Interview with Rabbi Rick Jacobs

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, spoke to Jewish Insider‘s Jacob Kornbluh about AIPAC’s bipartisan message and reacted to Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday.

“I was actually very encouraged and was heartened by the genuine bipartisanship that the APAC leaders put on the main plenary stage. Howard Kohr’s speech on Sunday night, I thought, was both courageous and truthful. I think that sometimes ‘bipartisan’ is a slogan, but I saw and heard substantive voices affirming the diversity of Jewish views,” Jacobs said at the conclusion of the annual gathering. “I thought that was very positive and I really commend the APAC leadership on a stage that could have been very divisive. They were able to put forward a very effective way to galvanize a very divided community.”

On Netanyahu’s speech: “To be honest, there was a very large piece of the speech that was missing – the genuine issues that really have divided the United States Jewry from Israel. To talk about shared values is very important, but it’s not a talking point, it’s a practice. A leader has the responsibility to also talk about what’s challenging, and Jews in Diaspora are still waiting to feel more intensely that they matter too, not just to the prime minister but to the state of Israel. I believe that could have been an important additional element to the speech.”

On Friedman’s apparent dig at J Street: “That is exactly what is unhelpful. David Friedman’s job as the U.S. ambassador to Israel is to galvanize the pro-Israel community. The anti-Israel community is real. We know them. We fight them intensely. And I think to mistake friends of Israel, people who are pro-Israel for enemies of Israel is such a flawed and unhelpful approach.”

On Naftali Bennett remarks about U.S. Jewry: “First of all, I appreciate that the mutual responsibility exists between the diaspora and Israel, but frankly, we’re not a community that’s fading and we don’t need Israel to strengthen our Jewish identity. In many ways, we can strengthen Israelis’ Jewish identity and we do it all the time. It’s a shared project. So, I appreciate the concern. I think it’s genuine concern, but it is, I think, a consistent narrative among the Israeli cabinet and the government that the Jewish community is not vibrant and strong. We bring members of Knesset here. They see our community up close and they come to a deeper appreciation about us.”

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