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Hiddush CEO Rabbi Uri Regev & Chairman Stanley P. Gold

A message from Hiddush

August 24, 2017
2 Elul, 5777

Dear Friends,

Once a year, the "global library" of religious freedom-related resources is enriched by the publication of the annual U.S. State Department's Report on International Religious Freedom. It's a voluminous effort.

Each year, our interest is piqued regarding how matters of religious freedom in Israel are covered in the report. Some of our readers may recall that the previous Ambassador-at-large in charge of religious freedom was our friend Rabbi David Saperstein (the former long-time head of the Reform movement's Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C.). His term of office ended, and he has been replaced by former U.S. Senator and Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. This added to our curiosity. On the right, you may read our brief account of some of the issues covered by the chapter on Israel.

The U.S. State Department made repeated use of Hiddush's analysis and polling, and reading the chapter clearly conveys the relative value of our work in these fields. Moreover, whereas the focus of the U.S. Administration in general has been on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this time around, the report shares that "in meetings with government officials, visiting high-level U.S. government officials and embassy officers also stressed the importance of religious pluralism and respect for all streams of Judaism."

In the meantime we are gearing up for a new initiative in close cooperation with leading figures from across the religious spectrum, which is aimed at moving beyond occasional crises and on to a proactive systemic addressing of what Israel as a Jewish and democratic state must entail.for bother Israelis and world Jewry. Stay tuned.

Also stay tuned for our 2017 Israel Religious & State Index, which will be released shortly before Rosh HaShanah. It promises to feature some new data regarding a number of religion-state encounters in Israel which we have not covered in the past. As you can see on the right, our polling is done with the utmost commitment to integrity, reliability and professionalism, which unfortunately is not always the case with those who invoke polling to substantiate continued religious coercion and flaunt equality.

Global events pull our attention in multiple directions, and fill our minds and hearts with concern over the well-being of the world and society around us. As Jews, the need for unity and solidarity becomes further paramount. It is also the very need for unity and solidarity, which requires mutual respect and inclusiveness. Our struggle for religious freedom and equality is not just intended to make Israel a better place, both as a Jewish and as a democratic state, but also to strengthen the cause of Jewish peoplehood, ahavat Yisrael, and mutual responsibility.

All the very best,

Stanley P. Gold,
Hiddush Chair

Rabbi Uri Regev,
Hiddush President

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U.S. State Department releases
International Religious Freedom Report

The US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2016, released last week, diplomatically pans the lack of progress by the Israeli government toward increased religious freedom.

Click HERE for full summary

One cannot over-exaggerate the importance of this report being unique in its systematic monitoring and scope of coverage. Hiddush feels that the US State Department has done a good job of touching upon all the major developments of the year. This report is a unique enterprise of unparalleled scope written by local embassy staff and vetted and edited into a global volume by the US State Department. Its importance can be understood on a number of levels

  1. Its attention to detail and comprehensive nature
  2. It reflects the US government's strong focus on and value attached to religious freedom
  3. It's systematic and annual, and therefore one can trace trends and progress over the course of years

Hiddush notes with appreciation the reference at the end of the Israel section to the fact that "in meetings with government officials, visiting high-level U.S. government officials and embassy officers also stressed the importance of religious pluralism and respect for all streams of Judaism."

Still, it is clear that the focus, even in the context of international religious freedom, is on the Israeli-Palestinian and Jewish-Arab conflicts; at times the report even mixes ethnic and racial issues with religious freedom concerns (as the report itself correctly notes). The report does not focus on issues of religious freedom in the narrower sense of the term, especially in cases where religious freedom is lacking, which affect the secular and non-Orthodox Jewish communities, such as the right to marry.

If anything, the US State Department underrates the breaches of religious freedom on a number of issues, such as civil burial and the Kotel, which are more geared against Jews than against Christians and Muslims. These abuses of religious freedom are a clear indication of the wide gap between Israel and other enlightened Western democracies, such as the USA, which are considered the gold standard for religious freedom.

Click HERE for Hiddush’s summary and contextualization of the report’s main points.

LIBA declares 71% Israelis
prefer to marry via Rabbinate!

The LIBA Center, which proclaims to be "dedicated to strengthening the Jewish Character of the State of Israel" (Namely: perpetuating and expanding religious coercion in Israel) once again demonstrated how to mislead the public by means of statistics, bringing to memory the classic 1954 book "How to Lie With Statistics".

Click HERE for full article

Several days after Hiddush published a survey showing that 67% of the adult Israeli Jewish public supports that Israel enacts freedom of choice in marriage, and 50% would prefer not to get married in an Orthodox wedding, the LIBA Center published its own survey, which purports to prove the opposite... [LINK]

The LIBA survey was conducted by the same polling institute, headed by a renowned pollster - Rafi Smith, enabling us to assume that the same sampling methodology and reliability is ensured.

The LIBA Center's misleading claim becomes clear when the language of its survey question is compared to those of Hiddush. LIBA's question was worded as follows: "Regardless of your personal situation, how would you recommend your children marry? A marriage performed by a rabbi *certified/ordained* by the Chief Rabbinate, or *alternative marriage* outside the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate?" This question is clearly biased and misleading on 2 counts:

  1. "Alternative marriages" are not recognized by the State of Israel at all at this time, and do not result with granting the couple the status of "married".
  2. LIBA's survey question is formulated much like a question asking the public whether they prefer, for medical services, a "certified physician" or "alternative medicine."


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