A message from Hiddush
Nov. 2, 2017
13 Cheshvan, 5778
Today at a public interview, the Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel - a member of the Jewish Home party - said: "We are marking 120 years since the Zionist Congress and 100 years since the Balfour Declaration. It is important to remember where we came from and where we are going. We. Those who reside in Zion must prevent assimilation. Our Reform and Conservative brothers are dear to us, but they are not the ones who are going to dictate to the State of Israel how to conduct its affairs and what is Judaism."
The opposing visions are clear. On the one hand there is Minister Uriel or MK Michael Malchieli of Shas who in a discussion at the Knesset today, explaining why he opposes the Kotel agreement and allowing non-Orthodox Jews and women's worship services at the Kotel, said, "There are places in the world that dogs are prohibited from entering."
These two are from today's crop of hate speech and statements undermining Jewish peoplehood and unity, as well as many others that have preceded them, many of which we have shared with you... these form one vision for Israel. A vision that is isolationist and theocratic, which leaves no room, no dignity, no rights for the non-Orthodox, for those who seek modernity, for those who seek gender equality.
On the other hand, there is the pluralistic vision. The inclusive, democratic, and progress vision, which is shared across the religious spectrum from Modern Orthodoxy to the unaffiliated. It is expressed in the recent, remarkable Vision Statement, which we have urged you to sign on to. It expresses support for the Vision of Israel as a Jewish democratic state in the spirit of Israel's Declaration of Independence, which promised freedom of religion and conscience for all.
It is no longer possible to minimize the clash, to hide our heads in the sand, to pretend that this is just politics. This is not about politics, and what is at stake is too important to be left to political gamesmanship. We at Hiddush and our allies in Israel and overseas are on the front lines, in the courts, in outreach to Israeli policymakers and the media, in coalition building, and in forging Jewish global partnership.
This newsletter announces one more step in expanding our work by creating J-PLAN - the Jewish Pluralism Legal Action Network. We hope many of you belong to the legal profession will join so that we can bring the voice of the legal community to bear on these critical issues. At the same time, the key question is of strategy. On the right, you can read an analysis prepared by Uri Regev addressing the lessons to be drawn from the trials and tribulations of the Kotel agreement collapse.
We hope you will agree with us as to the need for a more aggressive and encompassing strategy. We would love to hear your comments, suggestions, and input. Please write to us at email@example.com.
Stanley P. Gold,
Rabbi Uri Regev,
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From the Jewish Week, Nov. 1, 2017:
As Reform and Conservative Jews here step up their battle with the Israeli government over the issue of egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, a rift has developed about tactics going forward.
The split — abandon the Kotel fight and focus on other key issues or dig in and continue the push toward prayer for all at Judaism’s holiest site — came as Reform and Conservative leaders were in Jerusalem this week absorbing a body blow. The government, they were told by the minister appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to find a solution to the Kotel controversy, would not implement two of the three parts of the January 2016 agreement that would pave the way for an upgrading and revamping of an egalitarian prayer space at the Wall.
With the leaders feeling a sense of betrayal, the CEO of an Israeli group advocating for religious pluralism believes the issue is dead and that it is time to move on.
The Kotel Controversy:
Uri Regev's personal perspective
Many are following the twists and turns of the Kotel controversy with great interest and often anxiety. While grateful to the Jewish Week for featuring my take on the current state of the controversy, I feel that further contextualization and explanation is needed beyond the quotes that were reported.
Let me start by emphasizing my basic stand:
- I am fervently in support of the right of the Women of the Wall (WOW) and the non-Orthodox movements that want to hold egalitarian services at the Kotel, which has been hallowed by centuries of Jewish spiritual yearning.
- I support their battle to gain equal access to prayer at this sanctified site, as well as the pressure that has been generated internationally to overcome the politically motivated exclusion of non-Orthodox worshippers from doing so.
- I was a minority of one in support of the demand of the Women of the Wall back in 1988 during the time of the Ne'eman Commission (which I served on, representing the Reform movement) when it took up the Kotel controversy and recommended the Robinson's Arch area as the place where the WOW should be relegated to.
- The issue is far more complex than many perceive it to be. We tried to point this out shortly after the historic agreement was announced. I urge you to read the different angles of the issue...
... My assessment is that under the current political conditions and so long as the governmental coalition does not change, there is no chance that Netanyahu will change his position. Therefore the next moves of the non-Orthodox movements and the Jewish leadership have to take into consideration this possibility as having a high likelihood. This does not mean that the matter of egalitarian services at the Wall or women's services at the Wall is "dead," and there is no reason why it should not be brought back when the political reality changes. Moreover, even in the absence of the ability to overturn the government decision to suspend the agreement, it does not mean that one should remove the topic from the agenda. The opposite is true. However, what needs to be considered is - what is the right strategy for this time?
... when I maintain that it's time to "move on" I'm not suggesting giving up on freedom of worship at the Kotel, but rather to expand the agenda and battle in a way that the Jewish community in the Diaspora has never fought before on core questions - on the rules of engagement on matters of religion and state. We must fight in close partnership with civil society organizations and activists who are leading this struggle on the ground in Israel. We must recognize, also, the needs of the Modern Orthodox public and the secular public, and realize: if there won't be freedom for all, then, in essence, there will be freedom for none.
Hiddush launches J-Plan
Jewish Pluralism Legal Action Network
Hiddush is launching a network of lawyers in the United States who will raise issues of interest and import. Among them are: gender equality, the right to marry, non-discrimination in funding, due process and access to the courts by all… and a host of other challenges to religious diversity in Israel.
Hiddush and other advocacy organizations in Israel had made progress in so many areas in recent years. However, the current Ultra-Orthodox dominated government coalition [in all matters Jewish] has threatened all the gains we had previously made, and put major obstacles on the path forward – on conversion, on the Kotel, on marriage/divorce, on gender equality and on issues affecting so many Israelis and Diaspora Jews. We can expect the Knesset to continue its crusade to dismantle whatever progress towards equality that had been made in prior years. And, so, to combat this attack on the country’s democratic fabric and on Jewish unity, we are focusing our efforts in the Israeli judicial system.
The critical issues of religious freedom and equality in Israel do not have the exposure in the United States that they should have. Nor are the essential roles of Israel’s governing structure and the role of the judicial system known and understood. In past decades, Israel’s courts have made rulings that affect, not just Israel, but the entire world Jewish community. Its rulings on “Who is a Jew” exemplify the importance of such rulings. And, so, it is essential that our American Jewish community be aware of Israel’s laws and its legal system – and their effects on the American Jewish community.
We believe that American attorneys have a dual role to play; We can and should play an important part in the effort to engender support in our communities for a pluralistic Israel. Using our training in and dedication to the law, we are uniquely suited to focus attention on Israeli judicial processes – focusing on challenges to religious diversity – and to interpret them in the forums of the American Jewish community.
If you are a lawyer with a strong commitment to religious freedom and diversity in America and in Israel, please join us. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to indicate that you accept this invitation. Let your friends know as well. We need your support in speaking up to strengthen the Israel we love.