Britain’s progressive Jewish community has joined a chorus of condemnation after a Reform synagogue in Ra’anana, Israel was vandalised on Thursday, with death threats issued to leaders of the global liberal Jewish movement.
Members of Kehilat Ra’anan found graffiti sprayed on the walls when they went to open their nursery school, with names of prominent progressive Jewish figures written next to a knife inscribed with words from an ancient text that refers to the Jewish laws pertaining to murder.
Those threatened included Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of Liberal Judaism in Israel; and Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall and head of the Israel Religious Action Centre.
The threats are understood to relate to tension at the Western Wall, where the Israeli government recently announced plans for an egalitarian section, which would allow women to pray at the holy site.
“Shockingly this is the fifth incident of Jewish extremist vandalism on the synagogue,” said Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner.
“We call on all religious and political leaders in Israel to respond to this as they would to an attack on a Jewish community in the diaspora, with vigorous condemnation and resolution to support Kehilat Ra’anan in word and deed.”
She added: “We will not allow such hatred to destroy Progressive Judaism in Israel and stand alongside our brothers and sisters in the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism. We are committed to equality at the Kotel and beyond and we will not be intimidated by threats.”
A spokesman for Liberal Judaism in the UK said: “We and will continue to play our full part in supporting those who resist violence and intimidation and support robust and liberal democracies whether in Israel or beyond. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who face intolerance and intimidation.”
Naftali Bennett, leader of the far-right Jewish Home party and Israel’s most prominent religious nationalist, said: “As parents, educators and human beings we must condemn and prevent actions like those we were exposed to in Ra’anana.”
He added: “Around the world, and in Israel, live Jews with different world views. There are differences of opinion over substantial issues – including Jewish life. At times there is a chasm between one’s opinion and the other. But we cannot allow disputes deteriorate to abusive discourse and incitement, which could lead to the physical harming of a person because of his opinions and beliefs.”