“A Jew, is a Jew, is a Jew, is a Jew”
Not exactly as Gertrude Stein wrote it, often interpreted as meaning "things are what they are". As the quotation diffused through her own writing, and the culture at large, Stein once remarked, "Now listen! I’m no fool. I know that in daily life we don't go around saying 'A ... is a ... is a ...is a...'
At the end of WWII in 1945 the world population stood at 2.35 billion and the Jewish population at 12 million. Today, there are 7.40 billion people in the world with a Jewish population of 13 million. Jews do not grow with the worlds population. We are doing something terribly wrong. At this rate in time there will be no more Jews on this planet. We have no Pope. There are over a hundred sectors of Judaism. Why can't we grow?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the General Assembly of the Jewish Federation of North America, that “A Jew is someone that steps forward, raises their hand and says they are Jewish”. On several occasions and to Union for Reform Judaism head Rick Jacobs, he has said, that ”Israel is a home for all Jews”. With that Progressive Jewish conversions, marriages, divorces, Bar Mitzvah's, Beit Dins, and so on, should be recognized by the Israel government and the Chief Rabbinate.
Progressive Judaism now has a piece of the “Wall”. Now, that they have their special place at the “Kotel”, why can't we allow them a place at the Rabbinate? Not all observant Jews are Askanzai or Sephardi, there are observant Jews from Africa, India and China as well, that should be included in the Rabbinate. Reform Jews in Israel make up only about 4% and are politically marginal and about 250,000 Israelis participate in Masorti congregations. So, why can't the Rabbinate allow them to be as they wish, they are no threat to them? Most Israelis do not need to be attached to any religious group to be Jewish they have, in a sense, outsourced their Judaism to the state, by virtue of being Israeli, eating Jewish, culturally Jewish, speaking, reading Hebrew and living by the Jewish calendar. The Ashkenazi and Sephardic religious communities never feel threatened by them. They are living and breathing Judaism. Reform Judaism doesn’t tap into a deep social and religious need of the Israeli to belong to its Jewish community, like it does in the United States. In 2012 the government started to pay the salaries of four non-Orthodox rabbis in Israel. That's a good start.
A Gallup survey in 2015 determined that 65 % of Israelis say they are either not religious or convinced atheists, while 30 percent say they are religious. Israel, is in the middle of the international religiosity scale, between Thailand, the world's most religious country, and China, the least religious. How can we deny the right of “Progressive” Jews to practice their ways, while allowing the PLO and Hamas to do to their people as they wish? The multiple spectrum of Jewish thought, practice, culture is what makes us the greatest people on Earth.
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel falls under the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, as do the Heads of Local Church's and the Ministry of Waqf and Religious affairs of the Palestinian Authority. The Chief Rabbinate is recognized by law as the supreme halakhic and spiritual authority for the Jewish people in the State of Israel. It has legal and administrative authority to organize religious arrangements for Israel's Jews. It also responds to halakhic questions submitted by Jewish public bodies in the Diaspora. The Council sets guides and instructs those agencies subject to its authority concerning their activities and scope. It is recognized by law as the head of religious law and spiritual authority for the Jewish people in Israel. The Rabbinate has jurisdiction over many aspects of life of Jews in Israel, including marriage, divorce, burials, conversion, kosher certification and supervision of holy sites. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel consists of two Chief Rabbis, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardic. They provide curriculum for teachers that teach different religions and let them discuss and learn from each other, both about the others religion, but also on how religion is taught. They held workshops for teachers in Bethlehem and in Ramallah. Where the participants were a mix between Muslim and Christian teachers, and teachers from private, public and UNWRA schools. It was the first time Muslim and Christian teachers had come together in training like this. So, why can't the Rabbinate do the same for Reform and Masorti Jews?
It is acknowledged by more moderate Orthodox groups and individuals that the Chief Rabbinate is taking a hard stance on conversions in Israel in general and is not showing any flexibility in this matter, ignoring the true requirements of Jewish Law in favor of their own strictures. It is for this reason that some Orthodox rabbis are in favor of the law proposed that would permit the setting up of local conversion courts, also for divorce, marriage, and burial support as well. This department handles and supervises some 500 burial societies throughout the country. It deals with the rehabilitation and renovation of cemeteries, and aids in the construction of ritual purification rooms.
The Ministry provides religious services to the population of Israel and deals with all matters related to the provision of religious services. It carries out its function through central and local units, in cooperation with the local authorities. The Ministry discharges appointment of religious councils, financial assistance to yeshivas, planning, financial assistance, construction, renovation of synagogues, ritual baths, maintaining public order, supervising, protecting, guarding Jewish holy places, planning activities to teach Torah, promoting religious outreach activities, fostering religious ties with Diaspora Jewry, certifying the observance of kashruth, helping to maintain the religious services of the various non-Jewish groups in Israel, dealing with their concerns, supplementary religious education for the underprivileged, providing for new immigrants, educational institutions, supporting the Chief Rabbinate, and managing the rabbinical courts.
So, being able to do all this, it can provide support and help for Jewish pluralism as well. What is so wrong with having “Progressive Jews” sit on our Religious Councils? It gives us a great opportunity to reach out to them, to teach, adopt and absorb them into our fold, while we allow them the freedom from our kashruth observance, marriages, synagogues, ritual baths, Torah classes, burial services, to do as they wish. Why deprive them of such an education, an an opportunity for them to learn? There are currently more than 170 religious councils in Israel, we can make room for them. Progressive Jews see Judaism, only as a Religion, as some Haredi Jews do, not as a nationality. So, why should that stand keep us apart? We allow the Palestinian Authority to have their own courts, set their own laws, So, why not allow Progressive Judaism, to do the same? Allow them to have their own Rabbinical Courts as part of the States judicial system, and allow them to have jurisdiction over marriage, divorce, and have parallel competence with district courts in matters of personal status, alimony, child support, custody, and inheritance. Allow their Religious court to implemented and enforced their verdicts. Progressive Jews can work independently from The Rabbinical Department, with their own agenda. While the Rabbinical Department continues as It is charged with seeing that every city, town, and moshav has one or more rabbis to provide guidance, spiritual leadership, perform various religious rites and maintains links with the local and religious authorities throughout the country. It can continue to help with budgets, choosing, employing rabbis, marriages, and assist in problems that arise from time to time apart from the Progressives.
The Ministry's Religious Communities Division deals with more than two million individuals, including Muslims, Druze, Christians, Baha'is, Samaritans, and Karaites. So, it would have no problem including Progressive Jews in their outreach.
Enough with the labels, we have enough people giving us labels, we do not need anymore labels. We are all “Jews”, and are “Jews” by no other name. We are all cut from the same cloth, it is just that some Jews are more observant than others.