Shame on Rabbi Julie Schonfeld
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld is the first female rabbi to serve as the head of the Conservative movement. She was named the Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) in 2009, serves on President Obama’s White House Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and has repeatedly been named by Newsweek as one of the 50 most influential Rabbis in America. All accolades aside, her recent anti-Israel diatribes are inaccurate, extreme, and harmful to the Jewish people.
Last week, at a Conservative Movement convention in Texas, Schonfeld claimed that Israel’s policy on non-Orthodox streams of Judaism would “eventually divide the Jewish people and alienate Diaspora Jews to the point that they simply stop supporting Israel.” She continued, “…there will not be a Jewish people left to talk about and there will not be a world Jewry left to defend Israel… By the time when the missiles are flying, they are so alienated you can’t bring them back, it’s too late.” What an absolutely insane – and offensive – concept.
The masses of conservative (and other) streams of American Jewry spend as much time thinking about these policies as they do life on Mars. How many American conservative Jews would stop supporting Israel because of the handful who try to get married there, but supposedly cannot? Whether these policies of Israel’s rabbinate are wrong or not, for a Jewish communal leader to use such language is simply offensive.
A few years ago, Schonfeld wrote that “Most of the representatives in AIPAC are Conservative and Reform who work day and night for Israel in the U.S. But when these people arrive in Israel, they are treated as non-Jews. Chairs are thrown at them at the Kotel. The police arrest them. You need to understand that a threat to our relations with Israel is a threat to the resilience and security of the country.”
To claim that chairs are thrown at conservative Jews is naÃ¯ve at best. How often does such an occurrence happen? And on the shameful occasion it does, it is condemned across the board. There are fringe actions everywhere, Israel is no different.
At that time, Schonfeld also said that “Israel is being conquered by small, extremist ultra-Orthodox parties, but American Jewry has kept quiet on the assumption that silence on religious coercion equals unity and thus also equals Israel’s security.” They have been quiet? Let’s take “Women of The Wall” – a group that has attracted massive amounts of media attention, and which fights for its belief in a “right to pray.” To claim they are quiet would be revisionist history.
While Schonfeld chooses to make extreme statements, the reality is that she is consistently very left of center on Israel. She was outspokenly in favor of J Street joining the Conference of Presidents, and has been involved with the left-leaning New Israel Fund, a non-profit initially funded by the Ford Foundation that donates to hundreds of smaller non-profits, many of which have been tied to programs attacking Israel or attempting to de-legitimize the Jewish state. Schonfeld was also on the advisory committee for Jewish Funds for Justice, a George Soros funded organization that works to delegitimize Israel and support the BDS movement.
According to the first major survey of American Jews in 10 years, 71 percent of non-Orthodox Jews intermarry, two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue, one-fourth do not believe in God, and one-third had a Christmas tree in their home last year. Judaism is in dire straits in America. Should the focus of Schonfeld’s Zionism be a fight against other Jews?
Both ultra-Orthodox extremists and people like Schonfeld, who make extreme statements, should remember the words of Ze’ev Jabotinsky: “What interest can the Jewish nation have in individuals whose supreme pride consists in the fact that they have renounced their own people? The bitter root of our shame and our suffering is that we do not give our own people the full love of a patriot.”
Regardless of whether Israel’s policies on non-Orthodox Jews are right or wrong, no Jewish leader should speak of “Diaspora Jews stopping to support Israel.”