From a profound commitment to the Jewish people and progressive Jewish values, we are joining the campaign to raise the alarm about the appointment of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu by Magen David Adom (MDA).
Rabbi Eliyahu, as the chief rabbi of Safed, has used his position of authority to incite to racism and xenophobia. His extreme views pose a real danger to Israeli democracy and have no place in such a worthy organization.
MDA assists people in their most difficult moments regardless of race, religion or creed. We admire MDA for their holy work and we share with them a profound belief in the values of equality. As friends, we now turn to MDA to question the unfortunate decision to appoint Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu to their halachic committee.
Martin Buber teaches us about Ahavat Israel: “Love your neighbor as yourself: turn to your friend with love, with acts of love, as a brother.” It is with these sentiments that we ask MDA to make the right choice in this matter.
In the past weeks, many [people] have corresponded with MDA branches around the world to express [their] support of the work that [they] do, and to protest the appointment of Rabbi Eliyahu. [They] have received the following answers:
1. Rabbi Eliyahu has no authority to set policy within MDA. He is not the only member on the committee. We want to respond by saying that the appointment of Rabbi Eliyahu by the MDA taints the entire organization with the racist remarks that he continues to make, and validates him as a leader in Israel.
2. Rabbi Eliyahu was cleared of all charges of racist incitement. History shows that Rabbi Eliyahu not only allows himself to incite to racism, he also has no hesitation to deny it after the fact (for example, he denied having made the statements in his own op-ed published in Haaretz in 2008).
On behalf of the Reform movement in North America and Israel, we want to convey a clear message to MDA: We support you in your work and we demand that you stand by our shared values. This issue is not going away, and we trust your leadership to find a solution so that we can all be blessed by your work.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs
(The author is the president of the Union for Reform Judaism.)