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Reform Synagogue Vandalized in Israel

Reform Synagogue Vandalized in Israel

Today my heart is heavy as I write to you about the vandalism of a Reform synagogue this past Thursday in Ra'anana, Israel. This was the fifth time in four years in which such an act was carried out against this congregation.

The graffiti, written in large blue and red spray paint on the outside wall of the Kehilat Ra’anan synagogue reads: "Maimonides Laws of Repentance, Chapter 3, Law 14" and "Psalms 139, verse 21-22."  The first quote refers to the passage in which Maimonides declared that renegades, heretics, and deniers of Torah do not have a place in the world to come, even though they are Jews, if they do not repent before they die. The passages from the Book of Psalms read: "Do I not hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee? And do not I strive with those that rise up against Thee? I hate them with utmost hatred; I count them as my enemies."

Kehilat Ra'anan has contributed significantly to Israeli society. Their bar and bat mitzvah program engages both religious and secular Israelis, and three schools have recently requested to be part of this program. Their olim (new immigrant) program this year reached over 200 adults and children.  Russian, Spanish, and English speakers alike come to learn Hebrew and participate in a support group that helps them ease the transition into Israeli society.  These programs run along a backdrop of progressive Jewish values and traditions that are often missing in other educational formats in Israeli life

Ambassador of the United States to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, called the congregation to voice his concern upon hearing about the attack, and Habayit Hayehudi deputy mayor and Meretz deputy mayor both visited the site and expressed their horror. The police have opened an investigation of Thursday's vandalism. However, like the other attacks on this synagogue, a suspect has yet to be identified.

The Israel Religious Action Center condemns hate crimes of any nature. Whether it is a spray painting "price tag" attack on an Arab car or against a Reform or Conservative synagogue, people who would use Jewish religious texts to justify hate should be challenged at every turn. The best response to these crimes is to continue the work of IRAC and progressive Jewish congregations towards the creation of a pluralistic Israel. Together, let us work towards an Israel that allows all people to practice and honor their faith, without fearing intimidation.

Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in Israel. She is also the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, a group of Jewish women and men from around the world who strive to achieve the right of women to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Anat Hoffman
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