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The Jewish Federations of North America
Rabbininc Cabinet
JFNA Rabbinic Cabinet Statement of Concern
January 17, 2012

As rabbis we are concerned by the disturbing acts of extremists and fanatics within the ultra-Orthodox population including the shocking use of Holocaust imagery, discrimination against women, spitting on a child, as well as other recent polarizing and despicable acts. 
 
The Rabbinic Cabinet of The Jewish Federations of North America affirms its commitment to K'lal Yisrael and embraces the acceptance of all Jews within all streams of Judaism.  Therefore, the Rabbinic Cabinet of Jewish Federations condemns in no uncertain terms the recent events in Beit Shemesh and classifies this offensive behavior as a chillul ha-shem
 
In response to the tensions in Beit Shemesh, a senior leadership delegation of  The Jewish Federations, led by President/CEO Jerry Silverman, was dispatched to Israel to meet with all sectors of society in Beit Shemesh as well as the mayor and with government officials in Jerusalem.  The purpose of their trip was to discuss this issue and to challenge and encourage the government and municipalities to take strong action against these fanatics as well as to affirm the community partnership between Beit Shemesh and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, D.C.  
 
It is important to note that no money collected by Jewish Federations and sent to Israel via JFNA goes to fund ultra-Orthodox yeshiva studies.  In fact, the programs that Federations are funding, and which impact this population, are designed to promote greater diversity by aiding them to enter the workforce and to serve in the IDF. 
 
Rebecca Caspi, Senior Vice President, Israel & Overseas and Director General of the Jewish Federations in Israel, filed this report: “…leaders from across the country – including from within the mainstream Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox community – are now speaking out strongly against these acts and the extremists who perpetrate them. While we might have wished to see this happen sooner, we applaud that those who may have been at first too passive in their responses are now taking proactive and public positions against the disgraceful behavior of the zealot minority. “
 
“Much of the tension that has led to the current crisis seems almost unavoidable.  The rapid population growth within the ultra-Orthodox community is compelling them to integrate more fully into the general community than many might wish.  A severe housing shortage and lack of public facilities means that those who would rather live apart are being forced to vie for assets and live together.  This situation is very threatening to their highly traditional way of life, and they are deeply worried about the impact that this intermingling may have on their society…. it seems we may be nearing a tipping point – where the magnitude of the challenges is forging a common agenda across the political spectrum focused on reinforcing the values at the heart of the Jewish and democratic state of Israel.”
 
Reflecting on his week in Israel , Jerry Silverman said: “As the North American Jewish community, we know full well that Jewish and democratic values can be combined successfully. At Federation after Federation, we make decisions to come together in ways that honor one another and our diversity as a people. Now, we must do more to share this model with our Israeli family and demonstrate our faith in the underlying capacity that Israeli society possesses to tolerate and celebrate its own diversity. We should look to create and harvest critical opportunities for dialogue that will advance this goal when traveling to Israel on missions and in small groups, and working through our partnership projects with cities and towns across the country.”
 
The Rabbinic Cabinet, in its upcoming mission to Budapest and Israel next month, will visit sites which promote the spirit of tolerance and cooperation which is the foundation and hallmark of our approach and reflects our guiding principles.  Our work highlights the respect and acceptance of Jewish diversity within North America as a hallmark of K'lal Yisrael.  We call upon our rabbinic colleagues in Israel to follow our example of acceptance and tolerance as it will strengthen Judaism and the Jewish people within Israel.

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The Rabbinic Cabinet is an organization of over 1,000 rabbis, from all denominations, devoted to working with JFNA to strengthen local Jewish Federations and support the continental Jewish community

Rabbinic Cabinet officers

Cabinet Chair: Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt
Vice Chair: Rabbi Les Bronstein
Vice Chair: Rabbi Frederick Klein 
Vice Chair: Rabbi Larry Kotok
Vice Chair: Rabbi Steve Lindemann
President: Rabbi Steven E. Foster
Honorary Chair: Rabbi Matthew H. Simon
Director of the Rabbinic Cabinet: Rabbi Gerald I. Weider.
 

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