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Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev & Chairman Stanley P. Gold

A message from Hiddush

July 13, 2017
19 Tamuz, 5777

Dear Friends,

The Chief Rabbinate’s use of its sway over Israel’s religious politicians is forcing Israel onto a war path with the majority of world Jewry, rather than positioning it as a source of unity and Jewish inspiration.

Clearly, the Rabbinate has long lost its usefulness, if it had any other than the role it was assigned by gentile governments such as the Turkish Empire. Today it serves as nothing more than a vehicle for political opportunism and the privileges its leaders enjoy, bred of political horse trading between the civil political parties and the religious groups whose votes and political support they need. Neither Israel, nor Israelis, nor world Jewry need a Chief Rabbinate.

Still, the battle should not be focused on doing away with the Chief Rabbinate, but rather on the positive goal of ensuring that Israel's founding promise of religious freedom and equality is fully implemented and enjoys legal and constitutional protection. Towards this end we see the need to engage in 3 areas of constructive advocacy:

1) State our support for pluralism, inclusiveness and religious freedom, as in the Hiddush Unity Statement we urge you to sign and share others

2) Demand specific changes in Israeli law and governmental policies, whether the ones that have gotten much attention in recent weeks (i.e. the Kotel agreement and conversion bill), or those that adversely affects the rights, lives, and dignities of hundreds of thousands (i.e. marriage equality and the right to family)

3) If no progress is seen shortly, and Israel's politicians remain blind and deaf to both the need and public support for religious freedom and equality, then measures that would expose these politicians to the extent to which Jews care about Israel's unholy alliance of religion and politics must come into play. As Chicago Federation Exec. Steve Nasatir suggested in the recent debate, it may be necessary to inform all who vote for such discriminatory measures that they are not welcome in Jewish communities, synagogues, federations, etc. If they choose to turn their back on the core values and the heart and soul of the Jewish community, they cannot expect to be welcomed, supported, and applauded. This should not be confused with removing support from the State of Israel. The State of Israel is too important to be equated with opportunistic politicians.

The security and well-being of Israel is of utmost importance, and it is because we care for Israel that the time has come to pressure its politicians to live up to what PM Netanyahu has repeatedly promised: making all Jews feel at home in Israel, whether Conservative, Orthodox, or Reform, and breathing life and light into the Declaration of Independence's assurance of religious freedom and equality

All the very best,

Stanley P. Gold,
Hiddush Chair

Rabbi Uri Regev,
Hiddush President



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Say YES! to pluralism in Israel
by signing our Hiddush Unity Statement!

We urge you to sign the Hiddush Unity Statement and share it with others!



Our battle is not about doing away with Israel's Chief Rabbinate, as justified as that may be, but rather we are fighting to ensure that Israel's founding promise of religious freedom and equality for all is fully implemented and enjoys legal and constitutional protection.



Will the Israeli Labor party start fighting
for freedom of religion and conscience?


Newly elected Labor party leader Avi Gabbay has made the following public declarations on freedom of marriage, religionization, and public transportation on Shabbat. Will his Labor party finally take a stand?

"Religionization is one of the most serious issues facing Israeli society today. The Education Minister (Naftali Bennett) and his party (Jewish Home Party) use public funds and Israel's education system to support the Jewish evangelization of secular Jews; and are focused on widening the divide between the religious and secular educational systems. I promise to put an end to this."

"Failure to operate public transportation on Shabbat is a serious social injustice. I support the implementation of limited public transportation on the Sabbath, which will be determined according to local municipal authorities, according to the needs and characters of local populations, while ensuring that workers' rights be preserved in full."

"I believe that it is the duty of a modern democratic state to grant its citizens the right to marry and to divorce in whatever ways they prefer, and I will work to make this a reality."



The Chief Rabbinate's leaked "blacklist"
(the latest brouhaha)

If the Israeli government's recent suspension of the Kotel compromise and push for a restrictive conversion bill were not enough, Israel and the Jewish world woke up this week to yet a newly leaked "black list" created by Israel's Chief Rabbinate.

For years, there has been public discussion in Israel about another "black list" maintained by the Rabbinate – a list of individuals who may not legally marry in Israel, either because they are labeled mamzerim (illegitimate) or a divorce decree labels them as a "prohibited marriage". This “black list,” on the other hand, is of rabbis around the world, whom the Chief Rabbinate does not deem reliable enough to certify the Jewish status of their congregants. Numerous articles, news broadcasts, and social media postings have lambasted this list.

For example:
1) The Washington Post, 2) The Jerusalem Post, 3) Haaretz

The ironic follow-up is that many of the rabbis on the list took great pride at being included, and others have expressed frustration at being left out. The common thread was the growing disdain that people - both in Israel and overseas - feel toward the Chief Rabbinate. It is of little surprise that a number of accounts refer to Chief Rabbi David Lau as going through the roof upon hearing that the list was released, severely reprimanding the Chief Rabbinate official who disclosed it.

The Chief Rabbinate, which most Israelis think very lowly of, fancies itself not only the highest religious authority within Israel, but the highest religious authority for all of world Jewry. Recent events may be a good opportunity to disabuse the Rabbinate of this misguided notion.

To the contrary, Hiddush's polling revealed the public's levels of support for four of Israel's major public institutions: The Knesset, The Government, The Rabbinate, and The Supreme Court. 59% of the Jewish public said they most trusted the Supreme Court, which was 3.5x times the public confidence enjoyed by the Chief Rabbinate! In this same vein, the 2014 Israel Democracy Index placed the rabbinate near the bottom of the list of public institutions that the Jewish population trusts — at 29.1% — the lowest trust level since the IDI began polling in 2003!

[read more]



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