Reform Rabbis Confirm Support for Zionism
"We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state."
These words were adopted by American Reform rabbis in 1885 as part of their "Pittsburgh Platform" of basic beliefs. On June 24, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) had a very different statement to make about Zionism, the movement that promotes Jewish loyalty to Israel: the State of Israel, they said, was "the Jewish people's supreme creation in our age."
The CCAR adopted the platform as part of its annual meeting in Miami. The 600 rabbis at the convention debated first over the wording of the platform, which represents one of the strongest statements of support for Zionism by the Reform movement.
The platform was adopted at a moment when many Reform Jews were concerned by proposed legislation in Israel that would have codified into law the Orthodox Rabbinate's present monopoly on conversion.
The "Miami Platform" confirms that the rabbis believe that the State of Israel serves "as the spiritual and cultural focal point of world Jewry." The platform encourages immigration to Israel and commits the rabbis to intensify Hebrew instruction in all Reform institutions.
The platform adds, however, that Judaism in Israel and in the Diaspora (the Jewish areas outside Israel) are "partners in the shaping of Jewish destiny." It also says that the rabbis "seek a Jewish state in which no religious interpretation of Judaism takes legal precedence over another."
In his introductory remarks, the chairman of the drafting committee said that the proper response to the "obscenities" of the recent Israeli legislation would be to pass this platform supporting Zionism. "We will demonstrate that our pain, as distinct from the flag-burners and hate-mongers of the day, is yissurei ahavah – the chains of love," said Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch. "The deep disappointment we feel with the Israeli government is the product of deep love for the State of Israel, and deep commitment to the Zionist idea."
He added, "Our children, enjoying the fruits of our labors, will read our platform and render their verdict that we were too great a movement to allow our lofty ideals to be sabotaged by small-minded politicians."
The Miami Platform (1997)
©1997 Heather Elizabeth Peterson