Amb. Dermer forms group of rabbis to bypass established organizations

"The convening rabbis will conduct a dialogue and cooperate with the Jews of Israel on issues pertaining to the entire Jewish people.

August 8, 2019 23:05
2 minute read.
Israel's ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (R) greets House Rep. (D) Jerrold Nadler

Israel's ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (R) greets House Rep. (D) Jerrold Nadler. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer has established an independent group of rabbis from the three main streams of Judaism in America to bypass connections with the main groups representing these streams, according to Makor Rishon.

The rabbis came to Israel in a hushed visit last year in the background of controversy surrounding decisions to cancel plans to create an area for mixed prayer at the Western Wall and the proposal of the Conversion Law, which would take control of conversions in Israel away from the Rabbinate.
The proposed Conversion Law would not allow for non-Orthodox conversion performed in Israel, but would recognize some non-Orthodox conversions performed abroad, according to the Israel Democracy Institute. The law would also allow for representatives of the various streams of Judaism to have a seat on the committee that appoints conversion judges, which would mean acknowledging their religious status.

Part of the decision to establish the independent group was a general feeling of the ambassador and the prime minister that American progressive Judaism is not as Zionist as it used to be and is promoting trends such as boycotting Israel and the denial of the State of Israel.

American Jewry responded to news of the independent group with rage, but the group still stands. These same rabbis met with Dermer at the Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony at the White House. Leaders of the progressive Jewish organizations were not invited to the event. Apparently, additional meetings have taken place since then.

At the end of August, these rabbis and others are expected to meet again with Dermer in order to establish a new coalition of Zionist rabbis who will conduct discussions about Israel in a different and more friendly fashion compared to discussions conducted in recent years.

"Rabbis of all the streams [of Judaism] dealing with the growing disconnect between the Jewish communities in the Diaspora and Israel who are committed to working towards connecting the two sides," have been invited to the closed meeting, according to an email sent to the rabbis.

"The focus is on promoting greater pluralism, tolerance and understanding in our communities so that we can deal with Israel in a structured way on issues that affect the Jewish people," added the email. "While we recognize the sovereignty of the democratically elected Israeli government as a fundamental principle of Zionism, the convening rabbis will conduct a dialogue and cooperate with the Jews of Israel on issues pertaining to the entire Jewish people.

Dozens of rabbis from various streams of Judaism will also meet with Ambassador Dermer who will host them the night before in the embassy. The rabbis will also meet with Haaretz's Washington correspondent Amir Tibon, veteran statesman Elliot Abrams (envoy to President Donald Trump on Venezualan affairs), statesman and chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute Dennis Ross and Democrat Strategic Advisor Ann Louise, who worked with Bill Clinton while he served as president and his wife while she served as secretary of state.

Stuart Weinblatt, rabbi of the conservative Bnei Tzedek synagogue in Potomac, Maryland, stands behind the new independent group of rabbis. Weinblatt is the president of the Rabbinic Cabinet of the JFNA. 

“We believe in building a relationship of respect and cooperation with the Israeli government.  We believe that relationship will strengthen Zionism in the US and deeper respect for American Jewry in Israel," said Jason Herman, one of the rabbis in the independent group and the head of the IRF, an organization of liberal Orthodox rabbis in the US.

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