My friend, Rabbi Ammi Hirsch, Senior Rabbi of the Stephen S. Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan, has written a powerful and eloquent op-ed challenge in The Jerusalem Post to Israel’s political leadership and American Jewish mainstream organizational leadership to take a public stand against the Haredi political parties and Israel’s Chief Rabbinate that are corrupting Jewish values, Israeli democracy, religious pluralism in the State of Israel, and the unity of the Jewish people worldwide.
Rabbi Hirsch mentions a pivotal trip he led to Israel when he served as the Director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) in the late 1990s. I was one of about 15 North American Reform rabbis who accompanied him on that journey.
He is right – we met late into the night with Prime Minister Netanyahu to urge him not to change the Law of Return that was being challenged the next day in a bill to be introduced into the Knesset by the Haredi ultra-Orthodox parties and Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. The bill would have excluded Jews converted by Reform and Conservative Rabbis abroad from the Law of Return. Netanyahu wouldn’t let us go from that meeting because he understood then how important was the bond between the vast majority of the American Jewish community with the State of Israel. He used persuasion and intimidation to get us to stand down and remain quiet the next day. We and the international leadership of the Reform and Conservative movements held our position of opposition to the change in the Law of Return, and in the end we won that battle.
The decision last week by Israel’s High Court to accept the conversions performed in Israel by Reform and Conservative Rabbis for the purpose of the Law of Return and Israeli citizenship is another important victory in this relentless battle against the corrupting influence of Jewish values, Israeli democracy, and religious pluralism by the Haredi parties and Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.
Rabbi Hirsch wonders where is much of the American Jewish organizational leadership on this issue who have remained silent since the court’s decision. Except for the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructing Judaism movements, J Street and a few other progressive Jewish organizations, we have heard nothing, especially from established American Jewish organizational leadership.
See Rabbi Hirsch’s op-ed here for a more complete discussion: https://www.jpost.com/opinion/we-must-stop-enabling-haredi-domination-of-religion-and-state-opinion-661729