(JERUSALEM) — JEWISHcolorado Board Chair Rob Kaufmann and Interim President and CEO Renée Rockford were among 30 Federation leaders representing communities across the United States and Canada who took part in an extraordinary, 24-hour visit to Israel to express their concerns with Israeli leaders on the proposed judicial reforms and to convey the implications these changes will have on the North American Jewish community. The meetings concluded last Wednesday evening.
“Each and every leader expressed their gratitude to us for making the trip and for bringing the voice of global Jewry to bear upon these decisions that have implications the world over,” said Kaufmann. “Despite differences among us, we believe Jews are one people who must work together for the preservation of Israel as a Jewish and a democratic state.”
During the fly-in, members of the delegation met with President Isaac Herzog, MK Nir Barkat (Minister of Economy and Industry, Likud party), MK Danny Danon (Israeli Representative to the UN and Chairman of World Likud), MK Benny Gantz (Opposition, National Unity Party), Yair Lapid (Opposition Leader), MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism, architect of the effort to reform Israel’s judiciary), and other members of the Knesset from the coalition and opposition, as well as senior business leaders.
The same day of the meetings, President Herzog addressed the country and proposed a new judicial framework. His compromise plan, titled “The People’s Directive,” took an opportunity for what some leaders called a “constitutional moment,” and suggesting the impasse was an opportunity to design a framework for an Israeli Constitution, of which there is currently none. According to news reports, faction leaders in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-religious coalition released a joint statement the same evening rejecting President Herzog’s proposed judicial reforms.
News reports Sunday indicate that MK Rothman has unveiled a slightly revised judicial selection plan that coalition leaders are discussing.
The JFNA group did not advocate for a specific plan, and each of the parties, to one extent or another, committed itself to seeking compromise. Both sides stated throughout the day that active negotiations were taking place behind the scenes. One leader even stood before the JFNA group waving a sheet of paper with multiple scenarios for reactions to the compromise plan.
“We believe in the importance of holding open dialogue with those who hold positions that we agree and disagree with and in conveying the far-reaching consequences that a dramatic change to the Israeli system of governance would have on the North American Jewish community and in broader society.”— President & CEO of Jewish Federations of North America Eric Fingerhut
“The fact that 30 leaders representing different communities across the Federation system dropped everything on such short notice to fly to Israel for 24 hours is a testament not only to the dedication of our leaders, but to their deep love for the Jewish Homeland,” said Federations of North American Board Chair Julie Platt. “We find ourselves at a critical time that demands our leaders raise their concerns directly with Israel’s senior officials and make our position clear. I am grateful to the members of the delegation for their commitment and leadership during such a pivotal moment.”
“What is clear is that this is not a time to step back from support for the people of Israel,” said JEWISHcolorado’s Renée Rockford. “This is a critical time to maintain the connections between and among people; it is what has sustained Jewish life in Israel and in the Diaspora.”