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December 22, 1989 - Image 39

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-12-22

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Putting aside
their own
differences, a
group of
Conservativ e
Orthodox and
Reform rabbis are
working for basic
human rights in
Israel and the

t Rab o b c i

he haul Laderm
d Ll e d rerrim an,

tonan s.formerly of the University of California at Berke& holds an Arab ba

Bindng up The wounds
Of the Intifada


Special to The Jewish News


n an Israel where Ortho-
dox and Reform mix
about as well as oil and
water, an unusual group of
rabbis is responding to
troubling times by finding
common ground in their
support for basic human
rights. More than 89 Ortho-
dox, Conservative and Re-
form members of the Rab-
binic Human Rights Watch
(RHRW) have come
together to bind the physical
and spiritual wounds of the


The group has stirred con-
troversy by inspecting local
health facilities in the West
Bank and then reported the
serious shortcomings in this
field to Defense Minister
Yitzhak Rabin. Accused of
treason, naivete, and being
played for suckers by Pales-
tinians, the RHRW has
shaken off criticism to re-
main true to its goal to
speak out as rabbis for the
preservation of basic human

rights in both Israel and the
occupied territories.
To meet its goal, the
RHRW has adopted these
• Help to raise conscious-
ness concerning violations
of human rights.
• Express solidarity with
those who have suffered
humiliation, physical abuse,
and wanton destruction of
property, be they Jewish or
Arab, through visits to peo-
ple and places where the
above acts took place.
• Work to alleviate human
suffering, particularly
among children.
• Call attention to those
residents in the West Bank
and Gaza who are in need of
medical care, particularly
children, in order to safe-
guard the value of human
• Offer a network of rab-
binic counselling for soldiers
who are deeply troubled by
the moral and ethical strug-
gle they confront.
• Serve as lecturers for ex-
isting educational programs
that raise issues of Jewish

values as related to the
present situation in the
West Bank and Gaza.
As a group of rabbinic
leaders, the RHRW is in-
vested with a religious man-
date to speak for the Jewish
People which has suffered so
painfully, and must remain
sensitive to the suffering of
The RHRW guiding princi-
ple is: that which is hateful
The group recently won
the support of the Conserva-
tive Rabbinic Assembly and
expects similar support
from the U.S. Reform body
as well.
The RHRW got its start
when Rabbi David Forman
heard about a worker in his
Jerusalem office who arrived
late for work and explained
that his car had been im-
pounded by Israeli au-
thorities who demanded
back taxes that had already
been paid. After accompany-
ing the man to his village
Battir and experiencing the
situation in the village first-
hand, Rabbi Forman returned

by in

his arms during a visit to a school in

to organize like-minded
rabbis. -
"Who is a Jew dominated
the press, and the issue of
What is a Jew seemed of lit-
tle significance," Forman,
director of the international
education department for
the Union of American
Hebrew Congregations (Is-
rael), explained. "The imag-
ery of the rabbi in Israel and
in the world in general at
that time was one of a rather
Dark Age sort of approach
to Jewish ceremonial and re-
ligious life." Forman, a
RHRW founder and
spokesman, and a core of
supportive colleagues con-
tacted all Reform and Con-
servative rabbis in Israel,
and a considerable number
of Orthodox as well.
"We said we were troubled
by an issue where there
seems to be a deterioration
of moral concern and that we
weren't going to deal with
issues of political and secu-
rity matters, but rather with
those issues that went be-
yond, and were simply viola-
tions of the elemental rights

of the human being," Rabbi
Forman said.
Physical abuse, wanton
destruction of property,
belittling of children and
withholding of health ser-
vices were singled out by the
RHRW for protest. More
than half those contacted in-
itially joined the group,
mostly former Americans
but including some native
The majority of Orthodox
rabbis in Israel have so far
been reluctant to join the
watch, but several impor-
tant' rabbis have lended their
support. Rabbi Emanuel
Rackman of Bar Ilan Univ-
ersity, former Chief Rabbi of
Ireland David Rosen and
Rabbi Paul Laderman,
formerly of the University of
California at Berkeley and
currently active in the reli-
gious peace movement
Netivot Shalom, have all
joined the human rights or-
"[The RHRW] is the only
place, that I know of in this
country where Orthodox,
Conservative and Reform



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