NEW YORK –In response to action in the Israeli cabinet advancing legislation enunciating Israel’s Jewish character, Susan Turnbull and Rabbi Steve Gutow, Chair and President, respectively, of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, issued the following statement:
“The Jewish community has justifiably taken great pride in the founding values of the State of Israel, enshrined in its 1948 declaration of independence. Israel was established as a Jewish state that assured the full rights of all its citizens, Jews, Arabs and others alike, as well as freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.
“We recognize that the proposed legislation codifying Israel’s status as a nation state of the Jewish people has led to some confusion and controversy in Israel and abroad. This is a situation that calls for clarity so there is no confusion surrounding its effects if passed. The debate regarding this legislation presents an opportunity to remind the world that a country can be both an ethnic homeland, as Israel is for the Jewish people, and a vibrant democracy, as Israel is for all its citizens.
“We are heartened by statements from Israeli political leaders who have said that they will not support any measure that alters the status of any group of Israelis regarding language or other critical issues. We join Israeli leaders like President Reuven Rivlin in questioning the timing of this legislation and hope that its consideration can be further postponed.
"However, if the bill does move forward, we urge that any final version be unquestionable in its commitment to the democratic nature of Israel as a state for all of its citizens. No Israeli, regardless of religion or nationality, should ever feel like an outsider. We pledge our support to efforts to solidify the commitments made at Israel’s founding: that Israel will guarantee the social and political rights of all its inhabitants, irrespective of religion, race or sex; that it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; that it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and that it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. These are values that the worldwide Jewish community has justifiably taken pride in for the past 66 years and they will continue to be a source of pride forever.”