Knesset members reach across the aisle to promote non-Orthodox movements

Currently, the state does not recognize the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) movements for the purposes of their religious ceremonies.

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November 7, 2018 16:44
2 minute read.
Coalition and opposition MKs debate equality for the progressive Jewish movements in Israel on Wedne

Coalition and opposition MKs debate equality for the progressive Jewish movements in Israel on Wednesday. (photo credit: MASORTI MOVEMENT IN ISRAEL)

 
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Several MKs from the coalition and the opposition called for the state to improve relations with progressive Jewish denominations in the US and Israel, during a special hearing in the Knesset on Wednesday on equality and recognition for progressive Jewish denominations in Israel.

During the course of the discussion, Meretz chair MK Tamar Zandberg said the move of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem had “legitimized” antisemitism in the US.

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The MK made her remarks during an exchange with Likud MK Sharren Haskel. The comments were especially sensitive in the aftermath of the massacre of 11 Jews in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

A spokesman for Zandberg said, however, that the MK’s comment’s had no connection at all to the Pittsburgh attack.

The session focused on the current situation regarding the progressive Jewish movements in Israel. The state does not recognize the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) denominations for the purposes of their religious ceremonies, for equal or proportionate funding as Orthodox institutions and for other matters such as eligibility to run as municipal rabbis.

There have also been severe disputes between the current government and the progressive denominations on issues such as prayer rights at the Western Wall, Jewish conversion and other matters.

Likud MK Amir Ohana said during the hearing that there is “great ignorance” among the Israeli public about Jews in the Diaspora, especially Jewish communities in the US, and noted that he had personally spent time in a non-Orthodox congregation when he resided in America.

Ohana, who is gay, said he and his partner were very warmly received by the community when they had been in Oregon for the birth by surrogacy of their children.

“The embrace and love we received there is something I and Alon [his partner] will never forget,” said Ohana.


“We need to connect all political sides in order to finally be fitting for the title of the state of the Jews, a state of all the Jews,” said the MK during the session.

MK Rachel Azaria of Kulanu, one of the coalition partners, said Jews of the Diaspora were part of her family and “a massive asset” for the State of Israel.

Azaria, who is from the liberal wing of the religious Zionist community, described the Conservative and Reform movements as being “very important,” and said ways must be found for all Jewish denominations to live together in Israel.

“The state of Israel will recognize the [non-Orthodox] denominations, that’s the good news,” she declared. “The bad news is that it will take more time.”

MK Stav Shaffir from the opposition Zionist Union Party said part of Israel’s purpose not only relates to its own citizens, but is also “to give legitimacy to all of world Jewry to live their Juda- ism as they themselves see fit.”

Continued Shaffir, “The fact that specifically here, at home, Jews cannot live their Judaism as they wish, and the fact that we hear official representatives of the state speaking against the different denominations... [means that] we are totally contradicting our purpose here in the State of Israel.”

According to the Reform movement in Israel which helped organize the event, all participants in the session agreed that quality for the progressive Jewish denominations in Israel was urgently required.

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