What painful irony: Tuesday night marks Tisha b’Av, the commemoration of the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem.8 days before, on the first of Av, a woman was arrested at that very site for holding a Torah scroll and praying. A Jewish woman arrested by the Israeli police for holding a Torah scroll and praying at the Western Wall! It defies belief.
It also defies belief that a bill that would give the Chief Orthodox rabbinate of Israel final say over conversions (thereby denying Progressive Jews and our family citizenship rights) has moved out of committee and will now be voted upon by the Knesset.
The two issues are one issue: Is the State of Israel to be controlled by Ultra-Orthodox Jews, a small minority who wield great power in a parliamentary system?
Do they get to decide who is Jewish and what it means to be Jewish? Is discrimination based on gender, belief, national origin acceptable in a modern Democracy?
I SAY NO. I hold that Israel’s promise is as a home to all Jewish people, a free and open society based on equality before the law. The Jewish people has always been diverse; pluralism is one of our strengths. Right now, pluralism needs us to defend it.
WE MUST ACT. We Jews who love both the State of Israel and equality must act to protect and restore civil liberties there.
Please join me in letting your voice be heard in the Knesset, and in support of the Israel Religious Action Center, the arm of the worldwide Progressive Movement defending civil liberties in the State of Israel.
Please do not delay. Israel needs us now.
Rabbi Dean Shapiro
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu:
Sign the Petition and Donate:
Israel Religious Action Center: www.irac.org
Arrest of Anat Hoffman, Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and leader of Women of the Wall:
- Video of the arrest: Youtube
- Eyewitness Account of the event by Rabbi Denise Eger, my mentor: Rabbi Eger
- Information about the “Conversion Bill” from ARZA Australia: arza.org.au
- Information about the “Conversion Bill” from the Union for Progressive Judaism: urj.org/israel/rotem/
- Information about the legislative movement of the “Conversion Bill” from the JTA: blogs.jta.org/philanthropy/article/2010/07/13/2740042/opponents-alarmed-as-israeli-conversion-bill-moves-ahead
- New York Times Op Ed on Conversion Bill: nytimes.com/2010/07/16/opinion/16newhouse.html?_r=2&src=mv
Draft Letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu:
The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of Israel
Office of the Prime Minister
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
We write to request your immediate intervention to prevent passage of the legislation being brought forward by MK David Rotem.
We are deeply concerned about the intention to grant the Chief Rabbinate sole control over conversion in Israel. Such legislation would be an open attack on the legitimacy of non-Orthodox Jewry, which composes the majority of world Jewry.
While we are supportive of efforts to create greater accessibility to conversion courts in Israel, the overall impact of the Rotem Bill will set back these efforts. Should this bill be enacted, it will exacerbate a widening gap between Diaspora and Israel communities, which we are working very hard to avoid.
Therefore, we believe it is imperative that you, as leader of Israel, and as one who cares deeply about the well-being of Klal Yisrael, intervene and urge immediate withdrawal of this bill.
Rabbi Dean ShapiroBeth Shalom, The Progressive Jewish Congregation of Auckland, New Zealand 180 Manukau Road Epsom, Auckland www.BethShalom.org.nz