I belong to the Reform Judaism movement, "Reform" being the name of a denomination. It's the largest Jewish denomination in the US and is now headquartered here though it originated in 19th century Germany.
One of its functions is something called the RAC, or Religious Action Committee. This is really more of a Social Action Committee, organizing around various liberal causes. The Reform movement is liberal for religious reasons. (Not that conservative members aren't accepted, just that the movement engages in liberal causes. By the way, another denomination is called the Conservative movement, but in actuality it is politically mostly liberal.)
There is an Israeli branch of the RAC, called the Israel Religious Action Committee, or IRAC, headed by a woman named Anat Hoffman. This fundraising letter is from her. I've never met Ms. Hoffman. Reform Judaism isn't that big a world, so I know people who know her, including a Reform rabbi in Jerusalem whose younger sister is the comedian Sarah Silverman.
Judaism in Israel is mostly a very different deal than Judaism here. The Jewish population there is mainly bifurcated between Orthodox/ultra-Orthodox Jews and secular Jews who are mainly of the opinion that if you're going to be religious you might as well go whole hog (so to speak). Liberal (non-Orthodox) denominations are fairly minor there but the Reform movement is growing rapidly.
Gains by the Reform movement are important for political reasons. Because most Israelis are secular, they leave religious matters to the Orthodox, many of whom have grown draconian and intolerant. There are liberal aspects to religious Judaism, actually a lot of liberal aspects, but too many of these aspects get ignored by the Israeli orthodox. This is a serious problem because the Orthodox are extremely influential in government, the result being such things as government support for the West Bank settlements.
As the Reform movement grows, they've been reducing the stranglehold the Orthodox have on Israeli religious life. As secular Jews learn that the draconian political aspects of Orthodoxy are not inherent in religious Judaism, more of them will question the craziness. So, in Israel, a lot of current liberalism comes from a religious movement rather than from the secular Jews.
I just got this letter in my email. I thought you might find what the IRAC is doing now interesting.
Hineni (Here I am) appears 177 times in the Bible. It famously appears as a response to a divine calling. Leonard Cohen (z"l) [zikhrono livrakha - may his memory be a blessing - indicating that Cohen is deceased]crowned his final song "You Want it Darker" with the cantor and choir singing "I'm ready my Lord. Hineni, Hineni."
I believe this is our "Hineni" week. IRAC launched the first Racism Crisis Center in Israel last Tuesday.
The Racism Crisis Center is modeled after the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Alabama. Like the SPLC, IRAC will use litigation to protect the rights of minorities in Israel by elevating the voices of victims of racism and discrimination.
The Racism Crisis Center will provide support in cases of discrimination, hate speech, and hate crimes against minority populations, and collect data on the growing phenomenon of racism in Israel. The center provides support to victims of all backgrounds: Arab, Ethiopian Jews, Russian Jews, Mizrahi Jews, asylum seekers and migrant workers, and provides services in Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, Amharic and English.
We believe that many of Israel's leaders are inundated with extreme ideology that is centered around a deep sense of victimhood. Ghosts from the past blind their eyes from seeing that anyone else could suffer from discrimination in our modern state. In fact, the definition of "traitor" nowadays is "peacenik" or even leftist. The Jewish values that inspired Israel's Declaration of Independence are too often less relevant to government policy than the dead sea scrolls.
Israel's moral challenges do not exist in a bubble, and we are feeling the rise of pollution and nationalism just like in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere. Our Racism Crisis Center is IRAC's attempt to push back against the tide of bigotry and create facts on the ground for tolerance.
Now is the time for every person with a moral backbone to stand up and be counted. This is the moment to cry out "Hineni!"
Say Hineni by supporting us in our work to fight racism in Israel.