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Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of USCJ (The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism) and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, CEO of the Rabbinical Assembly hand delivered an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Dani Dayan, Consul General of Israel in New York, September 7, 2017..(Photo by: Courtesy)
Conservative movement gives PM chance to repent ahead of High Holy Days
By Yocheved Lauren Laufer
The open letter addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discusses the North American Conservative movement's feelings of betrayal after the Western Wall and Conversion crises.
597 leaders of the North American Conservative movement submitted an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, outraged about this summer's conversion and Western Wall sagas that created a rift between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

The open letter, on behalf of North American Jewry, was handed to Consul General of Israel in New York Dani Dayan, by Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ) and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, CEO of the Rabbinical Assembly.

The letter expressed "dismay, anger and sense of betrayal," in regard to recent Israeli policies where the cabinet decided to freeze the decision to create an egalitarian section at the Western Wall and to push forward the Conversion Law that would allow the ultra-Orthodox to have a monopoly on Israeli conversion.

"Mr. Prime Minister, we are Zionists," the letter read, "You must understand, however, that in the 21st century we find it unconscionable that Israel, the Jewish State, is the only democratic state in the world in which not all Jews are recognized or supported equally under the law or in the public square."

The 385 North American Conservative Jewish congregations that signed the letter called for an end to the Rabbinate's monopoly of Jewish religion in Israel. "The time has come for Israel to embrace Jewish pluralism as a positive value to ensure the Jewishness of the Jewish State and its democratic values," they wrote to Netanyahu.

The letter finishes reminding the prime minister of the upcoming High Holy Days, where Israel is vastly mentioned in services and inspiring words, and there is an option of shedding Israel in a positive or contrastingly negative light. "Will we speak of Israel’s reality in a language of betrayal or hope? Will we speak of struggle or achievement?"

These holiday messages, the letter reads, can be influenced by Netanyahu's decisions. "We ask you to lead; we ask you to fulfill your promise to us that Israel will be the homeland of the entire Jewish people – Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and secular."
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