In a blow to the unity of the Jewish people, Israel’s Interior Ministry last week rejected the aliyah application of Kibita Yosef, a member of the Abayudaya Jewish community of Uganda, currently in Israel as a volunteer on a kibbutz. Explaining its May 31st refusal, a ministry spokesperson reportedly stated, “This is a matter of principle regarding conversions in this community—it is not about one specific applicant.” But such a statement amounts to a de facto dismissal of the legitimacy of the 2,500-strong community that has been practicing Judaism for a century.
It is outrageous, disrespectful and very possibly unlawful for the Interior Ministry to reject the validity of conversions performed abroad by a major Jewish movement. The Abayudaya community are members of Masorti Olami (World Council of Conservative/Masorti Synagogues).
This decision reverses over two decades of government policy that has conferred Jewish status for purposes of immigration and citizenship on those who convert abroad through a major Jewish movement. It is not only an affront to the Abayudaya, but also to the entire worldwide Conservative/Masorti movement.
This announcement comes on the heels of other hostile acts from the government toward African converts to Judaism, including the government’s forced deportation last December of Yehuda Kimani, who arrived in Israel with a valid visa to study at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
Israel should be home to the entirety of the Jewish people, and not cede to sectarianism or to the whim of whichever political parties or chief rabbis happen to be in power at the time. We stand with Kibita Yosef, the Abayudaya member whose application for permanent status under the Law of Return triggered the Interior Ministry’s verdict. He is a Zionist just as we are Zionists. He is a Jew entitled to Israeli citizenship, just as we are, and we will support his appeal of this decision to Israel’s High Court of Justice.
We stand with all the Jewish Abayudaya people and all our Jewish communities of Africa and the world. And we demand that the Interior Ministry reverse its decision immediately and accept Kibita Yosef’s aliyah. Moving forward, we are committed to using all means at our disposal to achieve this result for him, and for all the other Kibita Yosefs in the world waiting to make aliyah.
Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs Jewish Educators Assembly Jewish Theological Seminary Masorti Israel Masorti Foundation Masorti Olami Mercaz Olami North American Association of Synagogue Executives Rabbinical Assembly Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism Women’s League for Conservative Judaism Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
Alarmed by the U.S. government’s “zero tolerance” policy of separating children from their migrant parents when they cross the border, the Reform Movement joined with 26 national Jewish organizations to send a letter to the Administration expressing our strong opposition to the cruel practice. We are urging the Administration to immediately rescind the “zero tolerance” policy and uphold the values of family unity and justice on which our nation was built.
Reports indicate that over 1,000 children have already been separated from their parents since the policy was implemented. Mounting evidence suggests that many children have been threatened, treated poorly and held in dangerous conditions. In response to such cruel policy, Jews across our community and throughout the country are joining together to voice our Jewish values of caring for the stranger in our midst, which requires that we immediately end family separation.
How we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation. Read our letter:
Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Nielsen,
On behalf of the 26 undersigned national Jewish organizations and institutions, we write to express our strong opposition to the recently expanded “zero-tolerance” policy that includes separating children from their migrant parents when they cross the border. This policy undermines the values of our nation and jeopardizes the safety and wellbeing of thousands of people.
As Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression. We believe that the United States is a nation of immigrants and how we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation.
Many of these migrant families are seeking asylum in the United States to escape violence in Central America. Taking children away from their families is unconscionable. Such practices inflict unnecessary trauma on parents and children, many of whom have already suffered traumatic experiences. This added trauma negatively impacts physical and mental health, including increasing the risk of early death.
Separating families is a cruel punishment for children and families simply seeking a better life and exacerbates existing challenges in our immigration system. It adds to the backlog of deportation cases and legal challenges in federal courts, places thousands more immigrants in detention facilities and shelters, endangers the lives of more children and instills additional fear in people seeking safety in our country. In addition, those seeking asylum or other legal protection face numerous obstacles to making a claim, especially from detention. Separating family members at the border would force families into two or more immigration cases instead of a single case for each family, harming their ability to present a successful case.
Our Jewish faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Our own people’s history as “strangers” reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is compassionate and just. We urge you to immediately rescind the “zero tolerance” policy and uphold the values of family unity and justice on which our nation was built.
American Conference of Cantors
American Jewish Committee (AJC)
American Jewish World Service
B’nai B’rith International
Bend the Arc Jewish Action
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Labor Committee
Jewish Women International
Men of Reform Judaism
National Association of Jewish Legislators
National Council of Jewish Women
Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
NFTY – The Reform Jewish Youth Movement
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
The Workmen’s Circle
T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Union for Reform Judaism
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Uri L’Tzedek, The Orthodox Social Justice Movement
Women of Reform Judaism
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USCJ and Keshet will be working with up to 15 kehillot to develop and implement comprehensive vision and action plans on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) inclusion. This effort will help synagogues look at every aspect of community—educational programming, training and professional development, facilities, communications, policies and organizational culture—to create a blueprint for change to fully embrace LGBTQ members. Apply now at this link to participate in the new cohort.
Don’t Miss Getting Off to a Great Year, a Webinar For Presidents or Officers August 2, 2018 21 Av, 5778
Want to start your board year out on the right foot? Join the conversation as we share resources and best practices for working with your leadership team, developing effective and efficient meeting practices, establishing board goals and more. We will send you the instructions to connect via Zoom (similar to Skype) a few days prior to the training. This will be an interactive training and you will need to be at a screen with a camera and a microphone to participate. Learn more and register here.
This Report Just In…The Synagogue Executive Director: A Changing Role for Changing Times
USCJ contributed to the research for this new report from UJA-Federation, New York. The study is volume 15 in their “Innovations and Strategies for Synagogues of Tomorrow” series from Synergy.
The Blessing of Epic Failure: Psychological Safety and (Re)Visioning Synagogue Success
USCJ Director of Innovation, Rabbi Joshua Rabin, discusses how synagogues can grow when they acknowledge what’s not working. Read it here.
Navigating Rabbinic Transitions
Rabbi Elliot Schoenberg, Senior Vice President, Global Director of Rabbinic Career Development, at the Rabbinical Assembly, shares how congregations can successfully prepare for welcoming a new rabbi into their community. Read it here.
Don’t Forget Volunteer Recognition
USCJ Senior Director of Kehilla Operations, Barry S. Mael, offers advice on recognizing the volunteers who help our communities thrive. Read it here.
Leadership Resources from the USCJ Kehilla Strengthening and Transformation Department
Below you will find articles from a variety of sources about critical issues facing religious leaders today. We encourage you to read the articles and share the ones that challenge you with your kehilla and all those interested in raising the bar for leadership in the Jewish Community. Articles from websites that require a subscription will be marked with an *.
- The Benefits of Admitting When You Don’t Know: In times of change, there is a temptation to believe that we need leaders who rule with certainty, yet the science may reveal exactly the opposite. Read this article from Behavioral Scientist about the leadership strengths that are revealed when leaders acknowledge a lack of certainty.
- A Jewish World of Infinite Possibility: The Havurah Movement was a major force for Jewish innovation in the 1960s and 1970s, and the impact of this model of Jewish life can still be felt today. Here is an article in Tablet about the 50th anniversary of Havurat Shalom, one of the longest-standing creations of the Havurah Movement.
- Flying Rabbi Bridges Gap for Young Conservative Jews: Millennial Jews are a transient population, and our institutions will succeed by the extent to which we come to them, rather than hope they come to us. Read this article in JWeekly about a pilot project sponsored by USCJ to rethink the way that we help young adults form meaningful Jewish community.
- Successfully Transitioning to New Leadership Roles: Every synagogue needs to make leadership transitions, yet oftentimes a leadership transition is a missed opportunity for values and process clarification. Here is an article from McKinsey & Company about best practices for ensuring smooth leadership transitions.
- Those People, Over There: What is the future of Jewish boundaries in an increasingly flat world? Read this provocative speech delivered by author Michael Chabon at Hebrew Union College about the future of Jewish boundaries published in Tablet this past week. We do not need to agree with everything he said, but we need to read it.
Here are some upcoming offerings from the Kehilla Strengthening and Transformation Department. Click on the links to apply or receive more information:
- July 1, 2018: USCJ Community and Covenant Action Community Application Deadline
- July 23-26, 2018: New Directors’ Institute
- September 1, 2018: USCJ and Keshet LGBTQ Leadership Cohort Application Due
- December 6-10, 2019: USCJ Convention in Boston, Massachusetts – Save the Date
As a reminder, these articles were chosen after reviewing the following publications. If you have any suggestions on publications you would like to see reviewed, please contact Rabbi Josh Rabin, Director of Innovation, at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the Sulam Reader or Sulam Texts, click on this link.