Minister of Education Rabbi Shai Piron extended a hand to non-Orthodox Jewish denominations on Sunday, saying that all streams must be included in the public debate on Judaism and education in Israel.
“The time has come to connect all Jewish denominations,” Piron said at a meeting of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel. “We are strong enough to stop excluding large numbers of Jews from the religious and public conversation of the state of Israel.”
The minister continued, explaining, “This doesn’t meant to say to say that I have no interest in persuading others to follow my path, but because I feel that I can I have an impact, and that it is forbidden to allow fear to take control. We need to reject and eradicate educational perspectives that try to eject others outside the pale.”
Before entering the Knesset, Piron, an Orthodox rabbi, in 1998 established and headed a national-religious yeshiva in Petah Tikva, along with two other leading national religious figures, Rabbi David Stav and Rabbi Yuval Cherlow.
While addressing the board of governors on Sunday, Piron also said that the ministry would help deepen all efforts for Jewish renewal and that a variety of voices wishing to help strengthen Jewish identity would be funded.
Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and another member of JAFI’s board, said he was also encouraged by the minister’s comments.
“It’s significant that the minister of education stood before the Jewish Agency and said what he did. It’s a good sign we’re moving in the right direction and my colleagues and I are prepared to meet him anywhere at any time to keep moving forward together.”
Opposition among the haredi and national-religious political parties and rabbinic leadership to the inclusion of non-Orthodox denominations in religious life in Israel remains extremely strong.
In June 2013, Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett, who also serves as minister of religious services, was subject to verbal attack from several quarters when he met with rabbinical leaders of the Conservative Movement at the Knesset and called for greater cooperation and dialogue.