22 July 2010

Harel and Ellenson in Today's Israeli Press

Two interesting pieces in the Israeli press today about the Rotem conversion bill.

One by Haaretz columnist Israel Harel, where he boldly makes the following point (which on a certain level, I agree with:
"The Reform and Conservative movements want to obtain official status in Israel, alongside Orthodoxy. I support this. It is this desire that is the true reason for their outcry. But even if the High Court grants their wish, their status will remain unchanged. There are fewer than 100 congregations in Israel that describe themselves as Reform or Conservative, and most are small; compare that to thousands of active and growing Orthodox congregations. Only spiritual influence, not High Court rulings, can fill their ranks - and influence legislation."
I happen to believe that the Supreme Court *and* a grass roots progressive Jewish spiritual movement should be working together, but on the essential point that success on the ground will win the day is, I believe, true.  Read the full post here.

Over at the Jerusalem Post, HUC-JIR President, Rabbi Dr. David Ellenson, has a thoughtful piece, where he argues that both the arrest of Anat Hoffman for carrying a Torah and praying with the Women of the Wall, as well as the Rotem Bill, fly in the face of both the values of the Israeli Declaration of Independence and the critical relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewish communities:
"For Jews in both the Diaspora and in Israel who are committed to Israel as both a democratic and a Jewish state, these episodes call into question whether the state itself actually possesses those commitments. The impediments and restrictions placed before non-Orthodox expressions of Judaism by the Israeli government are matters of serious concern because they reveal that the State employs coercion and imposes a limited range of acceptable practices on Jews who have diverse conceptions of Jewish religious authenticity.

This struggle for Jewish religious freedom is a principled fight for justice that expects the state to be impartial in defining authentic religious Judaism. It is high time that the legitimacy and authority of different branches of religious Judaism be affirmed in Israel. This will surely enhance and strengthen the commitment significant numbers of American Jews feel towards the Jewish state."
 Read Rabbi Ellenson's full post here.

There is much to think about and talk about here. 

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