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Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev & Chairman Stanley P. Gold

A message from Hiddush

May 24, 2018
10 Sivan 5778

Dear Friends,

As you can see on the right, the Likud’s own Science Minister lashed out against the Haredi partnership in the Government Coalition. It will be interesting to see whether the Prime Minister reprimands him. Our other post foretells of the unfolding of a new “Who is a Jew” battlefront: the conversion proposal is neither forthcoming nor accommodating! However, before we enter into this new battle, there is a lot more work being done by Hiddush.

One example is a reoccurrence of a case regarding the refusal of the Interior Ministry's Population Registry to allow a name change request of a partner in a common-law marriage because her partner's name was Cohen (the priestly clan). They were illegally told that either they marry according to halakha, or else they must bring an affirmation of the request from an Orthodox rabbi.

Hiddush challenged this illegal policy, and we were responded to: "Oops. This was the unauthorized action of a local clerk." We further demanded that the correct, legal rules be disseminated to all the branches of the Population Registry. We were told that this would be done.

Lo and behold, we were contacted by another common-law couple! This time it was a same-sex couple. After living together for four years, they had entered into a surrogacy agreement, and they wanted their family to share one name… but one of the partners bears the name Cohen. When they turned to another branch of the Population Registry, the senior clerk threatened to have them forcefully evicted!

We sent a letter to the authorities at the Ministry of Interior, Population Registry and the Attorney General demanding that this request be carried out and that the Ministry’s guiding document be changed to reflect the law. Whether a man changes his name to a woman's or vice-versa, whether an Arab changes their name to a Jewish name or vice-versa, these must be respected. Nevertheless, the Ministry of the Interior continues to bow illegally to Orthodox rabbinic dictates!

Clearly, justice is on our side. We will not settle for a resolution of the individual case - we demand that the policy be changed for all Israelis. As always, we'll keep you informed.

We encourage all of you who love and support Israel's character as BOTH a Jewish AND democratic state (and we assume that all of you do!) to join hundreds and sign on to the Vision Statement for Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Only by standing together can we bring the necessary change in our beloved Israel.


Stanley P. Gold,
Hiddush Chair

Rabbi Uri Regev,
Hiddush President



'The Right to Marry — Israeli style'
Written by the Honorable Peter Buchsbaum,
Co-founder and Chair of J-PLAN: the Jewish Pluralism Legal Action Network.

If you are a lawyer or a legal scholar, we would love to have you to join our new initiative - please contact us at

Likud Minister fed up with Haredi ultimatums

Our readers have come to expect Hiddush underscoring the unacceptability of ultra-Orthodox political shenanigans, extortion and coercion. However, this week, we heard comparable sentiments expressed by a leading Government Coalition member - Likud Minister Akunis.

We can't recall such strong words coming from the Haredi parties' Coalition partners in a very long time, if ever. Minister Akunis' explicit sense of disgust and frustration suggests the direction that we have proposed over the course of the years: it's time for a civil Coalition, which would put an end to the ability of the Haredi parties to dictate their will in a way that undermines Israel's economic and security interests, erodes civil liberties, and contradicts human dignity. Moreover, these dictates run contrary to the will of the overwhelming majority of the public who yearn to see a civil government freed from the stranglehold of the minority ultra-Orthodox parties.

In the course of a comprehensive interview with "Kan" Public Broadcasting Corporation on May 21, 2018, Minister Akunis shared his view regarding the ultra-Orthodox parties that are part of the Government Coalition. In response to a question as to the timing of Knesset elections in Israel and whether they may occur in June, the Minister responded:

"No, no, we are not before elections, not before war."

Regarding the linkage of [potential early] elections in June, [after] the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem:

Minister Ofir Akunis replied: "... this will not happen. In June this will certainly not happen, unless the ultra-Orthodox parties, as we have been hearing for the past 24 hours, again insist upon [their] ultimatum to the Likud and other parties in the Coalition."

Interviewer: "According to what I see, they are also moving in this direction in relation to both the draft law and the nation state law."

Minister Akunis: "If so, I join their ultimatum and call for the dissolution of the Knesset. It is impossible to live [as we have for] the last three years. It's impossible to live under the ultimatums and unacceptable bills of the ultra-Orthodox parties. There was the Sabbath Law, and there was the attempt at an ultimatum by the ultra-Orthodox to prohibit the maintenance work on the railways for IDF soldiers who use the trains on Sundays. And here comes the draft law. I now say to Deputy Minister Litzman and MK Gafni and all the ultra-Orthodox parties: It's a privilege to serve in the army - it's an honor. You should want to serve in the army, and anyone who wants to avoid it should be ashamed - and now they want to legislate this? It's a disgrace. And if they want to issue an ultimatum, I call on them to issue it, and dissolve the Knesset before the end of the [Knesset’s] summer session and go to elections.

Inching closer to the next "Who is a Jew" explosion

This week, additional information leaked as to the nature of Moshe Nissim's recommendations regarding a new conversion bill. As our readers may remember, Moshe Nissim was appointed by PM Netanyahu to do damage control after Diaspora Jewry’s uproar last June when the government ceded to the demands of the ultra-Orthodox parties to pass a conversion bill aimed at preempting a pluralistic Supreme Court ruling in a pending case. This bill would further entrench the Orthodox monopoly over conversions performed in Israel.

The self-righteous claim was: this appointment was yet another genuine effort to square the circle and bring about a mutually agreed upon solution to the "Who is a Jew" controversy, which would appease both the ultra-Orthodox fundamentalist forces in Israel and Diaspora liberal Judaism. Even President Rivlin didn't buy this ruse and publicly made it clear that he did not believe that such a solution could be found. However, Netanyahu's pressure on the opposing parties served him well. He gained acquiescence from the non-Orthodox movements to freeze all pending litigation on conversions performed in Israel and desist from bringing any new cases in return for holding off on the Haredi parties' demands for legislation.

This temporarily reduced the pressure and took the issue out of the headlines for a while. Of course, the agreed upon six months stretched into a year, and in the next few days, Moshe Nissim's proposal will be submitted.

At the outset, as soon as Nissim was appointed, Hiddush maintained that this was ample evidence that no mutually acceptable solution could be expected. Sure enough, when information leaked last month as to the direction Nissim was pursuing, it became further clear that we were correct. This week, additional information about his proposed framework became known, and we recommend that you read about it HERE on Ynet.

There will be need for careful and detailed analysis of the proposal once it becomes public. As we know, the devil is in the details. At this point, we would like to make a couple of observations in anticipation of what is to come:


Hiddush in the Media

'Clear Conflict of Interest' Looms Over Israel's Kosher Food Industry, Haaretz, May 17, 2018

The haredi draft quandary may topple the government yet, MTL News, May 16, 2018


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