Reform Jews accuse movement’s head of ‘divisive’ leadership over J Street issue

An advertisement in which 41 Reform Jews accuse Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) President Rabbi Rick Jacobs of "divisive" leadership for his threat to pull URJ out of the Conference of Presidents over the rejection of J Street. Credit: Jews Against Divisive Leadership.

(JNS.org) More than 40 Reform Jews accused the head of the movement’s umbrella organization of “divisive” leadership over his threat to pull out of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations after the Conference rejected J Street’s membership application.

Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, a former member of J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet, stated following the Conference’s April 30 vote, “We may choose to advocate for a significant overhaul of the Conference of Presidents’ processes. We may choose to simply leave the Conference of Presidents. But this much is certain: We will no longer acquiesce to simply maintaining the facade that the Conference of Presidents represents or reflects the views of all of American Jewry.”

An advertisement signed by 41 Reform Jews that appears in this week’s edition of the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles says, “We warned you Rabbi Rick Jacobs would be a divisive leader. We told you that he would use his position to bolster the anti-Israel J Street. … But we did not know quite how divisive Rabbi Jacobs would be. We did not expect that when he failed to persuade the Conference of Presidents to accept J Street as a major Jewish organization—which it is not—he would threaten to take URJ out of the Conference and ask others to leave, too, over differences about Israel foreign policy.”

“The URJ needs to hear from you: Tell Rabbi Jacobs to return to what he was hired to do,” says the ad, which was paid for by a group called Jewish Against Divisive Leadership.

URJ was among the 17 Conference of Presidents member groups that voted in favor of J Street’s application. Twenty-two Conference members voted against J Street, which had needed 34 affirmative votes to join the 50-member Conference.

Posted on May 16, 2014 .