(photo credit: Ehud Zion Waldoks)
Education Minister Yuli Tamir encouraged the leadership of the Reform Movement over the weekend to launch an aggressive campaign to introduce Reform-style education to schools, youth movements and pre-military academies.
"Bring more Reform Jewish content into the education system," Tamir said at the 18th Biennial Conference of The Israel Movement for Progressive (Reform) Judaism, which took place Friday and Saturday at Kibbutz Shefayim.
"I see in the Reform Movement a potential inroad for the introduction of Jewish subjects in our school system," she said. "There is a thirst for knowledge, especially among our youth, and I expect you to quench that thirst.
"As a minister and a human being with a pluralistic approach to the world, I identify with Reform Judaism. When I pray, I pray in an egalitarian Reform synagogue."
Tamir called on the Reform leadership to "create facts on the ground."
"That's the way to make a lasting change," she said. "I recommend that you devote your energies to education, not to legal battles."
In response, MK Zevulun Orlev (NU-NRP) accused Tamir of "misappropriating her powers."
"Yuli Tamir's comments are more proof that she is trying to force on our education system the political agenda of Peace Now," he said. "Tamir forgot that the laws of the State of Israel have always recognized the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts as Judaism's highest religious authority. That's way the IDF and other state institutions keep kosher, and weddings, divorces and other religious services are performed in accordance with Orthodox Judaism."
Orlev said the Reform Movement was an American movement "not suited" to the Israeli reality. Reform Judaism has caused unfathomable damage to America Jewry by encouraging assimilation, he said, adding that it was improper for the educational institutions of the State of Israel to take the movement seriously.
Gusti Yehoshua-Braverman, associate director of the Reform Movement, said the conference was proof that the movement's presence in Israel was very real.
"In the past, the Reform Movement was perceived by Israelis as an import from America," she said. "But looking around the conference and hearing Minister Tamir speak, it was clear that our movement is striking deep roots in Israeli society."
Participants in the conference included novelist A.B. Yehoshua, law professor Ruth Gavison, Welfare and Social Services Social Minister Isaac Herzog and MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz).
The Reform Movement runs some 50 pre-schools and works in conjunction with about 60 elementary schools. In addition, the movement runs two high schools and provides Jewish educational programs for five high schools.
The Reform Movement also has its own youth movement, called Telem, and runs a pre-military academy in Jaffa.
There are 25 Reform congregations across the nation.
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