Push For Pluralism
Israeli rabbi eyes toppling
of Israel religious barriers.
I Contributing Editor
eligious freedom and equality
are critical to Israeli life. But they
remain a pursuit instead of a pil-
lar of Israel because inter-denominational
strife and lagging women's rights continue
to convulse the still young nation.
An active Israel-diaspora partner-
ship would best address the challenge of
resolving the unrecognized or second-
class status of Israel's non-Orthodox Jews.
So says the co-founder and ambassador
for Hiddush, a trans-denominational
advocacy and public education organiza-
tion working to strengthen Israel as a
pluralistic and democratic state.
The search for common ground
among Israel's Progressive (Reform)
and Masorti (Conservative) movements
against Orthodox control over Israeli reli-
gious policy has grabbed headlines. But
given 75 percent of Israeli Jews are not
Orthodox, the tension extends further,
says Rabbi Uri Regev, the Jerusalem-
based president and CEO of Hiddush, an
"This goes to the heart of Israel's
well-being and sustainability, just as the
economy and security do" he said.
Notably, a prominent Orthodox rabbi
in Petach Tikvah has called for state
recognition of non-Orthodox streams of
Judaism. Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, considered
a relative liberal within Israel's religious
community, has advised his yeshivah
students that state recognition of non-
Orthodox denominations would prevent
their alienation from the Jewish state, JTA
The Matter's Depth
Ultra-Orthodox control of the Chief
Rabbinate has limited recognition of, and
state funding for, Israel's non-Orthodox
rabbis, and has restricted lifecycle events,
such as weddings, conversions and buri-
THE MAGIC OF MOVIES a MORE
als, for non-Orthodox Jews. Such control
also has allowed gender-separated bus
lines to operate beyond haredi neighbor-
hoods and has kept women from wearing
tallitot or singing prayers out loud at the
main part of the Western Wall.
Hiddush conducts its own polling on
what it considers troubling Israeli trends
in religious or gender discrimination.
"On every concrete issue of religious
freedom" Regev said, "what you see
is that the Israeli Jewish community is
consistently divided into two camps: two-
thirds favoring religious pluralism and
one-third supporting the status quo"
Regev visited Metro Detroit from Dec.
10-13 as part of a nearly month-long
national tour to meet with like-minded
Jewish leaders, including from America's
Modern Orthodox community. He
talked with the JN in an exclusive inter-
view hosted by Rabbi Norman Roman
of Kol Ami, a Reform temple in West
Regev is former president of the World
Union for Progressive Judaism and a
founder of the Reform movement's Israel
Religious Action Center.
"After decades of being a civil rights
and social activist in Israel" he told the
IN, "it became clearer and clearer that
with all of the challenges that Israel is
facing, there are only two that are truly
existential in the sense they go to the
heart of Israel's identity as a Jewish and
Those two, Regev said, are the conflict
between Jews and Arabs and the conflict
over religion and state.
"These are existential," he said, "in that
there is an ideological and theological
battle that must be resolved if Israel is to
be able to sit back, look at the mirror and
say, 'We are who we claim we are:"
He added, "Everything else is real —
the economy, justice, the environment,
education, absorption, welfare"
Push For Pluralism on page 22
"Half to two-thirds of American
Jews growing up will either not
be recognized as Jews in Israel
or will be treated as second-class
- Rabbi Uri Regev
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