Here at the Religious Action Center, we take pride in our founding to be a Jewish voice against discrimination and segregation in the early 1960s. Kivie Kaplan (President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from 1966-1975), for whom the street where is RAC is located is named, was driving in Miami in the 1950s and came across a sign that barred him from entering a hotel because he was Jewish. His driver, a black man, commented that the hotel’s segregation against blacks was implied. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, key legislation in the fight against segregation, was even drafted in the Religious Action Center’s conference room. Read more…
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Monday, just days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke to the same assembly. In the speech, the Prime Minister stated his view that “Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas” and sought to link the two groups with Iran by saying that they all fall under the umbrella of militant Islam. Netanyahu also offered an impassioned defense of Israel’s tactics in Operation Protective Edge, the military campaign
While the speech was largely a restatement of what the Prime Minister has been saying this summer and before, it launched a conversation within the Jewish community and the Israeli community. Below you’ll find what some have said about the Netanyahu’s speech:
- Nahum Barnea of Yedioth Aharonoth praises Netanyahu’s rhetoric, but questions the connection the Prime Minister drew between Hamas and ISIS
- The Jewish Daily Forward’s J.J. Goldberg argues that Netanyahu missed an opportunity to unite Arab nations against Hamas
- The Anti-Defamation League praised the Prime Minister for speaking “truth to power”
- In the Times of Israel, the Associated Press evaluates the chances of Netanyahu’s call for Arab nations to make peace with Israel
- Marissa Newman from the Times of Israel notes how the speech polarized Israeli leaders, earning praise from right-wing Members of Knesset (MKs) and condemnation from left-wing MKs
Months after the Jewish Federations of North America launched a new initiative, iREP, to promote freedom of expression and marriage in Israel, a new report reveals that over two-thirds of Israeli Jews support Israel-diaspora partnerships like iREP that advocate for religious freedom of marriage, or civil marriage.
The report by Hiddush, an Israeli organization for religious freedom and equality, found that 67% of Israeli Jews, and 74% of non-ultra-Orthodox Jews support Israeli-diaspora efforts for freedom of marriage. These high levels of support mirror Israeli Jews’ overwhelming support of civil marriage, which has reached the highest level in the history of Hiddush’s Religion and State Index. The support is widespread, including a majority of Jews from all religious groups except Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox.
Other statistics from the Index include:
- 84 percent of Israeli Jews support freedom of religion and conscience, up slightly from 83% in 2013.
- Support for separation of religion and state has reached its highest recorded level at 61%, up slightly from 60% in 2013 and 56% in 2012.
- A majority of Israeli Jews (51%) believe that every political party, secular, Israeli-Arab, and ultra-Orthodox, should be required to have female Members of Knesset.
This study strongly reaffirms that supporting efforts for freedom of religion in Israel is one of the most pro-Israel activities that world Jewry can take part in. The time is now for all of us to help Israel fully embrace these values!”
September has seen two heartening successes for advocates of religious liberty and civil rights in Israel! Within a week, Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court prevented a section of the Western Wall being transferred to a controversial group, and our partners at the Israeli Religious Action Center (IRAC) won their first class-action lawsuit.
I spend every Tuesday at a local nursing home visiting my dear friend, Fay, a Holocaust survivor. At ninety years old, her mind is as sharp as a nail and she easily recounts the story of her life: from the horrors of the camps, to the beauty of Israel, and finally to the hard work, freedom, and challenges of America. Each week as I ready to leave her and return to school, a look of loneliness washes over the smile on her face and I am reminded that her only other visitors are nurses and her devoted daughter who can only visit once a week.
Great news in our struggle against the exclusion of women in Israel!
We won our first class action suit! This is the first class action suit dealing with gender exclusion in Israel.
The Jerusalem District Court approved our claim against the ultra-Orthodox Kol BaRama radio station for excluding women from the station’s broadcasts. The court also ruled that our client, Kolech, can claim damages, as can all women who have been discriminated by this practice. The court made it very clear that the station’s policy was blatantly discriminatory and that regardless of the station’s target audience, the exclusion of women cannot be justified.
As the only thriving democracy in the Middle East, Israel is a beacon of light in a region often filled with despair. And yet, despite its democratic nature, when it comes to religious pluralism, Israel has a long way to go. In 1947, Israel adopted the Ottoman Millet system, formerly in place under the British Mandate, which allowed for religious groups within Israel to establish their own legal systems governing personal status laws (marriage, divorce, alimony, etc.) The URJ notes that there are presently 13 recognized religions in Israel, including Judaism, Islam, Druze, and several Christian denominations. Within the Jewish tradition, however, only Orthodox Judaism is recognized by the state under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. All other Jewish denominations, including Reform and Conservative, function under the Ministry of Culture and Sports.
In the past few days I have received numerous messages of concern from friends from all over the world. They refer to media coverage of the anti-Semitic attacks that took place in Paris and often make comparisons to World War II, such as the attacks of Kristallnacht.
First, let me be clear: These are very serious and bad events but the situation is far from being the apocalyptic crisis that one could believe when hearing CNN; I can’t help thinking of my Israeli friends who explain that life continues even when siren alerts are heard several times a day.