Perelman Teachers Have the Right to Organize: Interview

Jill Jacobs6

Rabbi Jill Jacobs. Photo: T’ruah.

Starting September 1, the Perelman Jewish Day School has ceased to recognize its teachers union.

Following the Perelman board’s announcement, The Perelman Teacher-Alumni-Parent Partnership sponsored a presentation in Bryn Mawr, “Work & Workers in Jewish Law: A Community Teach-In,” by Rabbi Jill Jacobs.

Jacobs is the founding executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, which mobilizes 1,800 rabbis and cantors and tens of thousands of American Jews to protect human rights in North America and Israel. The author of Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community and There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition, she is widely regarded as a leading voice on Jewish social justice.

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice caught up with Rabbi Jacobs for an interview soon after her presentation.

[Read more…]

Reform Movement Sets Sails for Fundamental Change

— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram



A new Reform Judaism is rapidly emerging: inspiring, courageous, inclusive, radically hospitable, spiritual, and relevant.

In light of “doomsday statistics” about diminishing Jewish identification and affiliation, as given in the recent, much-publicized Pew study, how is this possible?

One should keep in mind that such studies only document what had been, and typically miss the exciting new approaches across the flow of Jewish history, that percolate in every age, and sometimes catch on big time.

One watershed moment was the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Biennial, held in San Diego last month.

As announced in the Biennial, URJ membership is no longer required for attendance at its conferences, camps and youth groups. Many of the best innovations and innovators of our times, from within Reform, Jewish Renewal, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Judaism, were in evidence.

Each attempted fusion worked elegantly and authentically, maintaining the heart and structure of Jewish prayer while riveting the 5,000 participants even during lengthy Shabbat services. Choreographer Liz Lerman led prayer through authentic movement, for example, and virtually everyone participated (see video).

More after the jump.
The URJ is going head to head with the orthodox movement, Chabad, in terms of embracing the core Jewish spiritual practices, the mitzvot, as the URJ president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, explained:



I met recently with Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, a cherished member of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s inner circle, who now has the responsibility of overseeing Chabad’s worldwide activities.

Shortly after we sat down in his office at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, Rabbi Krinsky leaned forward and asked, “Rabbi Jacobs, can we be frank?”

I said “Yes,” not sure where he was going.

“Why are you so busy trying to get more people into your Reform Movement? After all, you don’t care about kashrut, you don’t care about Shabbat, and you don’t care about mitzvot, so what are you so busy doing?”

I responded, “Rabbi Krinsky, we care about kashrut. We care about Shabbat. We care about mitzvot. We just care differently.”

“My job,” I told him, “is exactly the same as yours: to try and bring more and more people close to the sacred core of Jewish life.”

I believe with the very fiber of my being that young Jews are hungry, but not for a Judaism frozen in a distant time, no matter how loving and warm the purveyors — including Chabad, in particular — might be.

Rabbi Jacobs himself, along with the music director for the conference — the soulful, deeply God-connected Josh Nelson — set a contemplative tone of meaningful rather than formulaic prayer.

This shift one of affect, away from services styled after the music of Debbie Friedman, of blessed memory, that was often accompanied by rabbinic intoning of prayers.

It turns out that some of the senior URJ leadership has studied or been featured with Rabbi Rachel Cowan and her team at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality (IJS).


The Korean-born rabbi, Angela Buchdahl, has become a symbol of Reform inclusiveness.

The Importance of Inclusion

Another service co-leader was the new head rabbi at Central Synagogue in Manhattan, Angela Buchdahl, who is also listed as part of the non-denominational Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

Korean-born Rabbi Buchdahl has lived in the U.S. since the age of 4, and Rabbi Jacobs used her presence as a focal point to advocate for attention though kindness and inclusiveness throughout the movement, noting that people would often love her services when he and she shared a pulpit, and then ask him quietly, “Is she really Jewish?”

He later gave a shout-out to Congregation Or Ami in Clabasas, California which

 “identifies itself by saying: ‘We are also ‘Mosaic’ in that we connect back to Moses, a Hebrew child, raised by Egyptians, who married a non-Jewish woman of color and became the leader of his people.'”

Jacobs spoke further about every possible category of difference and the importance of inclusion:

When we open our doors — and more, our hearts and minds — and say, “Come in, we need you,” we will have new talent and energy beyond our wildest dreams.

Al tistakel b’kankan, warned our sages, “don’t look at the bottle,” ela b’mah sheyesh bo, “but at what is inside it.”

Inside those people whom we exclude is another great gift, another opportunity of a lifetime just waiting for us. As we learn from Abraham, we cannot wait for the seekers.

The Union plans outreach to every kind of public venue. Both year-round family camping and a fourteenth camp for “Jews who love science” will open this year.

Regarding intermarriage, Jacobs advocates doors open wide:

It is not just sociology that demands that we be serious about welcoming interfaith families. It is theology as well.

We have a sacred obligation to open our doors, to add to our ranks, and to make sure that Progressive Judaism has a growing, not a shrinking, voice in proclaiming what Torah must mean for our time and for our world.

It is a veritable gift of God to have the opportunity of a millennium: more non-Jews who want “in” than Jews who want “out.”

That has never happened before. We dare not squander this gift out of fear of what new voices may say and where new opinions may lead.

Heavily “strummed” services were mostly moved to smaller breakout service times, performance sessions and variegated welcomes (see video to the right).

Best of all the many abundant approaches to helping people feel welcomed was embodied by the phrase used by Rabbi Jacobs, “audacious hospitality.”

Heightened Spirituality Broadly Evident

Shifts toward soulful approaches in both music and liturgy were abundant. The movement’s new Mishkan T’Filah prayerbook worked beautifully in the mix.

In perhaps a related development, Neshama Carlebach, daughter of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, z”l, announced at her late-night standing-room-only conference concert with Josh Nelson that her soul is “making aliyah to the Reform movement,” an announcement for which she received resounding applause.

And in an article published immediately after the conference ended, Carlebach termed the URJ Biennial “the largest spirituality-oriented gathering of Jews in North America”:

Reform synagogues have always been “the shuls I didn’t attend.” Simply put, I had no idea how extraordinary Reform Judaism was.

The tikkun olam (social justice) mandate is so strongly bound up with the movement, and in the most joyous of ways. I was overwhelmed by the music, by the davening (prayer) and yes, my Orthodox friends, by the ever-present light of Torah.

Some of the Biennial’s Influences:

The Underlying Forces

Rabbi Jacobs description of this new approach echoes almost the identical wording of the literature of Jewish Renewal.

The founder of Jewish Renewal, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (widely known as “Reb Zalman”), once told the author of this article, “It’s really we (the Renewal movement) who have accomplished what the Rebbe set out to do.”

It must have been a nachas (pleasure) for Reb Zalman to hear what took place at the Biennial, and to know that many Jewish Renewal teachers, students and principles were strong influences in the mix. (See sidebar)

As explained by the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Rabbi David Saperstein
, in a recent tribute to a Renewal social activist, Rabbi Arthur Waskow:

The Renewal movement has not only grown into a significant presence in its own right, but has had a profound impact on the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements.

It is time that this be acknowledged. The merging of aesthetics of new liturgies and rituals, the synergy of mystical prayer and meditation, passion for social justice rolled into an expression of Judaism has brought new light into so many Jewish lives.

These two tents within progressive Judaism — Reform and Renewal — have a great deal of synergy in place already.

The Reform Movement has the numbers and the strength to reach out to the majority of Jews whom Rabbi Jacobs termed “nones” — those having some Jewish interest, but no affiliations.

Jewish Renewal, in the words of a Renewal rabbi who attended the Biennial, Rabbi Diane Elliot “is well-positioned to provide ‘midwives'”: spiritual teachers specializing in one or more modalities (chant, movement, hiddur mitzvah, etc.), who are equipped to go out into Reform communities, and those of other denominations, to help implement this emerging, Renewal-infused agenda:

Midwives are patient. They understand the global trajectory of the birthing journey, and at the same time they know how to meet the birthing mother where she is (“ba-asher hu/hi sham,” Genesis 21:17), helping her to stay present and in contact with what is happening right now, opening bit by bit, not pushing too soon, but when they time comes, pushing hard.

Midwives are coaches. In the wake of the Biennial, I saw that Jewish Renewal clergy are well suited for the role of spiritual coaching among other denominations.

While I see us continuing to serve and create new enclaves of Jewish Renewal, it seems to me that the most effective way to spread the “good news” of what we offer is not to pour energy into trying to aggressively market ourselves as a movement, thus throwing ourselves into competition with other larger and much better funded streams of Jewish life, but rather to consciously offer ourselves in service of k’lal Yisra’el, “all Jews.”

True to the role modeling of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Rabbi Elliot proposes that Jewish Renewal continue “doing what we do best — opening hearts, minds and bodies to deeper and more comprehensive practice and experience, thoroughly grounded in Jewish textual, historical, and mystical traditions.”

To my mind, this kind of research and development can feel risky and even earth-shattering for some folks, given Jews’ communal trauma history, passed on unconsciously, cellularly, from generation to generation, through body language, thought patterns, and child-rearing practices, as well as through story, fiction, poetry, theater, visual art, and contemporary midrash.

So the deep work, integrating new modalities, is best done in small groups on retreat and in more intimate community settings, where trust can be built and healing manifest — for individual participants, for communities, and for Judaism itself.

B’nai B’rith Condemns European Anti-Circumcision Resolution


A Jewish Circumcision.

B’nai B’rith International (BBI) condemned the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for passing a resolution that declares ritual circumcision a “violation of children’s physical integrity.”

The resolution calls upon member states to “adopt specific legal provisions to ensure that certain operations and practices will not be carried out before a child is old enough to be consulted.” While non-binding, the resolution could encourage a frightening infringement upon basic religious freedoms and on the ability of Jewish and other faith communities in Europe to exist.

“By advancing this resolution, the Council of Europe has not proposed the advancement of human rights, but rather the denial of rights,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said.

More after the jump.

It is an extremely slippery slope — one which inexcusably misreads and oversimplifies scientific understandings, and seeks to impose certain societies’ cultural norms on others. This resolution transparently aims to marginalize and exclude specific minority communities.

B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin added:

Circumcision is not discretionary, but rather central, in Jewish life and practice throughout history. It must be made clear what those who support the criminalizing of circumcision in Europe are proposing: discrimination against the Jewish community in Europe.

In its statement, BBI urged all European leaders, governments and societies to “decisively reject a path of government coercion and imposition in religious life.”  

Jewish Organizations Welcome Renewal of Peace Talks


Secretary of State John Kerry

In response to Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement, that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have the basis to resume peace talks, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We welcome this apparent progress toward peace, and commend Secretary of State Kerry for his leadership and effort and pledge our support for such efforts as they move forward. We pray that this is the beginning of a process that will lead to a lasting agreement that will bring true peace and stability for a region that has known conflict for thousands of years. We call on both the Israelis and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table with a true willingness to work for peace and we pray that the vision of the prophets will soon be fulfilled.

JCPA and JStreet comments after the jump.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs Chair Larry Gold said:

This is an opportunity that for the past two years has been extremely elusive. It grows out of the recognition that peace and security, prosperity and independence, cannot be reached by any path other than direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinians. We have no illusions about the difficulties ahead. The issues that must be resolved are profound. But the status quo is unacceptable. Israel’s future as a secure and democratic nation state of the Jewish people cannot be fully preserved without establishment of a stable, viable, and independent State of Palestine. We encourage both sides to show the courage, flexibility and persistence necessary for these talks to be successful.

JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow added:

This is a great achievement for Secretary of State Kerry who invested so much time and diplomatic effort in finally bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Last week, we and the American Task Force for Palestine joined together in Washington, D.C. to meet with members of the administration and leaders in Congress to express our support for this effort and for a negotiated peace. Two states for two peoples cannot be achieved without a strong U.S. leadership, and we are thankful to Secretary Kerry and President Obama for their leadership. But the hard work is just beginning. As we move forward, we urge all who want peace to support these negotiations and to encourage reconciliation, not division.

JStreet President Jeremy Ben-Ami said:

Secretary Kerry deserves the recognition of the entire world for his determination and creativity in achieving this breakthrough. We are confident he will remain fully engaged as the parties get down to negotiating. We thank President Obama for making this issue a top foreign policy priority of his second term.

We call on Congress and American Jews to get fully behind this peace effort to give the parties the support they need to make the tough decisions necessary to resolve their conflict.

Achieving a two-state solution is a vital U.S. national security interest and would inject much-needed stability into an increasingly unstable region. It would deal a setback to extremists and terrorists around the world who have exploited this conflict to mobilize support for their violent methods.

Such an agreement is also the only way to secure Israel’s future as both a democracy and a Jewish homeland and would provide Palestinians with a vehicle in which to fulfill their self-determination and national aspirations.

We know that difficult days lie ahead, but we are convinced that with persistence, creative mediation and international support, a deal is within reach. Vocal minorities on both sides can be expected to oppose the negotiations going forward, but must not be allowed to frustrate the desire of clear majorities of Israelis and Palestinians for a two-state solution to end this conflict.

BBI Denounces Canadian Church for Boycott of Israeli Businesses‏


Ahava plant near the Dead Sea

B’nai B’rith International denounced the United Church of Canada (UCC) for calling upon its two million members to boycott Israeli companies that do business in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Last week, the United Church of Canada’s general council approved boycotts of Israeli companies Keter Plastic, SodaStream and Ahava. This is a continuation of a resolution passed by the church in August 2012 to boycott Israeli products exported from the West Bank and east Jerusalem. This time, the UCC has specific targets and plans to dissuade Canadian businesses from selling the products of the targeted businesses. The reasoning behind these actions, the church said, is its view that Israeli settlements are the “principal obstacle to peace in the region.”

More after the jump.
B’nai B’rith President Allan J. Jacobs said:

With Canada being such a principled supporter of Israel and of peace, it is distressing that the United Church of Canada would engage in the boycotting of Israeli companies and their products. To pass this resolution is to attack Israel, and to single out the Jewish state for hostility while ignoring the real impediments to peace in the Middle East.

B’nai B’rith Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said:

Anytime an organization decides to promote a campaign boycotting Israeli products or companies, it is clearly a move seeking to hurt Israelis. This boycott will only serve to cause more friction in the region, and to recklessly export it to the Christian-Jewish relationship in North America.

The primary obstacle to peace in the region is Palestinian intransigence. Until the Palestinians agree to return to the negotiating table without pre-conditions — and to end violent extremists’ rejection of Jews’ fundamental rights in their homeland — prospects for peace will sadly remain dim.

Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute Gets $133 Million Donation

Joan and Irwin Jacobs of San Diego have made a momentous gift of $133 million to name the Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute. Dr. Irwin Jacobs, founding chairman and CEO emeritus of Qualcomm, and his wife Joan will create the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute (JTCII). The JTCII is a key component of Cornell Tech, whose permanent campus will eventually be located on Roosevelt Island. The funds will help support curriculum initiatives, faculty and graduate students, and industry interactions in a two-year graduate program.

The gift was announced by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg during a press conference at New York City Hall, together with Joan and Irwin Jacobs, Technion President Peretz Lavie and Cornell President David J. Skorton.

More after the jump.
The Jacobses are both Cornell alumni and “Technion Guardians” who have a long history of supporting both institutions. Their support of the Technion includes the Irwin and Joan Jacobs Graduate School and the Irwin and Joan Jacobs Center for Communications and Information Technologies. A member of the Technion International Board of Governors, Dr. Jacobs is a Life Trustee of the American Technion Society National Board of Regents, and a member of the ATS San Diego Chapter. He received the ATS’ highest honor, The Albert Einstein Award, in 1996, and a Technion Honorary Doctorate in 2000.

The JTCII plans to offer a two-year interdisciplinary program where students concurrently earn dual master’s degrees — one from Cornell and one from the Technion. This degree program will allow students to specialize in applied information-based sciences in one of three hubs focused around leading New York City industries — Connective Media, Healthier Living and The Built Environment — while honing their entrepreneurial skills. The first area of specialization will be in Connective Media, and is slated to begin in the fall of 2014. Research will also be focused on the hub areas.

A novel program for Postdoctoral Innovation Fellows will launch in fall 2013. The aim is to support individuals who seek to commercialize their research ideas in the stimulating environment of the JTCII, while taking full advantage of the entrepreneurial network of Cornell Tech and the proximity to New York City-based markets. Dr. Jacobs, along with Mayor Bloomberg and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, serves as an advisor to Cornell Tech, the overall campus that is part of Cornell University.  

Reform Movement Leader Shows Support of Stricter Gun Laws

In advance of the interfaith day of advocacy around gun control today, The Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs sent a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Congress to pass stricter gun laws.

Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

Nearly four decades ago, in 1975, the Union for Reform Judaism recognized the need for legislation that would limit and control the sale and use of firearms. Since the adoption of that resolution, the URJ’s first calling for the regulation of firearms, more than one million Americans have been killed as a result of gun violence. The URJ has spoken out repeatedly and passionately on gun violence and continues to insist that gun regulation is a vital necessity.

Continued after the jump.
As president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the membership organization for nearly 900 Reform synagogues and 1.5 million Reform Jews in North America, I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors and urge you to support the comprehensive gun violence prevention package before Congress (S.649 / H.R. 137), which not only will require enforceable background checks, but also will curb gun trafficking and enhance school safety, making America safer while keeping the Second Amendment secure. Congress also must ensure that the bill is enforceable by requiring private sellers who sell crime guns to produce a background check — just as dealers are required to do. There’s no question that the two minutes it takes to pass a background check is a wise investment in saving lives.

I ask, too, that you support the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines (S.150 / H.R. 437), which will ban these weapons of war that have no place in our schools or on our streets. These weapons — frequently used in police killings and mass shootings — dramatically increase the number of lives lost and the damage done.

Jewish tradition mandates tikkun olam, “repair of our fractured world” — and this country’s background check system is broken indeed. This flawed system, which does not require “private sellers” to conduct background checks, easily puts weapons in the hands of the vast majority of gun criminals. It is time to fix this broken system with passage of S.649 / H.R. 137, which will extend the current background check requirements to private gun sales, with dealers conducting the checks and keeping records the same way they have done for more than 40 years. Passage of these bills is the single most meaningful step you can take to stop senseless violence, honor all who have been lost to gun violence, and bring solace to survivors. On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism and its members across North America, I urge you to support these critical pieces of legislation.

Just as the prophet Isaiah exhorts the people of the earth to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” so too do I urge you to vote for comprehensive and enforceable background checks and to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. As elected officials, it is your moral imperative to work to solve society’s problems. This is holy work and we are counting on you to do it, helping to shape a better and more hopeful world for us all. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Rick Jacobs

Christian Leaders Call For Unfair Probe Into Israel

— by Sharon Bender

B’nai B’rith International is deeply concerned by a letter sent to Congress by 15 leaders of various Christian denominations calling for an investigation of Israel’s use of U.S. aid. In the letter they claim “widespread Israeli human rights violations” which would result in breaches of the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act and the U.S. Arms Export Control Act.

These acts both prohibit aid to countries that display a consistent pattern of human rights violations. B’nai B’rith takes exception to the accusations of human rights violations as they are unfounded, inflammatory and one-sided.

More after the jump.
“B’nai B’rith is highly critical of this attempt to undermine the relationship between the United States and Israel,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “U.S. aid is extremely important in protecting the people of Israel… Suggesting that aid is used to violate human rights only serves the purpose of demonizing the Jewish state.”

The letter puts some blame on the Palestinians, but never holds the Palestinian Authority accountable for refusing to re-enter direct negotiations with Israel, the only true path to peace.

“This letter is a thinly veiled attempt to try to harm Israel, and U.S.-Israel relations,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It unfairly singles Israel out despite the fact it is the only country in the region that embraces our shared values of democracy and freedom of religion. It also ignores the mutually beneficial partnership between the two countries that is widely supported in the United States.”

B’nai B’rith firmly believes that by calling for an investigation of Israel’s use of U.S. aid, these leaders have embraced an approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that does not promote peace and reconciliation, but rather the heightening of tensions between all parties.

B’nai B’rith Asks Apple To Remove Anti-Semitic App

B’nai B’rith International has sent a letter to Apple Chief Executive Officer Timothy Cook asking for the anti-Semitic app “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” to be removed from Apple’s iTunes App Store.

In the letter B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs and Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin write: “‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,’ a proven forgery, purports to show a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. This anti-Semitic tract has been used over the past century to incite violence against Jews.”

Apple is known for its stringent guidelines applications must meet before being approved for sale in the App Store. Apps deemed defamatory, offensive or likely to expose a targeted group to violence are normally rejected by Apple. We are appalled “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” made it through the review process, as this text is often used by Neo-Nazis and anti-Semitic Arab groups to drum up hatred toward Jews.

The letter also notes: “The distribution of ‘The Protocols’ in Arabic is meant to instill blind hatred of Jews in a part of the world were anti-Israel animus is already all-too-common. Technology can be used as a tool to better the world, but it also has the power to spread hate quickly and more widely.”

The publishing of this app condones the spreading of hateful actions that B’nai B’rith works to prevent.

Letter follows the jump.

Mr. Timothy D. Cook
Chief Executive Officer
Apple Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014

Dear Mr. Cook,

On behalf of B’nai B’rith International-the world’s oldest and best-known Jewish humanitarian, advocacy and social action organization, with members in over 50 countries-we are writing to request Apple immediately remove a mobile app version of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” that is for sale on Apple’s iTunes App Store.

“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a proven forgery, purports to show a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. This anti-Semitic tract has been used over the past century to incite violence against Jews. “The Protocols” continues to be popular among Neo-Nazis, and has been reprinted often in the Arab and Muslim world. We are appalled by reports that a developer has made an Arabic version of “The Protocols” into a mobile application and is selling it through the App Store.

The distribution of “The Protocols” in Arabic is meant to instill blind hatred of Jews in a part of the world where anti-Israel animus is all-too-common. Technology can be used as a tool to better the world, but it also has the power to spread hate quickly and more widely.

We recognize that Apple has guidelines for applications that must meet its approval, and that applications that are deemed defamatory, offensive or likely to expose a targeted group to violence will be rejected by Apple. We call on Apple to enforce these strict standards on the applications being offered through the App Store, and monitor to ensure this process is effective regardless of the language that the application is offered in.

Sincerely,

  • Allan J. Jacobs, President
  • Daniel S. Mariaschin, Executive Vice President

Welcome Supreme Court Decision On Jerusalem Passport Case

The Supreme Court of the United States directed the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to decide on the constitutionality of a case regarding whether Americans born in Jerusalem may cite Israel as their birthplace on their U.S. passport.

Ari Zivotofsky and Naomi Siegman Zivotofsky, parents of their Jerusalem-born son Menachem, have fought for years to convince the U.S. State Department to allow their son to designate Israel as his place of birth on his passport, citing a 2002 law passed by Congress. Though the law was signed, it was never implemented due to State Department concerns that indicating “Israel” as the birthplace of a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem would amount to an official U.S. statement about Jerusalem’s status.

More after the jump.

B’nai B’rith was one of 10 major Jewish organizations to file a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the family. “There’s no reason why Israel cannot be named as one’s country of birth. Omitting this fact changes a fundamental part of one’s identity,” said Allan J. Jacobs, president of B’nai B’rith International. “By only allowing a child to name a city, not a country, as a birthplace, is denying that child the right to have a country of origin. It should not be up to the U.S. government to determine what cities fall within the borders of a given country.”

Today’s 8-1 decision overruled lower court decisions that had argued this case does not fall under the jurisdiction of the judiciary because the courts are not responsible for determining foreign policy. State Department policy states that passports of American citizens born in Jerusalem can only identify “Jerusalem” as their place of birth, not “Israel.”

“A passport is a document of identity, not a foreign policy manifesto,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin. “Americans born in Israel-whether in Jerusalem or elsewhere in the country-have the right to acknowledge Israel as their birthplace.”