Monthly Archives: July 2022

Russian Jews Will Not Be Held Hostage

Immigrants at Ben-Gurion Airport, in March. Credit: Hadas Parush

Immigrants at Ben-Gurion Airport, in March. Credit: Hadas Parush

While Israel has treaded carefully in relation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moscow seems determined to punish the one country offering a place of safety to Ukrainian and Russian Jews, those lining up to make Aliyah.

Russian authorities have taken legal steps to shut down the Moscow operation of the Jewish Agency, responsible for this Aliyah. This has caused the Israeli government to rail against such action with the Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Nachman Shai saying “Russian Jews will not be held hostage by the war in Ukraine. The attempt to punish the Jewish Agency for Israel’s stance on the war is deplorable and offensive”.

Israeli government authorities are working hard to cooperate with their Russian counterparts as they have for many decades and will not be acceding to the difficult demands being made.

The Jewish Agency is the unofficial arm of the Israeli government responsible for dealing with the immigration process, which has seen roughly 12,000 Russian citizens migrating to Israel since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started in February.

This big upsurge of migration from Russia, the country starting the war with Ukraine has been surprising. The rationale seems to be, according to commentators, that the Russian regime is looking more totalitarian. So, the history of Jewish persecution in Russia could be a driving force toward Aliyah to Israel.

On another note, following the disgraceful and violent behaviour of young ultra-Orthodox Jews at the Kotel, we now see a report of Haredi young men in Jerusalem fighting to block the construction of a light rail. The altercation seems not only to seek the closing of a street on Shabbat, but the closure every day of the week to the passage of the light rail train.

The strange thing about the argument seems to be that the surrounding Haredi community welcomes the train as something that will improve their lives. According to reports, those who are vehemently opposing it are said to be the extremist Edah Haredit who are convinced the light rail is part of a bigger plot to change the character of the orthodox area. The protests have involved demonstrations, countless acts of sabotage of equipment and infrastructure such as fencing and bulldozers and the harassment of workers and security. This has all led to several arrests, particularly of Yeshiva boys.

One wonders what these young men are being taught in relation to civil and respectful behaviour and acceptance of the rights of others in Israeli society.

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President

2022-07-27T11:12:27+10:00July 27th, 2022|News|

Nachman Shai Responds to Kotel Riots

Nachman Shai, Israel's Minister of Diaspora Affairs (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Nachman Shai, Israel’s Minister of Diaspora Affairs (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Last week I provided a copy of the letter on behalf of the Australian Progressive and Masorti movements to the Prime Minister of Israel. In it we expressed our deep concern in relation to the violence at the Kotel by Ultra-Orthodox youth and men against Progressive and Masorti Jews praying and celebrating a B’nai Mitzvah.

Today we received an email from the office of the Israeli Minister for Diaspora Affairs, Nachman Shai. It said the following.

We have received your email and letter to Prime Minister Yair Lapid on the horrific incident at the Egalitarian Plaza that took place a few weeks ago. Minister Shai sees this act of violence with great severity. These riots were an unacceptable provocation in a place that is holy for every Jew – no matter which stream they belong to.

The office and the Minister are working hard to ensure that such things do not happen again and to ensure that Israel is a place welcome and open to all. Please know that his door is always open to you and that we are partners in this goal.



Hilla Drechler
Senior Advisor
Ministry of Diaspora Affairs of Israel

ARZA President, Helen Shardey

Helen Shardey OAM
ARZA Australia President
UPJ Vice President

2022-07-27T11:14:23+10:00July 21st, 2022|News|

Letter to the Prime Minister

Prime Minister Yair Lapid
The Prime Minister’s Office

July 11, 2022

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the Australian Progressive and Masorti movements, we write to warmly welcome you to the position of Prime Minister of Israel. When you last addressed the Progressive Movement, you demonstrated a deep and meaningful understanding of the principles, values, and beliefs of our movement. You have also had a long and very positive relationship with the Masorti movement.

It is with this in mind that we now seek your understanding and support for our grave concern in relation to the unwarranted and vicious attack on Progressive and Masorti Jews at the Kotel last week by a mob of Ultra-Orthodox boys and men, who again disrupted the Rosh Chodesh prayer service of the Women of the Wall.

This was followed by an attack at the Egalitarian Plaza on those celebrating B’nai Mitzvah ceremonies in what only can be described as violent, disrespectful, and disgusting behaviour. The screaming, spitting cursing, and violation of Torah scrolls, ripping them to shreds is something unheard of in any Jewish community of standing in our time.

The openly expressed hatred by any stream of Judaism toward another is certainly not that which Jews expect or accept in our Jewish Homeland or anywhere. In fact, we have been very shocked by these continuing and recent events.

As someone we know as having expressed support for the Kotel agreement, so that all streams of Judaism in Israel can pray with safety and security at our most sacred place, we now ask you for your action and support in bringing this situation under control. Without in any way wanting to dictate, we do have several specific requests for you to consider providing freedom of worship in Israel.

It is our belief that the Israeli police could or should be instructed to take action to stop and/or prevent violence against any person or group at the Northern Plaza and Ezrat Israel. We believe it should be normal practice for those behaving in a violent or disruptive way toward others in these areas of the Kotel to be removed and where appropriate face criminal proceedings.

We know you have publicly spoken out against any obstacles to egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall and support your strong stance for there to be a continued opposition to a mechitzah being erected in this space. We also support open accessibility to the Kotel as one of the most sacred religious sites for the Jewish people, whether they are Israeli or from the Diaspora and whether they be Progressive, Reform, Liberal, Masorti, Orthodox or Ultra-Orthodox Jews.

While it is appreciated that for the Kotel agreement to be implemented, it would involve a vote by the Knesset, we implore you as Prime Minister to detail a policy on this important issue.

We would hope that a future Israeli Government would work toward including representatives of our movements as part of a steering committee to guide policies and standards applying to the egalitarian prayer space of the Kotel.

Dear Prime Minister, on behalf of the Australian Progressive and Masorti movements, we wish you every success in the coming election. We hope and pray that you can ensure Israel is a democratic, pluralist society supporting equality for all as expressed in the 1948 Declaration of Independence.


With kind regards,

Helen Shardey OAM
President of the Australian Reform Zionist Association
Vice-President, Union for Progressive Judaism

David Knoll AM and Brian Samuel OAM
Co-Presidents, Union for Progressive Judaism

Eric Lundberg
President, Mercaz-Masorti Australasia

2022-07-12T18:23:48+10:00July 12th, 2022|News|
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