The Kotel Reversal: Hitting a Wall But Not Backing Down
I just returned from Jerusalem where I joined Jewish Agency leadership at the Knesset to lobby against two recent major decisions: the government’s decision to withdraw an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel, and to weaken the rights of Reform and Conservative conversions in Israel.
As I stood with my colleagues, I felt a sense of de ja vu from the 80s and 90s. I used to go all too often to the Knesset to fight for Reform Jewish rights and advocate for a more inclusive definition of ‘who is a Jew.’ Again, we must stand firm as we promote and argue for equal rights in Israel. Both here and in the Diaspora progressive Jews have always fought hard for equal rights and achieved them through building strong grassroot movements.
Although we began this week with disappointing news, what I have learned from living and battling for the rights of non-Orthodox Jews for over 30 years is that we need to redouble our efforts and expose and engage more and more Israelis to a modern, inclusive Judaism.
Just last Friday, we held our first outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat service on the bank of the Yarkon River – an evening co-sponsored with the Municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Hundreds of people attended with more expected over the next six weeks. It is public celebrations like these that energize me and should encourage all of us both in Israel and in the Diapsora. Israelis want and need Reform Judaism and Israel needs our voices and perspectives.
Come join us when you are next in Israel, just like Rabbi David Stern of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas will this week, through his synagogue mission (Rabbi Stern also serves as the president of the CCAR) and Rabbi Ron Li Paz, the spiritual leader of Valley Outreach Synagogue in California.
Together, as a community, joined by our guests from around the world, we will stand in solidarity for freedom of religion and a Judaism that is open and accepting. Without support from friends like you, our voice would only be a fraction of what it is today.
Rabbi Meir Azari