Bayfield: Israel's friends can criticise

By Jonathan Kalmus, May 21, 2010
Leaders of the future enjoy a play session organised by RSY-Netzer

Leaders of the future enjoy a play session organised by RSY-Netzer

Reform Jews should not be scared to offer constructive criticism of Israel, delegates were told at the movement's biennial conference, held in Manchester at the weekend.

Three-hundred delegates were at the conference, which was split between the Manchester Reform, Cheshire Menorah and Whitefield Sha'arei Shalom shuls.

Speaking after a full programme on Shabbat and beyond, movement head Rabbi Tony Bayfield said discussions had highlighted growing weariness among members at the view that British Jews must express only "unwavering support for Israel and its government. Anything short of that and you're not loyal. But we don't believe that.

"When you love somebody, your support doesn't have to be unwavering just because it's uncomfortable [to say otherwise]."

Israeli settlement building and the treatment of Palestinians were legitimate areas of concern.

Such issues were raised during a discussion session with Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of Israel's Movement for Progressive Judaism.

In his last conference speech before retirement, Rabbi Bayfield told guests at the dinner at Cheshire Reform on Saturday night that the movement had made unprecedented progress in moving "from the margins of British Jewry to the mainstream". He also highlighted the closer ties with Liberal Judaism, whose chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich had jointly led a conference workshop on communal collaboration. "Cameron and Clegg eat your hearts out," Rabbi Bayfield joked.

Rabbi Rich said that a Liberal-funded student worker would be involved in Reform's campus and young adult project Jeneration, explaining: "It will allow our aspirations and joint values to become more and more achievable."

Last updated: 12:50pm, May 21 2010