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August 30, 2014 | 4th Elul 5774

Assault on Religious Pluralism Threatens Israeli-Diaspora Relations

Freelander: The conversion bill, coupled with Anat Hoffman's arrest, threatens the trust of Jews around the world that the love and respect they have for Israel is reciprocated by the State itself.

New York, July 13, 2010 - In response to the Rosh Chodesh arrest of IRAC Director and Women of the Wall Leader Anat Hoffman and the advancement of dangerous legislation related to conversions, Rabbi Daniel Freelander, Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

The last 48 hours have been very troubling to Reform Jews and all who care about the vibrancy of Jewish life in Israel.  The Sunday arrest by Israeli police of Anat Hoffman, director of the Israel Religious Action Center and Chairwoman of the Women of the Wall prayer group, while carrying a Torah near the Western Wall, demonstrated clearly that the state is not equally protecting the rights of all Jews in Israel. 

Each month, the Women of the Wall gather at the Kotel on Rosh Chodesh to pray and celebrate the new month.  The group reflects the religious traditions and practices embraced by a majority of the world's Jews.  Yet on too many occasions, the Women of the Wall have been verbally and physically harassed while police have stood by.  This week, instead of protecting the group engaged in peaceful prayer, the police arrested Anat Hoffman as she carried a Torah.  Throughout the centuries, the Kotel has been a source of strength to all Jews; it must not now become a place of division and restriction.

Coupled with our deep concern by this week's legislative assault in the Knesset on the rights of non-Orthodox Jews, these trends are nearing an alarming point. A bill proposed by MK David Rotem would delegitimize all non-Orthodox conversions.  It would also preclude conferring citizenship under the Law of Return to Jews who did not qualify for such status on a prior visit (ie. converts).  This bill is likely to come to a Knesset vote despite months of intense discussions between Diaspora Jewish, Israeli Progressive and Conservative leaders and Israeli political leaders.  It also flies in the face of assurances from MK David Rotem and others that the bill would not move forward without a resolution of concerns from the Reform Movement and others.

We appreciate the efforts of those at the highest levels of Israeli politics including key Likud leaders such as the Prime Minister, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, Minister Yuli Edelstein, and leaders of the Kadima and Labor parties, all of whom strongly oppose the current legislation and realize the threat this bill poses to Israel-Diaspora relations.  The conversion bill, coupled with Anat Hoffman's arrest, threatens the trust of Jews around the world that the love and respect they have for Israel is reciprocated by the State itself.

We will continue our work with Israeli leaders to ensure that all religious streams in Israel are treated fairly and equally so that Israel may live up to its promise as a Jewish and democratic state.

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The Union for Reform Judaism is the synagogue arm of Reform Judaism in North America, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 920 congregations across the United States and Canada.

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