Protests against the Israeli government’s judicial reforms, Tel Aviv, February 2023
LFI director Michael Rubin has today joined more than 100 UK Jewish community figures in signing an open letter to the Israeli government pledging their support to pro-democracy protesters opposing ministers’ power grab at the expense of Israel’s judiciary.
The letter, addressed to ministers in the Israeli government, expresses “deep concern for the future of Israel’s democracy”, adding that the signatories “believe it is our duty to speak out when we witness threats to the values and institutions that form the bedrock of the Jewish nation”.
The signatories cite “the need to safeguard Israel’s democratic principles and maintain a system of checks and balances,” adding that the new laws “have raised grave concerns among many Israelis, and among Israel’s friends around the world, including us”.
Signatories include the most senior rabbis from Reform, Masorti, and Liberal synagogues around the UK as well as the heads of several major Jewish youth movements, the Union of Jewish Students, and big UK-Israel organisations such as UJIA.
Initiated by Defend Israeli Democracy UK, the letter echoes a similar initiative in the United States and appeared to reflect the growing unease of British rabbis with the direction of Israeli politics.
Read the full text of the letter and signatories below:
To the Honorable Members of the Israeli Government,
We, the undersigned Clergy and Jewish community leaders, write to you today to express our deep concern for the future of Israel’s democracy. As spiritual and community leaders of the British Jewish community, we believe it is our duty to speak out when we witness threats to the values and institutions that form the bedrock of the Jewish nation.
Our intention is not to align ourselves with any political party or agenda. Rather, we seek to address a matter of vital importance that transcends partisanship – the need to safeguard Israel’s democratic principles and maintain a system of checks and balances.*
Recent proposals for judicial reform have raised grave concerns among many Israelis, and among Israel’s friends around the world, including us. While we acknowledge the government’s prerogative to propose ways to improve the judicial system, we urge extreme caution in undertaking any changes that might compromise the delicate balance of power and erode the foundations of Israels’ democracy.
Our history has taught us the dangers of tyranny, oppression, and the erosion of democratic norms. As Jews, we carry the collective memory of countless struggles for freedom and justice. We have seen the devastating consequences of societies divided and polarized, where voices are silenced and dissent is stifled. We must not allow this to happen to our beloved Israel.
We stand united in our support for Israel’s democracy, irrespective of our physical location. We recognise the responsibility we share as Jewish leaders to advocate for the preservation of democratic principles in the land that holds such profound significance for our people. It is in this spirit that we implore you to reconsider the proposed judicial reform. We recognize that improvements can be made to any system, and we encourage constructive dialogue and debate to address concerns and find solutions. However, it is crucial that any reforms be carried out with the utmost respect for democratic principles and the preservation of the separation of powers.
We firmly believe that a united Israel, founded upon democratic values, is the best hope for its future. As you know, a democracy is judged not only on the principles of majority rule, but also on the principle that the fundamental rights of the minorities are respected and protected.
Our diversity is our strength and it is through democratic means that we can ensure the fair and just representation of all Israelis, foster unity and solidarity, and make a home for the diversity of the Jewish people worldwide.
We ask you, the representatives of the Israeli people, to find common ground and protect the democratic foundations that our forebears fought so hard to establish.
Together, we can strive for a better future – a future where Israel continues to be a beacon of democracy, justice, and equality. Let us ensure that future generations inherit a nation that upholds the principles upon which it was founded – a just and democratic state with checks and balances, and a source of pride for the Jewish people worldwide.
With hope for unity and democracy,
Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Liberal Judaism
Rabbi Josh Levy, CEO, Movement for Reform Judaism / Alyth Synagogue
Rabbi Jeremy Gordon, New London Synagogue (Masorti)
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, The New North London Synagogue and Masorti Judaism
Rabbi Deborah Blausten, Finchley Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Bromley Synagogue
Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, Edgware and Hendon Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, The Ark Synagogue
Rabbi Alexandra Wright, President, Liberal Judaism / The Liberal Jewish Synagogue
Rabbi Jonathan Romain, Maidenhead Synagogue
Rabbi Igor Zinkov, The Liberal Jewish Synagogue
Rabbi Jeffrey Newman, Finchley Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Andrea Zanardo, Brighton & Hove Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Jordan Helfman, Oaks Lane Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky, Menorah Synagogue
Rabbi Gabriel Kanter-Webber, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue
Rabbi Ariel J Friedlander, COLRAC
Rabbi Anna Wolfson, Mosaic Jewish Community
Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, Leo Baeck College
Rabbi Howard Cooper, Finchley Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Gershon Silins, The Liberal Synagogue Elstree
Rabbi Rene Pfertzel, Kingston Liberal Synagogue
Rabbi Paul Freedman, Radlett Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Margaret Jacobi, Birmingham Progressive Synagogue
Rabbi Adrian Michael Schell, Wimbledon and District Synagogue
Rabbi Colin Eimer, Sha’arei Tsedek North London Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Roberta Harris-Eckstein, Liberal Judaism
Rabbi Sandra Kviat, Crouch End Chavurah
Rabbi Daniela Thau, COLRAC
Rabbi Warren Elf, Liverpool and Southend and District Reform Synagogues
Rabbi Monique Mayer, Bristol & West Progressive Jewish Congregation
Cantor Zöe Jacobs, Finchley Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Irit Shillor, Harlow Jewish Community
Rabbi Hadassah Davis, Liberal Judaism
Rabbi Adam Frankenberg, Liberal Judaism
Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen, Reform Judaism
Rabbi Jonathan David Magonet, Leo Baeck College
Rabbi Dr Reuven Silverman, Manchester Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Mark L Solomon, Edinburgh and Leicester Liberal Jewish Communities
Rabbi Dr Elliott Karstadt, Alyth Synagogue
Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue
Rabbi Kathryn Vardi, North West Surrey Synagogue
Rabbi Michael Hilton, Kol Chai Hatch End Reform Jewish Community
Rabbi Larry Tabick, retired
Rabbi Richard Jacobi, East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue
Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, The Ark Synagogue
David Djemal, Cantorial Lead, New London Synagogue
Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, Chair, Arzenu
Rabbi Barbara Borts, MRJ/Masorti
Rabbi Maurice Michaels, Bournemouth Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Sybil Sheridan, Newcastle Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Tanya Sakhnovich, Edgware&Hendon Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Kathleen de Magtige-Middleton, Mosaic Reform Synagogue
Rabbi Helen Freeman, West London Synagogue of British Jews
Rabbi Roderick Young, Masorti/Norwich Synagogue
Rabbi Rabbi David Mitchell, West London Synagogue of British Jews
Rabbi Oliver Spike Joseph, Havurah/Masorti Judaism
Rabbi Chaim Weiner, Masorti Europe
Rabbi Rose Prevezer, Masorti Judaism
Rabbi Amanda Golby, retired, New North London Synagogue
Yoav Oved, Cantorial leader, New London Synagogue & Westminster Synagogue
Paul Silver- Myer, President, Finchley Progressive Synagogue
Charles Kessler, Former Chair, Finchley Reform Synagogue
Peter Strauss, Deputy, Belsize Square Synagogue
Martin Motz, Trustee, North West Surrey Synagogue
Mick Davis, former Chairman, Jewish Leadership Council
Edward Isaacs, President, Union of Jewish Students, UK and Ireland
Trevor Chinn, President, UJIA
Michael Rubin, Director, Labour Friends of Israel
Jonny Persey, Former Chair, Tzedek and Limmud Conference
Richard P Woolf, Acting Chair, Arzenu UK
Toby Kunin, Deputy, Noam Masorti Youth
David Davidi-Brown, CEO, New Israel Fund
Noeleen Cohen, Chair, New Israel Fund
Hannah Weisfeld, Executive Director, Yachad
Simon Sadie, Chair, Yachad
Adam Langleben, National Secretary, Jewish Labour Movement
Neil Nerva, Chair London Region and Brent Cllr, Jewish Labour Movement
John Strawson, Chair, Hashomer Hatzair U.K.
Lawrence Joffe, Director, Meretz U.K
Andrew Gilbert, Former Chair of Reform Judaism, former Vice Chair Arzenu Olami
Leigh Dworkin, Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, Chair
Linda Shaverin Hirsh, Vice-Chairman, Enfield Southgate Constituency Labour Party
Rabbi David L Freeman, Retired
Vivian Wineman, Past President, Board of Deputies of British Jews
Harriett Goldenberg, Board of Deputies Council Member / Liberal Jewish Synagogue
Dilys Tausz, Deputy for Belsize Square Synagogue, Board of Deputies of British Jews
Deborah Cohen, Board of Deputies representative, Belsize Square Synagogue
Joe Millis, Board of Deputies representative, Bromley Reform Synagogue
Amos Schonfield, Board of Deputies representative, Masorti Judaism
Joseph Grabiner-Wolfson, Board of Deputies Representative, Alyth Synagogue
Ido Ben-Shaul, Board of Deputies, Deputy for Reform Judaism
Daniel Mautner, Board of Deputies Representative, The Liberal Jewish Synagogue