Masorti groups to avoid hotels denying Torahs

Conservative Movement says groups encounter difficulty trying to use Torah scrolls for mixed-gender, egalitarian services.

Torah scroll 521 (photo credit: Stockbyte)
Torah scroll 521
(photo credit: Stockbyte)
The Rabbinical Assembly, an international association of Conservative rabbis, announced last week at its annual conference in Atlanta that it would be advising all Conservative and Masorti Jewish groups to patronize only those hotels that make their Torah scrolls available for them to use. Masorti is the name given to the Conservative movement outside of North America.
The association said that Conservative groups frequently encounter difficulties when trying to use the Torah scrolls of hotels they are staying in for mixed-gender, egalitarian services, which members of this stream conduct.
The organization called on the Israel Hotel Association to “treat Jews of all denominations equally and to afford Jews and all groups of non-Orthodox streams any of the rights and privileges afforded Orthodox guests, including the use of a synagogue and a Sefer Torah [Torah scroll].”
However, an Israel Hotel Association spokeswoman denied the accusations and said that no such problem existed – adding that although a very small number of such incidents occurred in the past, they had been dealt with and there was nothing new to the claims.
Rabbi Andrew Sacks, the director of the Rabbinical Assembly of Israel, called the IHA’s response “highly insulting and inappropriate.”
“For her to suggest that this doesn’t happen means that either she is unaware of what’s going on, or she is not being completely truthful.”
In March, The Jerusalem Post reported on an incident at the Shef Hotel at Kibbutz Shefayim in which a group of Conservative youth were denied the use of the hotel’s Torah scroll.
The group requested it for the service they were conducting in a private room, but the hotel’s religious supervisor informed them they could only use it if their service was not mixed and they would not call women up to the Torah.
A hotel spokeswoman said at the time that it was hotel policy to ask any group that wants to conduct their own service to provide their own Torah scroll, regardless of religious stream.