A historic prayer service was conducted in the Knesset on Wednesday by a
leadership mission of the North American Masorti-Conservative movement, the
first mixed men’s and women’s service ever held there.
comprised of male and female rabbis and communal leaders from the US and Canada,
met with several MKs to discuss the issue of religion and state, including
Ministers Dan Meridor (Likud) and Uzi Landau (Israel Beiteinu), as well as
Kadima’s Yohanan Plesner and Orit Zuaretz.
The meetings largely focused
on the issue of religious radicalization in Israel and its influence on the
country’s image abroad, particularly in America.
The group said afternoon
mincha prayers when their schedule of political engagements was over, and, as is
the custom in the Conservative stream of Judaism, men and women sat together
without a partition.
The service was led by Rabbi Jennifer Gorman in the
Knesset synagogue, in what the group described as an historical
“It was an inspiring service and we were extremely happy to be
praying in the beautiful synagogue of the parliament of the Jewish state,” said
Rabbi Alan Silverstein, chair of the US Masorti Foundation. “Each Shabbat we
pray for the well-being of the State of Israel in Conservative communities
worldwide, and here we had the opportunity to do this great mitzva in the
synagogue of the Israeli Knesset, one of the most important symbols of Jewish
The group also raised the controversial issue of rights for
non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, referring to the lack of recognition the state
grants to the Conservative movement’s rabbis and ceremonies.
“All of us
love and support Israel and members of our communities are part of the central
leadership of AIPAC, Hadassah and the Jewish Federations,” said David Lissy,
executive-director and CEO of the US Masorti Foundation.
“But the State
of Israel degrades us time and again when it says that we are second-class
Jews,” he continued, mentioning Conservative marriages and conversions in
particular. “The discrimination against non-Orthodox movements in Israel does
massive damage to the image of Israel as a state for all Jews.”
Farber, director of the ITIM religious rights group and an Orthodox rabbi, told
The Jerusalem Post
that the State of Israel finds itself at a crossroads in this
regard and that as the relationship with the Diaspora matures “some very
difficult decisions lie ahead.”
“A lot of work still needs to be done to
make Jews of all denominations feel comfortable in Israel,” he said. “There
isn’t enough strategic thinking going on to think about how Israel can be a
homeland for all Jews. The state wasn’t founded to be insular and indifferent to
Jewish people and so there needs to begin a sincere dialogue with Diaspora
communities to tackle these issues.”