Some left-wing Jewish groups in the United States are siding with Hamas in the current war on Israel's southern border. In addition to the emotional mass protest rallies being held in support of Hamas in cities across the United States, and alongside the Hasidic groups garbed in shtreimels and long robes while waving Palestinian flags, these liberal Jewish groups have worked to stand out as Jewish while supporting a cease-fire in Gaza, where Hamas holds at least 200 hostages taken from Israel during a bloody and deadly terror attack nearly two weeks ago.
The Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) group demonstrated Wednesday night in the plaza of the US Capitol building in Washington, DC. During the protest, men and women performed a song-filled prayer service, while wearing kippot and tzitzit, and black shirts with the words "Not in our name" and "Jews say cease-fire now." The protesters claimed that Israel is on the verge of committing genocide against the Palestinians in Gaza, claims that were immediately reported by American journalists covering the protest.
The protesters who marched on the Capitol complex gathered in the Cannon House Office Building, which had to be closed to visitors as a result. According to reports, liberal members of Congress even came to the protest and encouraged the protesters, telling them that they were "on the right side of history."
Local security forces reported that there were a number of arrests at the protest. The event at the Capitol took place on a day that US media, led by the New York Times, reported that the Palestinians blamed Israel for the bombing of a hospital in the Gaza Strip, though the Pentagon later accepted proof from Israel that the blast was caused by an errant Islamic Jihad rocket.
The effect of the Jewish-American protest on the Israeli public was not long in coming. Women in Israel who wear a tallit and kippah are clearly identified with the Reform movement and with the struggle for equal prayer at the Western Wall, which has so far aroused great sympathy among Israelis with a liberal worldview. But the photos and videos of the protest from the Capitol building in Washington were received in Israel with mixed emotions. Along with Israelis who dismiss this as an insignificant radical minority, there are many Israelis who, at a time of fighting and mourning for victims of the Hamas attack, are disappointed and angry with liberal Judaism, which in Israel is identified with the Reform movement and falls "on the wrong side" of solidarity with Israel.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, hastened to emphasize that the Reform movement firmly stands with the State of Israel and that on Wednesday the leaders of the movement met with members of Congress in order to rally their support for Israel. Jacobs added that the Reform movement in the United States is Zionist and noted that, despite the good will for peace and a cease-fire on the part of the protesters, this time is a time of war.
"Yesterday's protest in the U.S. Congress by a group representing a very small, fringe part of the Jewish community demanding a cease-fire does not represent the Reform movement nor a significant portion of the overall Jewish community," Jacobs said in a statement. "On Tuesday, the leadership of the Reform movement was in Washington DC along with the leadership of the American Jewish community meeting with the bi-partisan leadership of the US Congress and the US administration expressing our strong support for Israel in this time of war. The Reform movement is the largest Zionist organization in North America and strongly stands with Israel in this necessary war against Hamas. Every person of good will support the idea of peace but this is not the time for a cease-fire with 200 Israeli hostages being held in Gaza."
"This moment demands military action in order to eliminate Hamas' ability to wage endless rounds of murderous attacks on the citizens of Israel. The Reform Movement with almost 2 million Jews in North America stands strongly with the people of Israel and the State of Israel," Jacobs added.
The Reform and Progressive movement in Israel also disassociated itself from the protesters in the US.
"As is the case with every Israeli that viewed this video, we are deeply disturbed and completely condemn this act of de-legitimization of Israel as it appears in the film," Anna Kislanski CEO of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), said of videos from the Capitol protest. "We are amazed that at a time when we are burying our dead, praying for the release of the captives and for the healing of the wounded, at a time when the full strength and energies of the members of our congregations are deeply engaged in supporting the IDF, and national resilience in response to the worst disaster ever in Israel's history, that we see this spectacle of extremist marginal groups in the diaspora. These groups have absolutely no connection to the Reform Movement, and they do not at all represent the US Jewish community."
"The US and world Jewish community is totally engaged in aid and unwavering support of Israel in this difficult hour. We have no choice but to tell these marginal irrelevant groups that their lot is not with us," she added.