Orthodox Jewish umbrella org. opposes conversion reform, Kotel deal

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett listened attentively to the words of the representatives of the organizations and agreed to continue the dialogue on the various issues.

 Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is seen meeting with the Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization Am Echad, on February 23, 2022. (photo credit: Noam Weiss)
Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is seen meeting with the Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization Am Echad, on February 23, 2022.
(photo credit: Noam Weiss)

A delegation from the conservative Am Echad (One Nation) organization, which includes 50 representatives of Jewish communities from around the world, mainly Orthodox, met Wednesday with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. The meeting was called for by the organization that plays a major role in advocating against many of the current government's reforms on topics dealing with religion and state. 

Bennet said during the meeting: "As prime minister of Israel, I also see myself as a representative of all Diaspora Jews. Your work for unity among the people, in the spirit of open discourse and closeness, contributes to strengthening the bond between the Jewish people in Israel and around the world. We are one big family." 

"The issues of the Western Wall and the conversion require the broad agreement of the entire Jewish people," said Am Achad’s Israel director Leah Aharoni to Bennet. 

A press release sent by the organization states that “Representatives of the Am Echad organization, which unites the heads of Jewish organizations and Orthodox or Orthodox leaning communities among more than 50 countries and 900 communities from North America, South America and Europe.”

At the meeting, members of the delegation discussed with the prime minister a number of issues. In doing so, they expressed their position regarding the outline of the Conversion Law and the "Kotel deal" regarding the egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, according to which these outlines may create “complexity and unrest” among the Orthodox Jewish communities in the Diaspora.

 THE MASSES pray at the Western Wall during Sukkot. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) THE MASSES pray at the Western Wall during Sukkot. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The meeting also discussed the significant challenges facing the State of Israel in the political and security fields, with an emphasis on the issue of the Iranian nuclear program.

The prime minister listened attentively to the words of the representatives of the organizations and agreed to continue the dialogue on the various issues.

The members of the delegation will meet today with other ministers and Knesset members.

Aharoni said after the meeting with Prime Minister Bennet that: "The meeting was held in good spirits, and we were happy to find a sympathetic ear in the Prime Minister and a real desire to hear our voice.”

A press conference will be held Wednesday in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, as part of the delegation visit. Aharoni says that “We will hold a press conference with the participation of dozens of representatives of the Jewish communities in Europe, North and South America who constitute the majority of the Jewish people in the Diaspora.”

She adds that “during the press conference, we will present 150 thousand letters that were sent to the prime minister by Jews in the Diaspora who are against the proposed ‘Kotel deal’ and the forthcoming conversion reform. A pact against these reforms will be signed by MKs, intellectuals, representatives of world Jewry and will reveal further steps that the communities intend to take soon.”

Am Echad organization used to be run by Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Agudah Israel Party. Recently, the organization reinvented itself and claims to represent a broad spectrum of Orthodox Diaspora Jews. 

 "I do not know what was said or not said in the meeting with Bennett and Shaked, but it is difficult for me to assume that the Prime Minister will abandon his explicit commitment on such a strategic issue," said Yizhar Hess, deputy chairman of the World Zionist Organization.

Hess, who headed Israel's Masorti (Conservative) movement for many years, added: "I suggest to those 'emissaries on their own behalf' who came to Israel in the name of alleged world Jewry and call themselves 'one people,' of all the names in the world, to carefully examine the promise they received."

Hess explains that "This week, the leaders of the Conservative and Reform movements from North America will land in Israel. They will meet with the prime minister, the president and a number of leaders of major parties. There is nothing more Zionist at this time than the immediate implementation of the Western Wall outline."