On Susya, Reform Movement shows what true leadership looks like

Logan Bayroff Image
Logan Bayroff
on August 23, 2016

Yesterday, one major Jewish organization demonstrated what responsible, impressive Jewish communal leadership looks like when it comes to standing up for the two-state solution, opposing settlement expansion, and defending the rights of Palestinians.

The Union for Reform Judaism, the largest movement of Jews in North America, announced that their President, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, had sent a letter to Israeli ambassador Ron Dermer, making absolutely clear the URJ’s “opposition to reports of plans for the destruction of the Palestinian village of Susya.” The letter asks the ambassador to urge Lieberman and Prime Minister Netanyahu “to achieve a lasting, wise, and humane solution that protects the village of Susya from destruction.”

Over the past two weeks, J Street has been taking action to try to save Susya from demolition. Located in the West Bank’s South Hebron Hills, under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Civil Administration, the village has been targeted by settler groups for demolition. A recent High Court order gave Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman two weeks to decide whether he would continue negotiations with Susya’s residents about their fate – or move forward with the destruction of over 40% of the village’s homes.

Thousands have signed our petition urging Secretary Kerry and the State Department to use the full influence of the United States to make clear that this demolition would be unacceptable. But when it comes to standing up for human rights and opposing actions that undermine the two-state solution, J Street’s voice alone is not enough. We’ve been extremely grateful to have the support of T’ruah, the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. And we need others in the Jewish community to speak out loudly and clearly against the kind of activity that threatens Susya and makes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict worse.

That’s why J Street U leaders took to social media last week, urging Jewish communal leaders to join us in taking action.

The URJ answered the call. Over the past few years, they have made clear that their support for Israel’s Jewish and democratic future means standing up for the two-state solution – and standing up to settlement expansion and endless occupation. By speaking out on Susya, they’ve once again demonstrated that they take their commitment to human rights and Israel’s future seriously – and provided a clear path for other Jewish communal institutions and leaders to do the same.

Now, others need to follow their lead.