizations and affiliates in response to President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The operative clause reads: “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.”


There have been several attempts to clarify this position, but not by all of the original signatories. It is still the official position of the entire North American apparatus of the Reform movement. If our movement’s affiliates have had a change of heart, all of them should say it through another statement: “We made a mistake.”

If not, and if we still stand by our original statement, I want the Jewish world to know that this position is not my position, nor does it reflect the views of multitudes of, perhaps most, Reform Jews.


We were wrong on the politics. With the exception of one small hard-left party, there is wall-to-wall agreement among the Zionist parties in the Knesset supporting the embassy move. We have alienated the very people who support and defend us in our campaign for religious pluralism and equitable funding. Sharansky himself is the most dogged and prominent supporter of the Western Wall compromise.

More important, we were wrong on the merits. We have yearned for Jerusalem for two millennia. It is the source of our strength, the place where our people was formed, where the Bible was written. Jews lived free and made pilgrimage to Jerusalem for a thousand years. Our national existence changed the world and led to the creation of two other great faiths.

At the same time, it is proper and necessary for us to remind ourselves and others that we are committed to a two-state solution that will require territorial compromises from both sides, including in Jerusalem. We should continue to urge the American government to help bring about a negotiated peace.

We should also urge the international community to disabuse the Palestinian national movement of its exaggerated expectations and its insidious efforts to undermine and erase our connection to Zion. Until that happens, peace is an illusion.

Ammiel Hirsch is senior rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York.

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