The Seattle Times
Sept. 7, 2023
The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle is a network of 35 local Jewish organizations and dozens of individual leaders representing diverse perspectives and backgrounds. We convene, educate, and advocate on issues of vital concern based on Jewish values, consensus, and respect for our diversity, and build bridges within and beyond the Jewish community.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the modern state of Israel. The land of Israel holds deep significance to the Jewish people. Yet, the American Jewish community’s relationship with the state of Israel is our single most divisive issue. Some are nothing but proud of Israel and all its accomplishments. Others are dismayed by the entrenchment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, troubled by Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, and terrified of the current challenges to Israel’s democracy.
One of the Jewish values that guides our council’s work is “Elu V’Elu.” We take this phrase to mean that there are multiple sides to an issue, we are open to hearing alternate views and we will grapple with complexity. We asked three members of the council, representing diverse viewpoints and constituencies within the organized Jewish community, to share as leaders in the Puget Sound Jewish Community what Israel at 75 means to American Jews. Here is what they said:
Randy Kessler, regional director of StandWithUs Northwest: Israel is a critical component of Jewish identity for the vast majority of American Jews. Our culture, language, religion, and traditions originated in the Land of Israel over 3,000 years ago. After 1,900 years as a stateless, oppressed minority, the establishment of Israel was an amazing achievement that gave Jews worldwide security and self-determination. Many of us also worry about threats and challenges, like the Iranian regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, regional terrorist groups, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israel’s internal divisions. However, it is inspiring to see how far Israel has come despite all of that. Israel’s 75th year reminds us to be grateful that we live in a time when Jewish life is thriving in our ancestral homeland.
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