Speak up on issues, Reform rabbis urged


Reform rabbis were urged to “exercise moral leadership” on today’s issues.

Rabbi Peter Knobel, the president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, on Monday said the movement’s rabbis should discuss the presidential race with their congregations, including the “moral tragedy” of the Iraq war, the need for universal health care and the pressing need for peace in the Middle East.

Knobel was speaking at the CCAR’s national convention in Cincinnati. More than 450 rabbis from the 1.5 million-member American Reform community, the largest Jewish denomination, are attending the four-day gathering.

“We have an important role in bringing the insights of Judaism to bear on the great issues of today,” Knobel said at CCAR’s 119th convention. Adding that he hoped Protestant, Catholic and Muslim clergy would speak to their congregations as well, he said, “Often religion is decried as irrelevant. Quite the contrary, our moral values should be heard by all.”

Rabbis should not, however, show favoritism toward any candidate.

“We must remain politically neutral,” Knobel said.

Knobel blasted the Iraq war, saying it is “eating the flesh of our country” even as it is “killing and maiming thousands, alienating the Muslim world and wasting resources that would make for a safer, more secure and just world.” He also warned against the growing disconnect between Israel and North American Jewry, calling it “a virus.”

Later Monday, the conference was to consider intermarriage, particularly the thorny issue of whether Reform rabbis should officiate at interfaith weddings.

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