This past Monday, the Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee of the Knesset, Israel's Parliament, passed, by only one vote, a bill which would give the Chief Rabbinate of Israel sole authority in the area of conversions in Israel. If this bill passes the Knesset, then all conversions held by progressive (Reform, Conservative, and Reconstuctionist) rabbis in and out of Israel will be called into questions, if not entirely negated. Please read the following letter, from Rabbi Eric Yoffie (President of the Union for Reform Judaism) and ACT NOW!!!
Emergency is not too strong a word. This week, despite commitments to the contrary, the Israeli Knesset is considering legislation that would fundamentally change the Law of Conversion and further concentrate power with the Chief Rabbinate. The bill would give the Chief Rabbinate exclusive oversight of all conversion matters, putting non-Orthodox conversions performed abroad at risk, and greatly limiting the options available to Israelis and olim (immigrants to Israel) wishing to convert or in need of ‘official’ recognition. Sadly, this happened within hours of the arrest of Anat Hoffman (Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and Founder of Women of the Wall) for praying at the Western Wall with a Torah scroll, yet another reminder that non-Orthodox Jews don’t enjoy the same religious freedom in Israel that we do in North America.
It is critical that Prime Minister Netanyahu hear a loud and clear message from Diaspora Jewry that further alienation of non-Orthodox Jews goes against our deeply held beliefs in Klal Yisrael and creates a dangerous rift between Israel and world Jewry at a time when the relationship between North America and Israel is so vital. We urge you to contact the Prime Minister as soon as possible and share your concern over the future of religious freedom in Israel, the character of the Jewish State, and the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora.
The Union for Reform Judaism, along with our Reform counterparts in Israel and affiliates around the world, will be closely monitoring the legislation over the next few days. We are prepared to take any action at our disposal necessary to prevent passage of this bill. We’ve dispatched senior members of the Union’s staff to join with Rabbi Daniel Allen, ARZA Executive Director, in Israel to personally meet with members of the Knesset and convey to them the significance of this matter. At the same time, our Israeli and international Reform communities are mobilizing as well to convey their concern.
Rabbi Eric Yoffie Peter Weidhorn
President Chairman of the Board