A view of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Representatives of the American Reform Movement appeared before the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee Wednesday morning and described a “quiet revolution” in the state’s approach to non-Orthodox denominations during a session aimed at reinforcing ties between Israelis and Diaspora Jews.
Speaking before the committee and senior coalition and opposition lawmakers, Gilad Kariv, the executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, called the meeting a “historic moment.”
“A quiet revolution is under way in Israeli pluralism” and the Diaspora committee must verify the government’s adherence to its commitments regarding such issues, Kariv stated.
Kariv also said that the meeting was the “ultimate answer to the incitement of [ultra-Orthodox] MK [Yisrael] Eichler.”
In recent years Eichler has called Reform Jews anti-Semites, intimated that they were mentally infirm and accused them of destroying Judaism.
Also at the meeting was opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who called the invitation of representatives of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform Movement’s primary rabbinical body, to the Knesset an “important step toward pluralism in Israel.”
Herzog called for further movement on the issue of recognition of non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, calling for “the expansion of Reform synagogues in the country” and the creation of “an alternative to secularism.”
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg called the Reform rabbis “proof you have more than one way to be a Jew and a Jew” and said that together they would “lead the struggle for public transportation on Shabbat” and other issues.
Around 15 political figures, including MKs Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid and Michael Oren, attended the meeting.
“We are one people and one country that unites us,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.
“Jewish responsibility requires the granting of rights even for us, we do not ask favors but to work in partnership, dialogue to share with you the challenges.”
“It was really a remarkable experience for an official Knesset committee meeting to invite and engage with Reform rabbis,” Rabbi Steven Fox, chief executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, told The Jerusalem Post.
The presence of leading politicians from across the political spectrum, “was an acknowledgment of the significance of Reform Judaism in Israel and around the world,” he said.
Speaking with the Post, committee chairman Avraham Naguise said that while his focus during the meeting was less on issues of religious reform than on building bridges between Israel and the Diaspora, it did come up during the dialogue that the government had “promised to work and to strengthen the Reform and Conservative communities, and what we said is that as a committee we are supervising the activities of the government [and] we will do our best in order to for these promises to be kept and supported.”