Man and woman praying in Tallitot

There’s a Place for Us in Israel



Reform Jews in Israel and around the world are still feeling the wounds of a string of hurtful comments by Israel’s Minister of Religious Affairs, David Azoulay. In June, Minister Azoulay called Reform Judaism “a disaster for the nation of Israel,” and earlier this month, stated that Reform Jews were really not Jews at all. The comments have been met with widespread condemnation, including from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but we know all too well the parable of the feather pillow: once something is said, the hurt never fully goes away.

In the wake of these remarks, the leadership of the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ), Israel’s Reform Movement, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, which lamented:

“The fact that this statement is made by the Minister of Religious Affairs who is in charge of the provision of religious services to all Jewish Israeli citizens, casts a dark cloud on whether he is fit to serve in this position in a way which gives proper respect to the basic democratic values of the State of Israel and of its being the national homeland for Jewish people of all sects, communities and streams.”

In North America, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the URJ, applauded Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rebuke of Minister Azoulay’s comments, but warned Netanyahu that “the time may well come soon when he is forced to make clear that Minister Azoulay has forfeited his right to be a member of the Government.” Non-Reform organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Rabbinical Council of America (which represents Orthodox rabbis), have made similar condemnations of the comments.

Minister Azoulay’s remarks and the responses from the Jewish community have ignited a discussion about what the role of non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel should be. Haredi Rabbi Avi Shafran has defended Israel’s use of Orthodox Judaism as legal code as a way to unify Jewry, while Haaretz writer Chemi Shalev views the scandal as proof that the Reform Movement is growing in influence in Israel. The Jewish Daily Forward also shed light on the growing Israeli Reform movement, emphasizing its ideological and ethnic diversity.

To learn more about Reform Judaism in Israel, check out the website of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, and for more updates on Israel, visit the RAC’s issue page on Israel, and RACblog.

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Jonathan Edelman

About Jonathan Edelman

Jonathan Edelman is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. A 2014 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jonathan is originally from Jacksonville, FL and is a member of Congregation Ahavath Chesed.

One Response to “There’s a Place for Us in Israel”

  1. Frankly, I no longer believe it. Now why should I support a country where I wouldn’t be viewed as Jewish and , as a woman, not allowed to pray as I choose at the Kotel ?
    I will support Israel as I would any country in her position but I’m finding it almost impossible to view it as a homeland.

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