At the end of June, the Israeli government voted to freeze a resolution to create a formal egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel. This space would provide a permanent prayer platform for non-Orthodox prayer at the southern end of the Western Wall.
Suspending the plan for this resolution will affect Jews from around the world, including the hundreds of thousands of people Federation has assisted in making aliyah through our partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel. The Minneapolis Jewish Federation remains strong in its commitment to promoting pluralism here in Israel, Minneapolis, and around the globe.
In addition to supporting the Jewish Agency in their statements, Federation CEO James Cohen has sent the following letter to Aviv Ezra, the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, expressing his disappointment on behalf of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation:
Dear Mr. Ezra:
As a leader of the Jewish community in Minneapolis and as a proud Jew living in the diaspora, I write today with extreme concern and deep frustration. You have no doubt been inundated with messages regarding the Government of Israel’s recent decisions vis-à-vis the Bill before the Knesset revoking the legitimacy of private conversions and the abandonment of the already-agreed-to compromise on a pluralistic prayer platform at the Kotel. I would be remiss, if in both aforementioned capacities, I did not inform you of my community’s strongly-held feelings regarding these issues.
The Government’s actions in both of these instances risk causing irreparable damage to the relationship between Jewish Americans and the Jewish State. Failure to rectify these issues in an amicable matter will leave tens of thousands of Jews in my community wondering if they are in fact welcome in the Jewish State, or if their philanthropy is all that is desired of them. They are already making themselves heard. I feel very strongly that as Jews living in the United States, we must respect the right of Israelis to settle sovereign, political questions without interference. These issues, however, are not simply State questions. They are questions for the Jewish people regardless of their place of residence.
I urge you to convey in the strongest terms to The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and members of the Knesset that should the conversion bill pass in its current form and if the Government fails to restore the Kotel agreement, a generation of Jewish supporters of the State of Israel may be lost. I suggest that this generation not be squandered for the sake of temporary, political expedience.
The 20th Century German-Jewish philosopher Franz Rosensweig was right when he said “The soul of a great Jew can accommodate many things. There is danger only for the little souls.” Solving these issues for the good of the Jewish people as a whole will demonstrate to Jews everywhere, including those in Minneapolis, that the Government is in the hands of men and women with large souls, who care about the future of our people and are willing to forge compromises for the common good.
Will all best wishes for your continued success in Chicago and with hope that the Government will do the right thing, I remain,
James A. Cohen