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July 26, 2016 – Late last night, the Israeli Knesset passed a law instigated by ultra-Orthodox leadership to overturn a recent Supreme Court decision banning discrimination against non-Orthodox converts from state-funded mikvaot (ritual baths), which are integral to the conversion process. The Supreme Court case was brought by the Israel Religious Action Center, on behalf of both the Reform and Conservative movements. This new legislation is expressly meant as an attack on the role of the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements in religious practice in Israel.
Rabbis Rick Jacobs, president of the North American-based Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Gilad Kariv, head of the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism, released the following statement:
With the passage of the Mikvaot Bill yesterday, the Netanyahu government failed to uphold not only its own promise, but the promise of a democratic Jewish state that looks out for the welfare of all Jews. By subverting the Supreme Court decision in favor of shared mikvaot with this new legislation, the Netanyahu government has taken a dangerous step forward in challenging the efficacy of the Supreme Court, the backbone of Israel’s democracy.
In supporting, yet again, the Haredi parties’ insistence on discriminating against Reform and Conservative Jewry – who are the majority of world Jewry – this Israeli government has given another clear signal to the majority of world Jewry that we simply don’t count. The rewards to the Haredi parties at the expense of others is now becoming commonplace in this government, creating a disturbing pattern that will only lead to continuing cynicism on the part of world Jewry regarding the commitment of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his coalition to support any action that advances the rights of non-orthodox Jews.
As Haredi incitement against Reform and Conservative Jews grows more virulent, it is critical to lessen – not strengthen – their stranglehold on Jewish life, which the PM has promised to do. How can we not view as a major setback for the cause of religious freedom both this Mikvaot Bill and the unfunded commitment by MK Gafni, chair of the Knesset Finance Committee and initiator of this bill, to create non-orthodox mikvaot for our converts?
The world’s majority of Jews deserve more than empty assurances from the Israeli government. From the Kotel to the mikveh and throughout society we demand our rights, and we will not stop until we get them. We will escalate our efforts in the court and beyond.
About the Union for Reform Judaism
The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) builds community at every level—from the way we collaborate with congregations, organizations, and individuals to how we make connections across North America to advance contemporary and inclusive Jewish life. Providing vision and voice to transform the way people connect to Judaism, we help congregations stay relevant and innovative, motivate more young Jews to embrace Jewish living, agitate for a more progressive society, and foster meaningful connections to Israel.
Founded in 1873, URJ has grown into the largest and most powerful force in North American Jewish life, with nearly 900 member congregations and work that inspires, connects, and educates millions of people. Our legacy, reach, leadership, and vision mean that we can unite thousands of years of tradition with a modern, evolving Judaism to strengthen Jewish communities today and for future generations.
Visit us at www.URJ.org to learn about our social justice initiatives, camps and programs for young Jews, services for congregations and communities, and how you can work with us to create a more just, whole, and compassionate world. Enjoy related content at ReformJudaism.org and connect with URJ on Twitter and Facebook.
About the Israel Movement for Reform & Progressive Judaism
The Israel Movement for Reform & Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) is the umbrella organization of all the Reform communities and institutions in Israel. We seek to integrate Jewish tradition with the realities of modern life, and believe in the right of each individual to shape their own Jewish way of life through a process of study and reflection. The Reform movement emphasizes the commandments concerning relations between humans, religious tolerance, and full equality between women and men in the synagogue and in all walks of life.