Despite tensions, European Reform Jews practice Israel advocacy

(JTA) — Dozens of Reform Jewish representatives attended an Israel advocacy seminar in Paris.

The meeting organized by the European Union for Progressive Judaism came amid tension in the Reform community’s relationship with Israel.

Some 40 delegates from 15 European countries heard lectures by AIPAC director Stephen Schneider; Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Transatlantic Institute; and Yossi Gal, Israel’s ambassador to France, among other speakers, according to a report about the event that was published last week.

The meeting was held “to combat anti-Israel bias in state organizations, in the media, on university campuses and in the workplace,” according to an EUPJ statement.

Representatives of Reform communities and Israeli authorities have had issues over settlement building and religious freedoms in Israel. 

In October, the World Union for Progressive Judaism, to which the European body belongs, condemned Israel for arresting a female Reform leader, Anat Hoffman, for praying aloud at the Western Wall. And in December, the Union for Reform Judaism adopted a resolution that publicly denounced Israel’s decision to increase settlement activity. 

“Yes, there is a lot of criticism toward Israel among Progressive communities and not only there,” Miriam Kramer, chair of the EUPJ, told JTA. “But these are internal disputes within a family. The seminars were about what we say outside that family.”

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