US Jewry concerned about Israel’s non-recognition of diversity

One of the greatest challenges today is strengthening the relationship between Israel and diaspora Jewish communities.

October 19, 2015 00:56
2 minute read.
PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN poses at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem yesterday with a delegation

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN poses at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem yesterday with a delegation of the Jewish Federations of North America.. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

American Jews worried about the security situation in Israel are no less concerned about the country’s non-recognition of the diverse non-Orthodox streams of Judaism.

“We are all one family,” President Reuven Rivlin said Sunday, addressing the issue, which was raised by a large delegation representing the Jewish Federations of North America that he was hosting.

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Rivlin who was raised in Jerusalem’s Yeshurun Synagogue, which is Orthodox even though he personally is what might be termed “Orthodox- lite,” always has difficulty with questions of this kind. He offers the simplified explanation that, in Israel, Jews are either Orthodox or secular, but that there is consensus, even in secular circles, over circumcision, bar mitzva, marriage and funeral rites.

Aside from that, he told his guests, everyone approaches religion in their own way.

Although there is a separation between Church and State in Israeli law, because there is no constitution, the question on who is a Jew is controlled by politics.

For purposes of immigration, Israel adopted the same rules as those that applied to the Nuremberg laws, namely, if a non-Jew’s bloodline included a Jewish ancestor up to four generations back that person was regarded as having the right of return. But, for religious purposes, Rivlin clarified, that person is not recognized as a Jew.

Had he been raised in the Diaspora, the president said, he might have become familiar with other streams of Judaism, but these did not exist in the Jerusalem of his youth.

He suggested that the balance of political power could change if one million Conservative and Reform Jews immigrated to Israel, but failed to mention that the immigration of more than a million former citizens of the Soviet Union did not change the status quo.

Rivlin told the group Israel understands that Jewish communities in the Diaspora are facing serious challenges, especially with the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and even in the United States, and assured the Americans that just as they show solidarity with Israel in times of stress and tension, Israel shows solidarity with them.

One of the greatest challenges today, he said, is strengthening the relationship between Israel and diaspora Jewish communities.

“Our responsibility to every Jew does not begin and end with a call for aliya. We have to ensure the well-being and continuity of Jewish communities in the diaspora. We are one people with one heart.”

Addressing the current unrest in the country, Rivlin declared that Israel does not have, and never has had, a war with Islam or Christianity, and has been “very precise” about maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount.

“We have a war against those who don’t want to accept that the Jewish people have returned to their homeland,” he said. “They don’t want to accept us as a Jewish state. They don’t want to accept us as a state at all.”

Responding to a question about “frayed relations” between Israel and the European Union, Rivlin focused more on the relationship with the United States, but attributed whatever rifts there may be to different perceptions of the Iranian threat. “For us, Iran is not a theoretical question but a real threat,” he said, citing Iranian support for terrorist activities all over the world.

Conceding that Israel was sidelined during the talks that led up to the deal with Iran, Rivlin said: “We should not be isolated when talking about the future and security of Israel.”

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