Our Continued Commitment to Equal Opportunity for All Israelis

San Francisco, CA  For hundreds of years, the Jewish people have dreamed of a homeland that would be a safe haven and a place for Jewish life to thrive. Seventy years ago that dream became a reality, with the Israeli Declaration of Independence affirming equality of all its citizens, regardless of religion, race, or gender. As such, our Federation’s work over the past 30 years has focused on advancing Israel as a democratic, pluralistic, and shared society with equal opportunity for all Israelis, and we have been proud to work with our Israeli partners towards that vision.

To that end, we are extremely troubled by several developments that came out of Israel recently which pose a direct challenge to this vision.

First, the Israeli parliament passed a controversial “Nation-State” bill that officially defines Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and asserts that "the realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” Such language alienates a significant portion of Israel’s population, and poses a particular threat to the advancements for Arab Israelis that we and our partners, including the Government of Israel, have worked toward with initiatives like Collective Impact and ECHAD.

The law also includes a controversial clause stating that “The state will act in the Diaspora to maintain the connection between the state and the Jewish people,” but evades any commitment to a mutual relationship with Jews outside of Israel.

To learn more, you can join a call on July 30 hosted by our partner, the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues.

The second is the arrest of Rabbi Dov Hayun, a Conservative rabbi and an alumnus of our Gvanim program, which works to strengthen Israel’s democracy by creating a cadre of leaders who are invested in a shared, pluralistic vision for Israel’s future and work towards that vision within their own circles of influence. Rabbi Hayun was detained for officiating marriages that are not recognized by the state under current legislation. This clearly illustrates the need for our partners, Itim and the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, that advocate for pluralistic expressions of Judaism and for all denominations to be recognized by the state.

Lastly, lawmakers voted against extending a surrogacy bill to apply to same-sex couples and single men, which has sparked a nationwide strike and large-scale protests across the country. Our current and past partners, A Wider Bridge and The Aguda—Israeli LGBTQ Task Force, are leading strikes and petitions to advocate for a more inclusive Israel with equal rights for LGBTQ Israelis. Our Gvanim alumni are also among those coordinating efforts to protest against this legislation.

Despite these developments, we remain committed to equal opportunity for all Israeli citizens, and will continue to work alongside our partners on the ground to make that a reality. We will continue to build on the success of our signature Gvanim program that fosters those leaders, and are in the process of recruiting a new cohort which will include both Jewish and non-Jewish participants that represent the whole of Israeli society today and into the future.

We encourage you to learn more about and support the Federation’s efforts to strengthen Israeli society.


The Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund connects people of all ages, backgrounds, and perspectives to the power of the Jewish community to improve the world. We partner with donors, organizations, and foundations to address pressing issues facing our community, and develop innovative strategies that result in deep and lasting impact locally, in Israel, and around the world. Learn more at www.jewishfed.org.

For immediate release

July 20, 2018