To: Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu
c/o Dr. Jonathan Schechter, Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister
IMPORTANT FOR DR. JONATHAN SCHECHTER: PLEASE BE SURE THAT PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU SEES THIS.
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu:
It is with great concern and distress that we just heard the news that Lesley Sachs, the director of Women of the Wall, was detained by the Jerusalem police along with a blessed Torah that our congregation, B’nai Israel in Sacramento, California, lent to Women of the Wall, to express our solidarity with their cause and our belief in the unity of the Jewish people. The fact that the Torah scroll was taken by the police and that the police actions appear to have been coordinated with Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi who oversees the Kotel, is especially disturbing.
It is our understanding that you had committed your government to a compromise that shows unity of the Jewish people and a place in the state of Israel for all streams of Judaism. Today’s action appears to be yet another step backwards in that commitment. We can only assume that Reform Jewry, the largest stream of Judaism in North America, is not welcomed in Israel’s holiest places, but this will not deter us. On the contrary. Our love for Israel and our devotion to our authentic worship, embracing Torah, pluralism, democracy and equal roles for men and women, will continue to inspire us as we demand our rightful place.
This Torah holds a special place in the heart of our congregation and in the heart of the Jewish people “Rudy’s Torah” belonged to Rudy and Ann Michaels, of blessed memory. Rudy was the President of Congregation B’nai Israel in the 1960’s and was a long time beloved and respected member of both the Jewish and Sacramento communities. Rudy and Ann Michaels were both refugees from Nazi Germany. The small Torah that Rudy so lovingly and proudly carried as he stood before our Congregation on Kol Nidre belonged to his family. The Torah was from Germany and after surviving the Holocaust came to the United States to be in his family’s possession once again. When Rudy and Ann passed away in 2009, their family entrusted our congregation with the Michaels’ Torah and we entrusted it to the Women of the Wall.
We look forward to your reply and to the implementation of the agreement already passed by your government.
Rabbi Mona Alfi, Senior Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel
Alan Steinberg, President, Congregation B’nai Israel
Jennifer Kaufman, Vice-Chair, North American Board of the Union for Reform Judaism; Past President, Congregation B’nai Israel