'Diaspora not giving enough to Reform'

Largest supporter of Reform Movement in Israel says donors not familiar enough with Jewish state.

By MATTHEW WAGNER
November 6, 2007 21:19
1 minute read.
reform jews 298 88 aj

reform jews 224.88 aj. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The Diaspora's single largest financial supporter of the Reform Movement in Israel said Tuesday that a lack of familiarity with the Jewish state has prevented his peers abroad from donating as much as they should. "I am disappointed with people in the movement for not giving more to building up Progressive Judaism in Israel," said Gerald Daniel, who practically single-handedly built both North Tel Aviv's Temple Beit Daniel and Jaffa's Mishkenot Ruth Daniel center - named after Daniel's wife, who died last June - for a total of $12 million. "But I believe that a lot of people who could do a lot for the movement don't, because they have never really been to Israel, at least not for an extended period," he said. Daniel, born in Germany, lived in Israel between 1935 and 1947 before moving first to France and then to the US, where he made his fortune from the production of fiber filters for industrial use. He sold his business in 1986 for "between $10m. and $100m.," according to Daniel. The 90-year-old philanthropist, who grew up in a modern Orthodox family in Hamburg, said he had never felt connected to Orthodox rites. "But to this day, I won't eat anything that is a sheketz [crawling creatures, such as lobsters and crabs, which are not kosher]." Rabbi Meir Azari, who heads the Beit Daniel community center and congregation, pointed out that the Reform Movement in Israel has 26 congregations across the nation, but only six of them own a building. The rest rent or make temporary arrangements for prayer due to a lack of funds. "If there were just one or two more people like Mr. Daniel, we would be able to transform Reform Judaism into a real force in Israel," said Azari. "As a community leader, one is severely limited without a permanent building." Daniel, who served as president of the World Union of Progressive Judaism between 1980 and 1988, believes that the best way of reaching members of the Reform Movement in the Diaspora is through their children, who come to Israel via programs such as birthright-Taglit and MASA. "Hopefully, the children will come from Israel and teach their parents," he said.


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