Tag Archives: Israel
ARZA, representing Reform Judaism

Thoughts on the World Zionist Congress Elections from ARZA

By Rabbi Bennett Miller

The next year marks an important time for Zionists around the world, as the first elections to the World Zionist Congress (WZC) in five years will be taking place. The WZC, which has met regularly since the First Zionist Congress in 1897, carries important historical weight and controls funding for projects in Israel, so at this critical juncture in Israeli politics, Reform Zionist voices need to be heard.  ARZA, which represents a strong Reform Jewish voice for Israel and Zionism, has created toolkit for the upcoming elections. Here is a piece from ARZA Chair, Rabbi Bennett Miller, on the importance of voting and how to encourage other to participate.

Earlier this month, Jews the world over poured into synagogues to “afflict our souls” on the holy day of Yom Kippur – to search within ourselves to atone, forgive and ultimately emerge renewed.

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An El Al 747 jet flies in the sky

Standing Up Against Discrimination, from 35,000 Feet Up in the Sky

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…

Netanyahu Obama

Contextualizing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Speech at the UN

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:

To stay up to date on everything related to the Prime Minister’s speech and Israel issues in general, check out the RAC’s Israel page and our partners in Israel, the Israeli Religious Action Center.

Women Praying with Torah at Western Wall

Hiddush’s Newest Report Shows Overwhelming Support for Freedom of Expression

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.

Rabbi Uri Regev, President of Hiddush and founding Director of the Israeli Religious Action Center (IRAC), and Stanley Gold, Hiddush’s US Chairman, said about the report:

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!”

You can access the full Religion and State Index on the Hiddush website or here.

Women of the Wall at Rosh Chodesh Kislev 5774

Victories at the Western Wall and Throughout Israeli Radiowaves

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.

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Do you know the signs of elder abuse? holding hands

A Comparative View of Elder Abuse in the U.S. and Israel

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.

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Radio Kol Barama Offices

Updates from IRAC: We Won!

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.

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Religion in Israel: Democracy and Pluralism Must go Hand in Hand

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.

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