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Reform Rabbis Affirm Zionism is Possible Without Aliyah

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The 99th annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis ended here Sunday with a spirited defense of the principle that one can be a true Zionist without living in Israel.

The CCAR is the rabbinical organization of Reform Judaism in the United States. Its convention created a stir here, and an angry reaction from some government circles, when the rabbis delivered a letter to Premier Yitzhak Shamir deploring “the policy of deliberate beatings ordered by Defense Minister (Yitzhak) Rabin as beyond the bounds of Jewish moral values.”

The protest was against the Israel Defense Force policy of pursuing and beating Palestinian demonstrators in the administered territories. In recent weeks, the policy has been greatly modified to forbid using beatings to punish demonstrators after a riot takes place.

Rabbi Eugene Lipman, president of the CCAR, stated in his address that it is not necessary to live in Israel to be an authentic Zionist. Rabbi Simeon Maslin of Philadelphia differentiated between “galut” and diaspora.

“Galut is not a place, galut is the abandonment, willingly or unwillingly of the Jewish mission” and therefore, authentic Jewish life in America is not necessarily galut, he said.

Among the resolutions adopted at the closing session was one calling for “the pursuit of peace in the Middle East.” It states, “We urge all peoples involved in the current struggle to join in the active search for a fair, enduring, all-embracing peace.”

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