In recent days, the Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu made two decisions that are of concern to Progressive Jews in Israel and around the globe. While at the IJC we do not take sides in political issues, I am bringing this to your attention because it has an impact on us as liberal Jews, on our rights as members of the Jewish people and on the reliability of the Government of Israel as a partner of liberal Jews in Israel and across the globe.
No Equal Prayer Space at Western Wall
The first decision, was to cancel the agreement to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, the Western Wall. This compromise solution took four years to negotiate and was approved by all the main stakeholders. Since the agreement was reached, the current government has not implemented it and now has completely annulled it. In so doing, they caved in to pressure from their ultra-orthodox coalition partners and in so doing are denying Liberal Jews everywhere the ability to celebrate our Judaism in the manner we believe in at one of Judaism’s most treasured sites.
Israel to only recognize Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate conversions
The second decision was to advance a bill through the Israeli Parliament that would require the State of Israel to recognize only conversions completed under the auspices of the Haredi, (i.e. ultra-) Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate. This is a problem not only for Progressive/Liberal and Conservative Jews, but also for Orthodox Jews who convert using rabbinic courts that are not under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. This is a clear power grab by the Chief Rabbinate to further extend their monopoly on power as it relates to issues of personal status. As you can imagine, this could have a direct impact on everyone in the Diaspora who has converted to Judaism, regardless of whether they converted Progressive, Orthodox or Conservative or with any other Jewish movement.
Your Voice Counts!
Israel is a complicated place with many dimensions. Many of us have different views about the State of Israel, the current government, the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Occupied Territories, etc. Positive or negative or somewhere in between, we, as Jews, have a connection to Israel. In the past newsletter, I invited everyone to find a way to engage. As Progressive Jews, what is happening in Israel now concerns us.
Please join me in making your voice heard. Express your opinion to the Israeli Embassy (email@example.com)and the Government of Israel (For example, the Office of the Prime Minister can be reached via:http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/PrimeMinister/Pages/ContactUs.aspx). And you can follow developments at www.jta.org. Your voice counts.
June 30, 2017
Rabbi Ira Goldberg