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Hundreds of Leaders from North America's Largest Jewish Organization Meet with Israeli Officals Coast-to-Coast in Demonstration of Support for Israeli-Syrian Peace Talks

Activists Meet at Consulates and Embassies Throughout North America

Contact: Ilanit Gerblich, (212) 650-4280, or
Jeff Mandell, (202) 387-2800

NEW YORK, January 10, 2000 — Today, leaders of North American Reform Jewry visited Israeli consulates from New York to San Francisco, and from Toronto to Houston, bearing the message that as leaders of their synagogues, they represent the vast majority of North American Jews in throwing their full support behind Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Israeli government's peace negotiations with Syria.

As Israeli and Syrian officials bring this stage of their meetings in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to an end in the discussion of the normalization of relations between their countries, ARZA/WORLD UNION, North America and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism spearheaded a campaign across the United States and Canada to mobilize Jews in a show of support for the Israeli government's peace efforts. Reform Jewish delegations met with Israeli diplomats this afternoon at the embassy in Washington DC and at Israeli consulates in New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Boston, Toronto, Miami, San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago.

"We are mobilizing this campaign to demonstrate that a substantial majority of North American Jews strongly supports Prime Minister Barak and his government's efforts to forge a comprehensive peace accord with Syria that is indispensable to Israel's security and well-being," said Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, Director of ARZA/WORLD UNION, North America, and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the coordinators of this campaign.

In an open letter presented to Israeli government diplomats during Monday's meetings, Reform Jewish leaders declare, "By our presence we wish to convey that we, not the opponents of the peace initiatives, represent the majority of North American Jewry. Future generations will bless you for your efforts."

According to Rabbi Saperstein, "As Prime Minister Barak returns home, we want him and the Israeli public to know how strongly Reform Jews support these efforts for peace. We want, as well, that President Clinton and the State Department know how appreciative we are for their leadership in hosting and nurturing these discussions."

The North American Jewish community's wide-ranging support for the peace process was demonstrated by today's turnout of hundreds of synagogue and community leaders in eleven cities. Speaking of the unprecedented level of grass-roots support this campaign had mobilized, Rabbi Hirsch noted, "On too many days, we, the majority, have not been vocal enough as those opposed to the peace process have dominated the discussion. But not today. Today, in nearly a dozen cities, North American Jews expressed their commitment to peace in Israel, and their excitement at the progress that this government, building on the successes of the past, is making. No one can doubt the statement made by hundreds of Reform Jews willing to take time from their jobs, and by dozens of rabbis willing to take time from their synagogues, to express the opinions of their communities. We hope and trust that the opponents of the peace process heard our voices today as clearly as the Israeli government did."

As one local campaign coordinator, Mark Buchbinder, Social Action Chair for the Southeast Region of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, said, "It was clear from our meeting in Miami that the Israeli government is familiar with and appreciative of our long-standing commitment to peace in the Middle East. It was a powerful message to me that so many prominent leaders from my area joined together to make our message one of undoubtable unity and unequivocal support."

To receive a copy of the open letter, please contact Ilanit Gerblich (212-650-4280).

Information about specific consulate visits is available; please call Ilanit Gerblich (212-650-4280) or Jeff Mandell (202-387-2800) to contact local campaign organizers.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, representing its 895 congregations across North America, whose membership includes 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the 1700 rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.



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