We are deeply disappointed by the Israeli government’s decision to renege on its commitment to ensure egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, a move that threatens to undermine the special relationship between Israel and world Jewry. The government’s callous disregard for the carefully crafted agreement reached by all denominations of Judaism is a betrayal of trust and the foundational principle that Judaism’s holiest site belongs to all Jewish people.
We are equally outraged by the government’s decision to support legislation that threatens the status quo on conversion to Judaism, dramatically expanding the authority of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. Should this legislation pass, it would give Israel’s Rabbinate a monopoly on the conversion process with the potential to exclude hundreds of thousands of Jews in the diaspora from emigrating to Israel, marrying in Israel, and being legally accepted as members of the Jewish people in their historic homeland.
Our Greater MetroWest Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) have a deep and longstanding commitment to encouraging religious pluralism in Israel. Through our UJA Annual Campaign and JCF we support a wide range of programs that celebrate the diversity of Jewish observance: from The Grand Sukkah in Tel Aviv port that has allowed tens of thousands of Israelis to celebrate Sukkot in an inclusive, egalitarian fashion, to dozens of Jerusalem-based organizations that support religious expression, from secular to Orthodox. Religious pluralism is a core, foundational value that we believe upholds Zionism’s purpose, to bind the Jewish people.
At a time when the divide between Israel and the American Jewish community has been growing (witness the steep decline – according to a recent study – of support for Israel among Jewish college students in the U.S.), yesterday’s actions threaten to deepen the fissures between our two communities.
We call upon the Israeli government to reaffirm the highest aspirations of Jewish peoplehood by accommodating all members of our global Jewish community in Judaism’s holiest space. We urge them to reverse these decisions and recognize that the strength of the Jewish people lies in recognizing the Kotel as a unifying force for all Jews, regardless of how they pray or what denomination of Judaism they adhere to.
Finally, we call upon the government to rescind its support for the conversion bill which threatens to diminish already dwindling support for the Jewish State and, instead, reaffirm unity and inclusivity as a sacred imperative of Zionism and Jewish peoplehood.
Download Statement (PDF)