Seattle-area rabbi Rick Harkavy is one of the founding members of a new organization that supports a non-partisan and centrist approach to discussions about Israel.
Originally called Rabbis for Israel, the organization has adopted the new, more inclusive name of We Are For Israel. It supports a realistic two-state solution “with peace and security for Israel,” Rick says.
Started just this past August, the organization was spearheaded by Michael (Micky) Boyden, an American-born Israeli rabbi who, Rick says, is well-respected in Israel across the political spectrum.
Rick says they’ve been “overwhelmed” by the response to this new organization.
“In a short period of time over 300 rabbis endorsed the mission statement,” he said. Find the statement at
www.weareforisrael.org. Most of the endorsers heard about the organization by word of mouth.
Disturbed by much of what they had heard coming from American Jewish pulpits, Boyden tapped Harkavy and one or two other American rabbis to get things started. They were frustrated by some rabbis who were stressing a far-left or far-right view to their congregations. “We feel like this is doing the congregants a disservice,” Rick says, and congregants have been complaining.
“Our goal is to become the world’s largest rabbinical pro-Israel advocacy group,” he notes. “We represent the mainstream…. We call ourselves realists.”
Rick stresses that the group and its signatories — which now includes cantors and other synagogue professionals — are committed to a secure Israel and to a heightened awareness of “both Israeli and Palestinian obligations” when it comes to the peace process.
Publicity for the group ground to a halt with the start of the Jewish holidays, but the organizers are planning to start things up again soon. Their primary mission is encouraging people to sign on to their mission statement in order to show the rabbinate, and the public, where the majority view is.
“We just wanted to find out who supported us just now,” Rick says.
We Are For Israel started from the grassroots, Rick says, and started up with no funding or political affiliation.
The group is troubled by “overt political partisanship of existing Israel advocacy organizations,” according to a press release. Rick says that if they were a political group they would be more aligned with AIPAC and probably opposed to the views of JStreet. “We complement AIPAC,” he says, by bringing a similar message into the synagogues.
“We believe most American Jews are centrists,” he adds. We Are For Israel just wants people to know the facts: “That is the key…to be well-educated, to examine the facts…as much as possible.”
Rick currently serves as rabbi for Bet Chaverim, the “very warm, intimate and caring” Reform synagogue in Des Moines (betchaverim.org).
Bobbe and Jon Bridge have continued their generous support of the University of Michigan Law School’s Detroit Center for Family Advocacy, according to a recent issue of Leaders & Best magazine, a report on alumni philanthropy.
The gift supports the work of CFA lawyers and social workers who secure safe homes for children in need, in an effort to avoid the trauma and expense of foster placements.
A former state supreme court justice, Bobbe is the founder of the Seattle-based Center for Children, Youth and Justice. She attended the University of Washington as an undergraduate and for law school, but she holds a master’s degree from Michigan.
Jon, an attorney, received an honor himself recently from the U.S. Navy, for which he’s a retired Captain in the Judge Advocate Generals Corps in the reserves. He was honored most recently for his work in the development of a prototype claims processing system.
He told JTNews that it’s important for Jews to be represented in the military.
“For me it’s so important that we give back to the country that has given us so much,” he said. “We are a part of our country and we need to serve it in numerous ways.”