Reform leaders plan $100m. for Israeli movement

In meeting with PM, leaders demand recognition of Reform rabbis, conversions.

rabbi uri regev 88 (photo credit: )
rabbi uri regev 88
(photo credit: )
Leaders of Reform Judaism from around the world opened a conference in Jerusalem on Thursday whose agenda included a multimillion-dollar expansion of activities in Israel and a demand that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert take steps to officially recognize the movement and its conversions and rabbis. The price tag for the ambitious plan, expected to be published on Monday, will be more than $100 million, making it the largest action plan ever prepared by the Reform movement, according to World Union for Progressive Judaism head Rabbi Uri Regev. "Following a qualitative and quantitative study, headed by [Shamrock Holdings CEO] Stanley Gold and [Los Angeles] Rabbi Harvey Fields, we will present a dream and a plan for an unprecedented operation," Regev told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, "with which we will now turn to fundraising." The plan includes initiatives on education and synagogue expansion, as well as elements that are not usually part of a religious movement's activities, such as investment in new Jewish art, providing religious services outside the synagogue, and social activism. At a meeting with Olmert on Thursday morning at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, the leaders demanded an end to "institutionalized discrimination" against Reform institutions and beliefs, particularly in the allocation of government funds and the recognition of conversions and rabbis, both in Israel and abroad. According to Regev, "Broad conversion, at which the Orthodox have failed, is a national necessity [possible] only outside the Orthodox movement." For this reason, he believes, "It's [in the] national interest to recognize the other movements in Israel. And surveys show, without exception, that the Israeli public supports this." "Our primary statement [to Olmert] will be one of support for Israel," Regev emphasized, including "the hope that the peace process, or at least management of the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict, will get back on track and bear fruit. The first thing that interests progressive Judaism," Regev added, "is the strength and security of Israel." Nevertheless, he said, "We will express our frustration, and our desire that Israel not advance foreign values, but rather its own values - freedom of religion and conscience."