By Mark S. Anshan.
On June 21 I had the privilege of being with the Women of the Wall as they held Shacharit services at the Wall for Rosh Chodesh. Each month women from all denominations come together to pray. This is an important organization that is fighting for religious freedom and equality in Israel. The rabbi in charge of the holy places and the Wall has continued to assert directives that make it difficult, if not impossible, for women to pray freely at the Wall as they choose. The latest conflicts involve the wearing of tallit and carrying the Torah. You will recall that Anat Hoffman was arrested last year for carrying a Torah. Now women are being harassed for wearing a talilt. At the Rosh Chodesh service last week, many women wore tallit. One woman was detained at the end of the service by the police for the manner in which she was wearing her tallit after she left the women’s section. The police insisted that the women wear their tallit as one would a scarf. She was held by the police for four hours, questioned, given a warning and released. I and the Director of the Women of the Wall, Lesley Sachs, accompanied her to the police station and remained at the station until she was released. The use of police resources to enforce rulings that undermine the pursuit of religious freedom in Israel is a metaphor for the continued problem that liberal Judaism is facing as it works towards full recognition.
Our support for achieving full recognition of Reform Judaism in Israel is a critical part of our engagement with Israel. Writing this from Israel, it is important for our friends in Israel to know that we are with them as we work together for a common purpose.
Several weeks ago the Israel government accepted the Israel Supreme Court decision to provide funding for the rabbinic salary of Rabbi Miri Gold, a Reform rabbi serving our community at Kibbutz Gezer. This is the first step in securing government funding for rabbinic salaries of all Reform and Conservative rabbis in Israel, thus treating them equally with all Orthodox rabbis. Until such time as Israel were to determine that rabbinic salaries should not be covered by public funding (unlikely in the current political climate), it is important that this equal treatment be recognized as a significant step in the effort of full recognition of Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel. The story in Israel on these matters never ends. The Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Amar is organizing to contest the decision of the government. Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center sent out the message below calling for us to write letters to Rabbi Amar. Please support our efforts to achieve a truly pluralistic society in Israel with this small action.
Please join us July 22 at 7:30 PM at Temple when ARZA Canada is hosting a lecture with Anat Hoffman. This is an opportunity to meet and engage with Anat and learn of the recent events in Israel.
June 26, 2012
They are pushing back
Dear Friends of IRAC,
This is a monumental time for liberal Jewry in Israel . After seven years, our petition for Rabbi Miri Gold, requesting state recognition and funding for Reform and Conservative rabbis in towns around Israel was passed. For the first time in Israel ‘s history, the state has given legitimacy to the liberal Jewish movements in Israel .
Unfortunately, not everyone here is celebrating with us. The Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Amar announced that he is calling upon his fellow Orthodox rabbis to prevent the implementation of the High Court’s ruling. He sent a letter to hundreds of Orthodox rabbis in Israel calling on them to object to the state’s intention to recognize and fund Reform and Conservative rabbis, and invited them to an emergency meeting today at the Chief Rabbinate’s office in Jerusalem .
In his letter, Rabbi Amar lamented “the hand given to the uprooters and destroyers of Judaism who have already wrought horrible destruction upon the People of Israel in the Diaspora by causing terrible assimilation and the uprooting of all of the Torah’s precepts. And now they seek recognition in the Land of Israel as well, to be destroyers of the religion… This will not pass!” “No one may be absent from the gathering,” he added.
We have sent Rabbi Amar a letter to remind him that the Chief Rabbinate is not authorized to intervene on this issue and that his attempt to foil the decision is illegal and inappropriate in a democratic country based on the rule of law.
Rabbi Amar is not acting out of the best interest for Israel , but rather out of “Sinat Hinam,” senseless hatred. His words go against the most fundamental values in Judaism and against “Klal Yisrael,” (the unification of the Jewish people). The reality is that most Jews, from all denominations, want Israel to be the physical and spiritual home for the entire Jewish people.
Today, as the Chief Rabbi holds his meeting against our movement, we will be standing outside his office in protest. You too can play a role: I want you to flood his office with emails telling him that pluralism is the only way to have a state that is strong, prosperous, and democratic.
Executive Director, IRAC