Israel tour leader keeps job after apologising for calling Hamas deaths ‘murder’

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Israel tour leader keeps job after apologising for calling Hamas deaths ‘murder’

Nina Morris-Evans apologises for language used in opinion piece for this paper - as it was confirmed she'll still lead Israel tour this summer

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Young London Jews say Kaddish for Gaza in Parliament Square.  Credit: Israel Advocacy Movement video on Youtube
Young London Jews say Kaddish for Gaza in Parliament Square. Credit: Israel Advocacy Movement video on Youtube

A youth group leader who took part in the Kaddish for Gaza event has apologised for describing deaths during the border demonstrations as “murder” – as it was confirmed she will still lead Israel tour this summer.

Nina Morris-Evans was one of around 50 mainly young participants who provoked widespread communal anger by taking part in the public show of mourning for those killed on 14 May, despite it being being confirmed that 50 of the 62 dead were members of Hamas.

In an article for Jewish News at the time, Morris-Evans condemned the use of live ammunition, said she didn’t accept that the IDF was acting in self-defence and insisted they were not condoning terror by “jewishly mourning” the victims.

But she provoked further anger by saying: “Who these people were – or which group they are affiliated to – is an insignificant issue compared to the reality of their murder.” She has now apologised for the use of that last word.

And, in response to questions from the Jewish News, the Movement for Reform Judaism confirmed that plans for her to be one of five RSY-Netzer tour leaders this summer remain in place – after conditions were imposed.

A statement said Reform’s senior Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner “has been working with her over the past two weeks, to help her understand the ramifications of her actions.

“Rabbi Janner-Klausner will be mentoring her ahead of Israel tour to ensure that we remain confident in her ability to support each participant in developing their own views and positive relationships with Israel. We will also be monitoring that the education on Tour is in line with the values and proud Progressive Zionist beliefs of Reform Judaism.”

Nina Morris-Evans

Morris-Evans said: “I hope that my deep love for Israel, my acknowledgement of the difficulties that have risen from my actions and my intention to ensure these young people have the best month of their lives will make me the kind of leader that you can feel proud of.”

UJIA – which oversees Israel tours from 13 movements across the religious and ideological spectrum – said its Chief Executive Michael Wegier has been in discussion with Rabbi Janner-Klausner since the Kaddish controversy and the subsequent article.

After both Reform and Liberal Judaism distanced themselves from the controversial gathering, UJIA said “the gathering itself, the saying of Kaddish and the language used in the article was deeply misguided and highly offensive. We welcome the Madricha’s subsequent apology for her choice of words”.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner

It added: “Following intense dialogue, Reform Judaism and RSY-Netzer have taken the decision that the madricha concerned can be one of the four leaders on one of RSY-Netzer’s tours this year on the condition that she will be mentored. The successful completion of the mentoring will be a precondition of her participation as a madricha. UJIA respects RSY Netzer’s autonomy and is satisfied that Reform Judaism is taking the necessary steps to ensure that this Tour will offer a balanced educational programme that will allow participants to experience a wide range of views and opinions about loving Israel.

“Every year, UJIA trains Israel Tour Leaders from Liberal, Reform, Masorti, Orthodox and Non-Denominational groups, representing different approaches to Zionism, Israel, and Politics in general. In the current climate, there can be real challenges in the work of Israel engagement and we believe that we are taking the best approach to resolve this matter.”

Morris-Evans received a torrent of abuse over her article – leading Rabbi Janner-Klausner to warn that the inability to debate Israel without abuse was putting the community on the path of “self-destruction”.

She said: “I am concerned that when one Jew wishes another dead, we are over the boundaries of decency and we are now into violent, harassing, bullying behaviour that we, as a community, have to come back from, because it’s a path to self-destruction.”

She said young Jews were “disengaging, revolted by what’s happening, they don’t want anything to do with it,” adding: “I see it happening. We are losing Jews from loving Judaism.”

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