'Young Jews afraid they'll be barred from Israel due to new BDS law'

Five hundred young Jews poised to travel to Israel on Reform Judaism Birthright program Kesher are concerned they won’t be allowed into the country in light of their opposition to certain Israeli policies, Union for Reform Judaism Rabbi president Rick Jacobs said Sunday at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference in New York.

Jacobs was referring to Israel’s new law blocking any foreign activists who call for or try to influence others to boycott Israel from being able to enter the country. While he stressed that members of the group were by no means BDS proponents, he said they are critical of certain Israeli policies, such as the controversial “muezzin bill,” a proposal to prohibit religious institutions from using outdoor loudspeakers that is understood to be directed at the country’s mosques.

Some of Israel’s government policy, he said, does not reflect their Jewish values or moral compass.

Jacobs was one of three rabbis, each the leader of a different stream of Judaism, as well as Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, participating in a panel that explored the question: “Is Israel still the state of all the Jews?” Jacobs and Silverman, along with Rabbinical Assembly executive vice president Rabbi Julie Schonfeld and founder and director of North County Chabad Center Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie, gave a resounding “yes” to the above question.

Acknowledging major sticking issue for US liberal Jews such as the stalled agreement for an egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall as well as other issues of religious freedom including marriage, the consensus was that these are challenges that can be overcome.

While Silverman said the next generation would no longer be discussing this issue as the Jewish state grows and evolves, Jacobs referred to it as a “very large fixable problem” and Eliezrie said the system must be “compassionate and caring,” while emphasizing his belief that “Halacha is a binding force” of all Jews.

“I believe we need a strong, compassionate, well-run rabbinate,” he said, adding that Chief Rabbi David Lau is moving in the right direction.

Meanwhile, Schonfeld said the important question to ask is whether all Jews “feel that Israel is the place of all Jews,” while she noted that the Kotel has become a “place of discomfort.”

“The Kotel is just a sign of what should be throughout society,” Jacobs said, as he spoke of “one wall for one people.”