SOURCE: Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)

Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR)

October 15, 2010 07:00 ET

Reform Rabbis Express Disappointment and Dismay at Israeli Cabinet's Passage of "Loyalty Oath" Amendment Requiring All Non-Jewish Persons to Swear Allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State

Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), World's Largest Group of Jewish Clergy, Urges Israel's Ministerial Legislative Committee to Reject "Loyalty Oath" and Encourage All Who Consider Themselves Loyal to Israel's Democratic and Jewish Character to Oppose and Vote Down Legislation

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - October 15, 2010) -  The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the world's largest group of Jewish clergy, issued a statement to express its frustration and regret of the Israeli Cabinet's passage of the "Loyalty Oath" amendment to the "Citizenship Law." It requires all non-Jewish persons to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in order to remain or become citizens of the State of Israel. The CCAR states that it is because of its conviction that Israel must remain both a Jewish and democratic state that it opposes this legislation, as it "...diminishes Israel's Jewish character and compromises its democratic commitment."

According to the statement, the CCAR, which represents nearly 2,000 Reform rabbis, "the proposed legislation would indeed create one law for Jews and another law for non-Jews [violating standards set by the Torah]. It would turn Israel into the very kind of country which historically Jews themselves have rightly cursed for their unequal treatment of non-Christians and non-Muslims." The statement also says, "There can be no doubt but that the proposed 'Loyalty Oath' deprives the non-Jewish citizen of the very political rights and freedom of conscience assured in the Declaration [of Independence], and, in doing so, breaks its promise of 'full and equal citizenship' to 'the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel.'"

To arrange a conversation with Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, President of the CCAR, or Rabbi Steven A. Fox, Chief Executive of the CCAR, please contact Itay Engelman of Sommerfield Communications at 212-255-8386 or itay@sommerfield.com.

The full statement from the CCAR is below:

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the world's largest rabbinical organization, expresses its deep disappointment and great dismay at the Israeli Cabinet's passage of the "Loyalty Oath" amendment to the "Citizenship Law," requiring all non-Jewish persons to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in order to remain or become citizens of the State of Israel. As articulated in its Resolution on Arab Citizens of Israel of June 10, 2009, the CCAR "opposes any proposed laws that would limit the citizenship rights and equal governmental services of non-Jewish citizens of Israel," referring explicitly to "Loyalty Oath" legislation as proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu and its leader, Avigdor Lieberman. Our deep conviction that Israel is and must remain both Jewish and democratic is precisely what compels us to oppose this oxymoronic law, for in requiring non-Jewish citizens to pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, this legislation greatly diminishes Israel's Jewish character and compromises its democratic commitment.

Diminishing Israel's Jewish Character

Our Torah sets a standard for any Jewish commonwealth of equal treatment under the law for the Jew and the non-Jew. "You shall have one law and one ordinance for you and for the alien who lives with you." (Numbers 15:16) "But the stranger who dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself." (Leviticus 19:34) The Jewish ethos of equality has been shaped through centuries of having been a minority in lands not our own, denied basic rights and liberties because of our alien status. Torah commands us not to oppress the aliens who live among us, "for you know the heart of a stranger, seeing you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Exodus 34:9)

The proposed legislation would indeed create one law for Jews and another law for non-Jews. It would turn Israel into the very kind of country which historically Jews themselves have rightly cursed for their unequal treatment of non-Christians and non-Muslims.

Compromising Israel's Democratic Character

The democratic character of the State of Israel was articulated at its very start in its Declaration of Independence:

The State of Israel... will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations... WE APPEAL -- in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months -- to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

There can be no doubt but that the proposed "Loyalty Oath" deprives the non-Jewish citizen of the very political rights and freedom of conscience assured in the Declaration, and, in doing so, breaks its promise of "full and equal citizenship" to "the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel."

Already this legislation has sent a message to the 20% of Israel's citizens who are not Jewish that they indeed are permanently "other," further reinforcing the message of those who would deny that there could ever be co-existence between Jew, Muslim and Christian in a Jewish state. Its enactment would strengthen the enemies of Israel and thus, compromise not only its Jewish democratic character but its security and ultimate future as well. More than symbolic loyalty statements, Israel needs its non-Jewish citizens as partners in peace, equally invested in the future of the state.

As we endorsed the decision of Israel's Ministerial Legislative Committee on May 31, 2009, when it rejected a proposed "Loyalty Oath," we urge it to do so again. If this legislation comes to the floor of the Knesset, we implore all those who themselves would be loyal to Israel's democratic and Jewish character to oppose and vote down once and for all this un-Jewish and un-democratic legislation.

Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus
President of the CCAR

Rabbi Steven A. Fox
Chief Executive of the CCAR

About The CCAR

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, founded in 1889, is the oldest and largest rabbinic organization in North America. As the professional organization for Reform Rabbis of North America, the CCAR projects a powerful voice in the religious life of the American and international Jewish communities. Since its establishment, the CCAR has a rich history of giving professional and personal support to Reform rabbis, providing them opportunities for study, professional development and spiritual growth beginning while they are still in seminary, through mid-careers, and into retirement. The CCAR is uniquely positioned to meet the ongoing needs of its nearly 2,000 member rabbis (virtually the entire Reform rabbinate) and the entire Reform Jewish community. For more information please visit the CCAR's website at http://ccarnet.org/.

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