JFNA Sends Message as Judicial Overhaul Plan Continues

Tags: Federation, Israel, Overseas

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Clevelander Jeff Wild speaks as Erika Rudin-Luria, president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, listens during a JFNA delegation meeting, which took place in Israel March 14 and March 15. Submitted photo.


Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

As the debate and protests surrounding judicial reform plans in Israel continue, the Jewish Federations of North America sent a delegation of leaders from various communities, including Cleveland, to meet with Israeli leaders.

The Israeli government introduced a judicial overhaul plan in January which has led to months of protests as the coalition and opposition seek to work out a compromise, the latest of which was rejected March 20. The coalition’s latest proposal would revise the procedure for appointing justices to the Supreme Court and delay other parts of the program.

Israeli reserve soldiers, veterans and activists protest in February outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem against the Israeli government’s planned judicial reforms. Photo / Yonatan Sindel / Flash90

Jewish Federation of Cleveland President Erika Rudin-Luria and vice chair Jeff Wild took part in the delegation. They met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, members of the Knesset, the opposition, and other key sectors of civil society and the business community during the 24-hour trip from March 14 to March 15.

“We really wanted to do a few things,” Rudin-Luria told the Cleveland Jewish News March 20. “One, we wanted to demonstrate our love for the people of Israel and for Israel during what is clearly a heart-wrenching time for them. And two, we wanted to get proximate, really listen and learn and understand what is happening on the ground now.”

She explained the group was not there to advocate for a specific plan, but instead engage in conversations, express concerns over the distrust and negative discourse within Israel, and encourage all sides to work together.

Erika Rudin-Luria, president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, speaks during a meeting with MK Simcha Rothman, chair of the Knesset’s law committee. Former Clevelander Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of JFNA, is on Rudin-Luria’s right. Submitted photo.

“Everyone we met with expressed to us that there would be a compromise, and all of them expressed a willingness to work with President Herzog on some level or another to come up with a compromise,” she said.

This trip to Israel stood out from past trips as the federations historically have not gotten involved in domestic Israeli politics, which Rudin-Luria said changed the tone and intensity of conversations. However, the group was encouraged by those they met with to remain engaged.

“When we were there, they were so warm and welcoming, and they expressed their feelings of isolation and a concern that American Jewry would disengage from them or from Israel entirely,” Wild told the CJN March 21. “And they were excited that we were there. They were encouraged by our involvement, and they asked us to make sure that we stayed engaged, remained engaged in the conversation not just on that day, but beyond.”

The delegation was comprised of representatives from the federations’ national leadership as well as from 30 large and small communities. Metropolitan areas and states that were represented included New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Colorado, San Francisco, Rochester, N.Y., Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Hartford, Conn., Nashville, Madison, Wis., and Minneapolis, according to The Jerusalem Post.

JFNA delegation with Israeli President Isaac Herzog March 14 and March 15. Submitted photo.

Wild said most of the trip was spent at the president’s residence and the Knesset as they met with Israeli officials, with some time dedicated to meeting with business leaders. He said he saw some small protests while traveling around Jerusalem.

“While there’s tremendous concern, there is hope about the ability to reach a compromise and for people to eventually come together,” Wild said. “But they know that’s going to be a long journey, a long road in getting there. And everyone feels confident that the American Jewish community, specifically through the Jewish Federations of North America, will be able to play a role in bringing people together.”

While the group did not advocate for a specific plan, Rudin-Luria said once the debate is over, the federations will be able to assist with and be involved with the healing and relationship building.

“It’s really critical that we send a message, and American Jews send a message, that when times are tough, whether because of internal reasons or external reasons, we’re there,” Rudin-Luria said. “We don’t walk away – we engage, we dig in deeper, we show up.”

Learn More: Federation, Israel, Overseas