I hope you have been enjoying the summer and finding time for some vacation and relaxation. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you recent developments in our movement.
First and foremost, last night, the Israeli government passed an unheard of before bill: subverting a Supreme Court decision, the ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) parties pushed a bill to effectively ban non-Orthodox, i.e. Reform and Conservative converts from bathing in municipal Mikvaot (ritual baths). We cannot stress enough the magnitude of harm that this bill causes. The bill allows municipal councils to sign agreements with the State regarding convert bathing in Mikvaot, but refuse to do that same with other bodies, with the explicit goal of subverting the recent Supreme Court decision, mandating religious councils to allow Reform and Conservative converts to bathe in public Mikvaot.
While we are extremely disappointed by the backing of this bill by coalition parties, we refuse to give up. Part of the agreement that led to the passing of the bill was the commitment to building designated Mikvaot for non-Orthodox converts. We will continue ensuring that this indeed happens, and that it is funded by the government. We invite you to read the statement posted on the URJ blog upon learning of the bill’s passing.
The other main national issue that we have been concerned with over recent months is the Kotel agreement. Since late January, when the Israeli government approved the resolution to establish an egalitarian platform at the Kotel, we have yet to see results. While both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister of Diaspora Affairs Bennet have stated on numerous occasions that they are committed to ensuring that all Jews feel welcome in Israel, we have not seen them put their words into action as of yet.
We are astounded time and again by how low ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) politicians are willing to go to undermine our existence. We have no doubt that the recent increased battle against us by ultra-Orthodox representatives, as well as straight-out out lashes is the result of an understanding – and fear – that Reform Judaism in Israel continues to grow and gain recognition and that we have no intention of going anywhere.
Unfortunately, hatred and intolerance does not end exclusively at our doorstep. Over the past couple of weeks, rabbis from the national-Orthodox stream have lashed out against the LGBTQ community in Israel, in light of the Pride parade, which took place in Jerusalem this past Thursday. One of them, Rabbi Igal Levenstein, head of pre-army Mechina in Eli, after having claimed that the Reform stream is not a part of Judaism, went so far as to call members of the community “perverts.” Luckily, a great majority of Israelis, including many of those from the national Orthodox stream, rejected Rabbi Levenstein’s derogatory comments, and showed up as part of the 25,000 (!!!) people who marched at this year’s Jerusalem pride parade. The IMPJ also had very distinguished representation, with dozens wearing t-shirts and holding signs and flags identifying themselves with our movement. Go on our website to read our statement in response to Rabbi Levenstein’s remarks.
On a brighter note, we have just concluded the “Havayah” summer camp, which for the fourth year in a row includes a special program for campers with special needs, called “Hamulah.” We cannot express enough the joy and satisfaction felt by these campers, who, for some, this is the first time they truly feel that they belong to a community and are part of it in all respects. Of course, their positive experience brings us lots of nachat.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your on-going partnership and support. We have no doubt that we could not have gotten this far without it. We will continue to keep you posted on developments, and invite you to check in from time to time on our website and Facebook page for more updates.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv
President and CEO