Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

POVERTY IN ISRAEL

Adopted by the 116th Annual Convention
of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
Houston, TX
March, 2005

Background

The task of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, is of paramount importance to us as Reform Jews, both in North America and abroad, including in Israel.  In the Principles adopted in Pittsburgh in 1999, the CCAR stated that it is committed "to a vision of the State of Israel that promotes full civil, human and religious rights for all its inhabitants."  Earlier, in the Centenary Platform on Reform Judaism and Zionism, adopted in 1997, we affirmed that Israel is a state, "unlike all other states. Its obligation is to strive towards the attainment of the Jewish people's highest moral ideals. . . ."

Yet today, more than 20% of Israelis live below the poverty line in the State of Israel, one third of them non-Jewish minorities and more than 2/3 Jewish.  Poverty rates of children in Israel are the highest among all developed countries.  Children living below the poverty line fall behind in their education, frequently due to hunger, illness and home instability.

Therefore, be it resolved that the Central Conference of American Rabbis expresses its deep moral concern over the growing economic differential between those at the lowest rung of the economic ladder and the few who have profited by recent government policies.

  1. "Do not call them your children, but your builders."

    As the "People of the Book," we endorse the fullest education possible for all Israel's children.  We deplore the recent cuts in school hours and the dire educational situation which has resulted from large classes of students studying fewer hours, placing excessive strain on already burdened educators.  The "deep crisis" in Israel's current educational system was highlighted recently by none other than Israel's two Nobel laureate scientists, who have publicly deplored the level of science and math that most Israeli students today achieve, and have urged radical changes in the curriculum.

    We urge the government of Israel to redouble its efforts and reestablish funding to raise the level of learning among all Israel's children, who are her future.

  2. "Do not cast me off . . ."

    Growing poverty and unemployment levels affect the elderly and women especially.  We urge the government to extend aid to the poverty-stricken elderly and work for parity in the workplace for women, expanding childcare grants in aid for women who wish to be a part of the workplace.

  3. "For you know the heart of the stranger."

    As Jews, we are commanded to care for the stranger within our gates.  With this in mind, we call upon the Israeli government to extend health, education and social benefits to foreign workers living in Israel, that they too might enjoy the rights due all their neighbors in Israel. We also call upon the Israeli government to assure the economic equality of Israel.s Arab citizens. 

We commend those non-governmental organizations already working for the rights of all Israeli citizens and workers, such as the New Israel Fund, ACRI , IRAC, Sikkuy and others.  We urge all members of the CCAR to support these organizations, while demanding the government do more to improve the quality of lives of its citizens, that Israel may indeed fulfill the words of its own Declaration of Independence, and become a nation of freedom, justice, and equality for all within its borders