A Quick Report on Reform Jewish Life in Israel
Awesome news! Last week, the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and ARZA, the Association for Reform Zionists of America, announced that there are now 40 Reform Jewish congregations in Israel. New Reform communities in Megiddo, Gilboa, Shoham, Kibbutz Beit HaShitta, the Arava and Caesaria have begun meeting for prayer, study and activities, as well as have chavurot in Be’er Sheva, Haifa, and the Jerusalem neighborhood of Kiryat HaYovel.
Rabbi Bennett F. Miller, National Chair of ARZA, said of this development, “The fact that there are now some 40 Reform congregations in Israel represents a powerful shift in the meaning of affiliation for Jews in Israel. Forty congregations today is a giant leap forward. We are near the tipping point which means that soon the number of Reform congregations will grow exponentially. And that can only be good for Israel and for the Jewish People all over the world.”
In addition to these 40 congregations, the Israel Reform Movement also operates 50 preschool classrooms, eight schools, 25 women’s groups affiliated with the Women of Reform Judaism, a Mechinah program (pre-army leadership training and social action) with twice as many qualified applicants as openings, and Beit Midrash B’Derech, a post army young adult “live and learn” community. Israel’s active Reform youth movement, Noar Telem, runs a summer camp for 700 participants, coupled with year-round youth activities. The Israel Religious Action Center conducts a vibrant advocacy and legal program and Keren B’Kavod serves as the humanitarian arm of the Reform Movement in Israel.
Approximately 80% of Israeli Jews consider themselves secular, and 34% of them identify Reform Judaism as the movement they most closely identify with, yet the Reform Movement’s Israeli communities serve only 20% of that population. ARZA is dedicated to providing the financial resources to help the IMPJ open new congregations in more locations, meeting the needs of this growing movement.