Reform movement spurns iconic Israeli charity to protest West Bank land buys

A photograph taken last year from the Palestinian West Bank village Turmus Ayya shows the Jewish settlement Shilo.
A photograph of the Palestinian West Bank village Turmus Ayya shows the Jewish settlement Shilo. (photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)
Issues of transparency and settlement land purchases by the Israel Jewish National Fund raise issues for the Union of Reformed Judaism, the largest Jewish movement in North America.

By Aiden Pink  | Intercept  | Oct 31, 2019

‘Anybody who is closely watching the activities of KKL in Israel knows they’re deeply enmeshed in’ expanding the settlement enterprise…
— Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

The largest Jewish denomination in the United States is turning down a donation from an iconic Israeli charity, alleging that the charity tricked the movement by buying and then hiding land purchases in the West Bank.

Keren Kayemet LeYisrael-Jewish National Fund is probably best known in the United States for its famous blue tzedakah box and for planting trees in the Holy Land. The quasi-governmental organization is also a major owner and purchaser of land throughout Israel, and the Union of Reform Judaism has long supported it.

Yet on Tuesday, URJ president Rick Jacobs published a series of tweets accusing the charity of “deceiving the board of directors and most senior leaders in the organization.”

The Reform movement, the most politically and theologically liberal of the major American Jewish denominations, has long tried to strike a balance between supporting Israel’s security and criticizing many of its policies, including religious freedom and settlement activities. Around 35% of American Jews identify as Reform, according to the 2013 Pew Survey of American Judaism.

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