Many Israelis also feel threatened by the conversion bill being promoted by
Israel Beiteinu MK David Rotem because they believe it will only strengthen the
hold of the haredim here, Yaron Shavit, chairman of the Israel Movement for
Progressive Judaism, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.
of international Jewry have repeatedly expressed their dismay at the
“I think Knesset members would be very surprised to learn
how many Israelis are extremely concerned about this bill and are
speak out,” said Shavit, an attorney and notary at the Shenhav,
law firm in Tel Aviv, who was appointed as the Movement for Progressive
Judaism’s lay leader three weeks ago.
“Many believe that Israelis are
indifferent to this issue and there are many who feel this has nothing
with them or that it’s a problem between the haredim and the Jews living
of Israel,” he said, adding, “However, I think there are more and more
non-Orthodox Israelis who are becoming personally involved in this
are moving out of their indifference towards taking a stand.”
Movement for Progressive Judaism launched an online petition on
(www.reform.org.il) to gather support from its 5,000-member community
“Some will show their support by signing the petition, others
will send e-mails to the prime minister or to MKs and I hope that we
will get at
least 100 people to come to the Knesset next week and make a statement,”
continued, noting that he expected Rotem to try and bring his bill to
Knesset plenum on Wednesday, the last day before the summer recess, for a
“Today there are so many more Israelis who profoundly understand
the problem of strengthening the rabbinate and they realize that fewer
Jews from around the world can identify with Israel, its institutions
society,” continued Shavit.
He believes that a growing number of
traditional and secular Israelis are identifying with Reform Jewish
until now have not been popular here.
He also emphasized that
“strengthening the rabbinate and refusing to embrace world Jewry is very
the State of Israel.”
Shavit said he believed that the timing of Rotem’s
proposal was purely political and that aside from trying to “strengthen
control of the rabbinate,” his agenda “is to force a split between the
Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu and North American Jewry.”
returned from the US with a big hug from Obama and an aim of forwarding
peace process,” analyzed Shavit, “Now is a good time [for Israel
put a different item on the agenda and put the prime minister in direct
with US Jewry.”
Despite assurances this week from Knesset Speaker Reuven
Rivlin that he would not table the potential legislation before the
recess, Shavit said Rotem was aggressively working to bring the bill for
first reading as soon as possible.
“He wants to get it through Wednesday
night and that is a time when many people are either asleep or not
said, adding that a mixed group of Reform and Conservative Jewish
slated to arrive here this weekend “to show their personal commitment to
On Sunday, leaders of Reform and Conservative communities
from Israel and the US are planning to meet with Labor Party ministers
Monday will lobby MKs from across the political spectrum, he said.
will be meeting all the members of Knesset in order to encourage them
fall asleep when Rotem tries to get this through,”said Shavit, adding
that if it
did manage to proceed to a vote on Wednesday, Israeli protesters would
in full force.
Meanwhile in an open letter, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld,
executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international
association of Conservative rabbis, criticized the prime minister for
Rotem’s bill to be “reintroduced, undermining discussions you set in
[Jewish Agency Chairman] Natan Sharansky.”
She said that allowing the
Knesset to even vote on such a bill was “not only a mockery of
democracy, it is
an even deeper betrayal of 3,000 years of Jewish tradition.”
also said the “coercive ultra-religious system” was a failure that
of millions of NIS to yield only 1,500 converts a year.
“The way to
really solve this problem, is to have options for multiple streams and
indigenous Israeli expressions that will only flower in a non-coercive
she said, asking the prime minister to help give rabbis all over the
positive Rosh Hashana sermon.
“The sermon we all want to give, is one in
which you, as a visionary leader, make an unambiguous statement in
this bill, which divides Israel from the Diaspora,” wrote Schonfeld.
hope that we can invoke your name, Mr.
Prime Minister, with the same
spirit of reverence we reserve for the great leaders of the Jewish