An Appeal to Prime Minister Netanyahu
July 27, 2015
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
You have stated more than once that you represent the entire Jewish People. We believe that you don't make this statement idly. Clearly you understand the importance of those words and the deeds that must follow.
Recently, Religious Affairs Minister said that Reform Jews are totally in error and must return to Judaism according to his interpretation of Jewish law, and he cannot bring himself to count Reform Jews as Jews. We heard him very clearly, and unless Mr. Azoulay changes his views, at least to a level of religious tolerance of non-Orthodox forms of Judaism, we believe he is not capable of providing appropriately for the religious needs of Israel's Jewish population.
While we appreciate your quick disassociation from MK Azoulay's message, and the roundtable discussions that have been announced, more is needed. Past experience (including high level talks involving Natan Sharansky and the Prime Minister's representatives, such as on the conversion challenge) have yielded little; the time has come for real action and real willingness to move towards equal recognition of and respect for religious diversity and freedom.
So long as your government continues to discriminate against Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal and secular Jews, whether by law preventing all non-Orthodox and many Orthodox rabbis from officiating at legally recognized marriages, or from the lack of a civil marriage option for Jews and non-Jews, we believe that you and your government and our Jewish State are excluding the vast majority of the world’s Jews in Israel and the Diaspora. When officials such as MK Azoulay are in charge of rendering religious services to all Jews, but are guided by their deep-seated ignorance of, and disdain towards, the world's most widely practiced forms of Judaism, Israel is at risk that its policies constitute the antithesis of "home for all Jews."
Mr. Prime Minister, your legacy as the Prime Minister hangs in the balance.
Will you continue to unite the Jewish people behind Israel, wherever the lovers of Israel live around the world? Or will you, through your actions that speak clearer and truer than words, declare that your Minister of Religious Affairs is correct? Mr. Prime Minister: now is the time to choose your legacy. Which will it be?
Shall we, Mr. Prime Minister, continue to preach to the American Jewish community that the fate of American Jewry depends upon the fate of the household of Israel living in the Land of Israel? Shall we continue to organize groups to visit Israel, send our children on Birthright (Taglit) and to camps in Israel, encouraging constant exchanges between the People of Israel wherever they may be found? Or shall we, Mr. Prime Minister, conclude from your actions that we were mistaken: that Israel allows control of Judaism to be in the hands of a small minority of the Jewish people that excludes all non-Orthodox Jews?
Mr. Prime Minister, at this critical juncture in history, our mutual destiny demands that you place your vision of Israel as the Jewish homeland ahead of coalition politics. After an entire century of convincing the Jewish people that we are one people, Am Echad im Lev Echad, now is the time to decide: Is that or is that not true?
The Jewish people requires a Ministry of Religious Affairs whose portfolio is inclusive of the entire Jewish people and the broad spectrum of our diverse religious practice.
Mr. Prime Minister, the majority of Israelis share our views. More significantly, history is on our side. The choice of legacy is yours. We await your words and your actions and we look forward to hearing from you.
With our heartfelt wishes for a strong, unified Jewish people,
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