American Jews must look beyond Israel for ways to assert their Jewishness, the head of Reform Judaism said last week, and form "new coalitions of decency" with "the majority of Americans who reject bigotry and hatred" to combat anti-Semitism.
American Jews have been "plugged into Israel as if it were a kidney machine, a scientific marvel that keeps them Jewishly alive," Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, told the organization's semiannual board meeting in Denver.
"We have slipped into the sloppy equation which says that Judaism equals Zionism equals Israel," said Schindler. "In our deep love for Israel and our concern for her security, we have become a largely one-issue community."
For many American Jews, Schindler continued, "their opinions on domestic and international issues too often are determined by the standard -- is it good for Israel?"
Schindler, a past president of the all-embracing Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, is a Zionist who travels to Israel frequently. He is well-connected with Israeli political leadership and on occasion has criticized Israeli policies in private conversations with that nation's leaders.
He called for "more, not less" involvement with Israel, but in a manner that would strengthen both Israel and the American Jewish community.
"I want us to make Israel more truly Jewish, a more truly Zionist state, with a quality of life that reflects the most profound Jewish vision," he said.
American Jews should align themselves with groups concerned about human rights generally, the disadvantaged and world peace, Schindler urged.
If Jews remain "fixated" on a solely Jewish agenda, he said, they will have lost "our reason for being -- our compassion, our humanness, our Jewish soul."