Rabbi Richard Jacobs
Rabbi Richard Jacobs. Photo by Courtesy
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NEW YORK - A group of Reform rabbis and activists has launched a campaign protesting the nomination of Rabbi Richard Jacobs as the new president of the Union for Reform Judaism, casting doubt on Jacobs' devotion to Israel.

Ads taken out by the group in several Jewish weeklies in the United States state that Jacobs "does not represent the pro-Israel policies cherished by Reform Jews.".

The 30 signatories to the advert identify themselves as belonging to an organization called Jews Against Divisive Leadership.

Jacobs, one of the Reform movement's most prominent figures, is expected to take up his post next summer, succeeding Eric Yoffe, who served for 16 years.

In the ad the signatories cite three reasons for rejecting Richards as nominee for president: his membership in the left-leaning J Street's rabbinic cabinet and on the board of directors of the New Israel Fund, and his participation in protests in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. A weekly demonstration is held there to protest a Jewish takeover of Palestinian homes in that East Jerusalem neighborhood.

"We call on the Union for Reform Judaism to reconsider this divisive appointment. Do not drive mainstream Zionist Jews out of the Reform movement," the ad reads.

Other figures in the Reform movement voiced their opposition to the ad. In an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, three Reform leaders said the ad was a "distorted caricature" of Jacobs, and its signatories were out of touch with Zionist norms and were playing into the hands of right-wing critics of Jacobs.

The Anti-Defamation League took the unusual step of entering the controversy. On Friday it released a statement to the press criticizing the aspersions cast on Jacobs as "harmful to the spirit of unity and common cause that unites the Jewish people."

Jacobs, 55, has been the senior rabbi of the Westchester Reform Temple of Scarsdale, New York for the past 20 years.

Jacobs, who speaks fluent Hebrew and studied in Jerusalem, maintains an apartment in Jerusalem where he and his family live during their visits.

A recent Haaretz article quoted Jacobs' last Yom Kippur sermon, in which he stated that if you love Israel, you must support it and stand at its side without asking questions, regardless of who is in power. "Ties with Israel are an inseparable part of my world," he told Haaretz in that interview.