Think tank to cabinet: Give 'enhanced status' to non-orthodox Jewish streams in Israel

JPPI responds to feeling of disenfranchisement felt by some due to orthodox Rabbinate’s monopoly over life status issues such as marriage.

Women of the Wall prayers at Western Wall370 (photo credit: Hadas Parush)
Women of the Wall prayers at Western Wall370
(photo credit: Hadas Parush)
The Jewish People Policy Institute presented its annual report to the cabinet on Sunday, issuing a series of recommendations for government action, including granting an expanded role to non-orthodox denominations and streamlining the immigration process for European Jews.
The think tank, based out of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, recently issued another high profile report in which it asserted that the internal Israeli conflict over the balance between its Jewish and democratic natures affects young Diaspora Jews’ devotion to their own identity.
Sunday’s report -which was presented by JPPI president Avinoam Bar-Yosef alongside co-chairs and former US ambassadors Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat- also called for a more vigorous Israeli policy in combating delegitimization.
Jerusalem should “adopt and implement a comprehensive strategy for the war against the international phenomenon of de-legitimization of Israel,” the JPPI recommended, specifying that there should be a focus on “certain Western European countries that constitute a dangerous international incubator for the phenomenon and whose governments even provide, directly or indirectly, millions of dollars in funding de- legitimization organizations.”
Ties with countries without a prior history of anti-Semitism, especially in Asia and the subcontinent, should be pursued with vigor, the report added.
JPPI also recommended that Jerusalem seek to deepen and institutionalize its ties with diaspora communities by establishing what it called a “permanent Jewish people dialogue mechanism for coordination on Israeli decisions that affect the Diaspora and on decisions taken in the Jewish world that affect Israel.”
Such a mechanism would allow for the preservation of Jewish unity in an age of free choose in which Jews have multiple options for self-definition and communal affiliation and would ensure the participation of the next generation of Jews. such a strategy, JPPI believes, is important because of declining communal affiliation among younger Jews.
Even those who are communal engaged, the report stated, citing recent research by the Pew Research Center, “feel disenfranchised religiously in the Jewish State they so strongly support,” especially due to the orthodox Rabbinate’s monopoly over life status issues such as marriage, divorce and conversion.
Despite an increase in the overall population of American Jews, the largest diaspora community, the report stated, “the birthrates of the Jewish population are at best at simple replacement levels, compared to the more rapidly growing general population.”
Both on its own merits and as a means of strengthening ties with the Diaspora, the JPPI recommended that the government “enhance the status, the role, and the level of official participation of the non-Orthodox Jewish streams (including secular streams) in the religious life of the state, in order to strengthen and underscore their pluralistic character, including the egalitarian.”
The cabinet recently approved the World Jewry Joint Initiative, a long-term multi-billion Shekel plan for funding Jewish identity programs in the diaspora.
Despite recent announcements touting an increase in funding for aliyah efforts in Europe, including a tens of millions of Shekels allocated during Sunday’s cabinet meeting to a new joint World Zionist Organization-Jewish Agency initiative, the JPPI report called Israel’s efforts to encourage immigration from the continent “far from adequate.”
Barriers to French Jews finding employment in Israel must be removed, the report stated, and “the number of emissaries in France needed to handle the growing interest in Aliyah has not kept pace with the need.”
As such, it recommended that Israel establish an administration under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for the advancement of western European aliyah in order to “focus the efforts of the various national and government bodies charged with Aliyah promotion, the Aliyah process, and immigrant absorption.”
All matters pertaining to western European immigration should be concentrated under “a single integrated umbrella, with a single information system and a computerized information- management system, and by redefining the Aliyah and absorption continuum,” the JPPI contended.
At the end of the day, the JPPI asserted, “Israeli demographics appear favorable because of higher birthrates and increased potential of Aliyah from Europe,” while “Jewish identity, especially in the United States, is tending somewhat negatively because of a weakening sense of ‘belonging and commitment’ to the Jewish people among the younger demographic.”
“A decision was made to continue dialogue between Diaspora communities and Israel, and Prime Minister Netanyahu endorsed JPPI’s initiative to explore, in the next year, the parameters, representatives, and subjects for discussion,” Bar Yosef stated after the cabinet meeting.