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Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2024

A letter signed by more than 1200 alumni and current members of the Union for  
Reform Judaism (URJ), addressed to the organization on Dec. 16, 2023, declares,  
“We grieve for the 1,200 killed during Hamas’s Oct. 7th attack and the more than  
18,000 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military—-almost half of whom have been  
children—-since then. Israel has cut off water, electricity, fuel, and supplies  
to Gaza. We are deeply concerned that tax dollars have been so easily provided to  
support Israel’s military assault on Gaza, while we struggle for the basic needs  
of our communities.”  
The letter was written by Elise Glaser, 27, who has been involved with the URJ  
since she attended Hebrew School at Congregation Kol Ami in Woodinville,  
Washington. The letter declares that “The URJ teaches practicing Pikuach Nefesh,  
‘saving a life,’ and Tikkun Olam, ‘repairing the world.’ An immediate cease-fire  
is in line with these Jewish values.”  
At the same time, a letter was released from descendants of progressive rabbis  
and leaders to express “our horror at the URJ’s failure to call for a cease-fire  
in Gaza. We are alarmed that the leadership of our community has not demanded an  
end to Israel’s devastating violence against Palestinians in addition to the safe  
and immediate return of the hostages…A decades-long campaign to dehumanize  
Palestinians has hardened the American Jewish community’s hearts. Atrocities are  
being committed in our name. We do not consider the killing of thousands of  
innocent civilians to be a justifiable consequence of ensuring our community’s  
The letter concludes: “The URJ continues to actively alienate alumni with its  
uncompromising Zionist rhetoric…We will reconsider our and the next generation’s  
membership and support of the URJ unless there is a public, dramatic shift in the  
way the movement addresses Israel. It is not too late to listen, to open your  
heart, and to make your children proud.”  
Among the original signatories to this letter are Zippy Janas, a descendant of  
Rabbi Julius Rappaport, Chana Powell, daughter of a current URJ rabbi, Talia  
Yudkin Toffany, daughter of Rabbi Marjorie Yudkin, Zachariah Sippy, son of Rabbi  
David Wirtschaffer, and Hafanyah Perluss, daughter of Rabbi Emily Feigenson.  
An organization called Reform Jews For Justice has also been established. It  
declares that “As Reform Jews we stand together for Justice, in solidarity with  
Palestine. We unite in our values to call for a ceasefire, the release of  
hostages, and an end to U.S. military aid to Israel…We have come together to call  
on our movement to engage in Solidarity with Palestine. We envision a Reform  
Jewish movement that…rejects a conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism…The  
URJ’s leaders have unabashedly demonstrated shameful tactics of ethno-nationalism  
and tribal political priorities over simple ethics and the illegitimate and  
dangerous conflation of Zionism and Judaism. We have been alienated from the  
movement that raised us to ask, ‘If I am only for myself, what am I?’—-through  
binary language suggesting that our affiliation is conditional on Zionism. We  
will not stand idly by.” *  

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