JERUSALEM (JTA) – “We are all one family,” Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin told leaders of the Reform movement at his residence in Jerusalem.
“I can say to all of you, we are one family and the connection between all Jews, all over the world, is very important to the State of Israel,” Rivlin said Tuesday while hosting over 50 North American and Israeli Reform leaders on the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC).
Rabbi Aaron Panken, the president of HUC, and Andrew Berger, its board of governors chair, are leading the delegation.
Rivlin said his country must work to bring Israelis of all backgrounds together.
“I believe we have to bridge social gaps for the societies to live together and to progress,” he said. “We must build confidence measures because we are going to live here together forever. We are not doomed to live together but destined to live together.”
Panken said of the delegation, “We are here to sustain and build the connection between North American Jewry and Israel. We are here to demonstrate our solidarity with the people and State of Israel and express our support for many of your efforts.”
He said that in his short time in office, Rivlin has “shown true leadership in the areas of rights for the Arab citizens of Israel, reconciliation between diverse groups and consideration of those in Israeli society who need help.”
Three Israeli Reform rabbis are set to be ordained Thursday at HUC’s academic convocation at its Jerusalem campus. HUC has ordained 90 Israeli rabbis at its Jerusalem campus.
Before his election as president, Rivlin had come under fire from the Reform movement for statements he made after a 1989 visit to a Reform synagogue’s services in New Jersey, telling an Israeli newspaper, “This is idol worship and not Judaism.”
During a 2007 meeting with Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rivlin would not commit to calling Yoffie “rabbi.”