'We are brothers,' Rivlin tells delegation of Conservative Jews

During meeting with American Jewish representatives, president response to request that Conservative Jews be recognized as equals in Israeli society.

President Reuven Rivlin. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
President Reuven Rivlin.
President Reuven Rivlin met with two important American delegations on Wednesday. The first was from the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and the second was from the American Jewish Committee.
The first delegation, he was told, represented 1.2 million Conservative Jews in the United States and Canada, in addition to which there are 65 Conservative congregations in Israel, where they are known as Masorti. Moreover, Conservative Jews donate a great deal of money to Israel, and 15 percent of participants in their youth programs in Israel make aliya.
In welcoming the delegation to Jerusalem, Rivlin was given a fanfare greeting with long and loud blowing of a shofar and the recital of the blessing made in the presence of a head of state.
The president, who does not usually cover his head, attended the meeting wearing a kippa, in common with most of the men in the delegation.
“We are all one family,” Rivlin said in his opening remarks and repeated the statement later when he said: “We cannot agree on everything, but we are brothers and we are one big family.”
The first time he made the statement it was in response to a request that Conservative Jews be recognized as equals in Israeli society. The second time was in the course of reading from a prepared statement.
Rivlin referred to the challenges currently facing the country, saying that Israel has to respond to threats from terrorist organizations from the outside while maintaining its image and values as a Jewish and democratic state that is committed to international law and is dedicated to providing all its citizens with equality and dignity, Arabs and Jews alike.
Rivlin repeated the family concept at his meeting with the leadership delegation headed by AJC President Stanley Bergman. He told Rivlin that they had come to express solidarity with Israel, noting that the AJC, which has global representation, can often access places to which Israeli diplomats cannot go.
“We have been here for all the challenges of Israel and we are meeting with the person who represents the morality of Israel,” Bergman said. “We look to you as the unifying force for the entire Jewish people. We all feel welcome even though we may have slightly different views on religion.”
“We are not only friends, we are family” Rivlin replied. In fact one of the members of the delegation, Fred Strober of Philadelphia, happens to be Rivlin’s first cousin.
“There is no other way than to relate as one big family,” the president continued. “Despite any arguments, we remain one family.” That being said, Rivlin made it clear that no member of the ‘family’ had the right to impose his or her views on any of the others.
Speaking of the challenges facing Israel among different sectors of the Jewish population and in the relationship between the Jewish and Arab populations, Rivlin said: “We have to learn to listen to each other. This is the only way to solve problems.”
Pressed about global issues, Rivlin stated: “We have to say loud and clear that the American administration is the best friend that we have.”