Home Perspectives Opinions Don’t punish Israel for Netanyahu’s Realpolitik

Don’t punish Israel for Netanyahu’s Realpolitik


Yes, it may be easier to be a Reform or Conservative Jew in Canada than it is in Israel. That’s how I read the title of last month’s symposium at York University in Toronto, “No Better Home for the Jews… than Canada?” Here, Jews of all religious persuasions – or none – enjoy equal rights in every respect, together with all other citizens.

Not so in Israel, alas. For example, if a Conservative or Reform rabbi there marries a Jewish couple, the marriage won’t be recognized by the state. The couple would have to go abroad for a civil marriage to be accepted as a married couple by authorities in Israel.

The issue that’s currently threatening Israel-Diaspora relations is the rescinding of a commitment by the Netanyahu government, in an effort to placate Orthodox coalition partners, to provide equal space for egalitarian worship at the Western Wall. Conservative and Reform Jews all over the world are outraged.

As Israel becomes more economically secure and politically allied to the present U.S. administration, its prime minister and his colleagues seem to falsely and ominously assume that Israel no longer needs the influence and affluence of American Jewry, where most of the world’s non-Orthodox religious Jews live.
Naama Klar, the managing director of the Reut Institute, a Tel Aviv-based think- tank, wrote in this paper last month that, in response to the discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews, some leaders from those denominations have urged their communities to take political and economic action against Israel, and a growing number of young Jews in the Diaspora appear to be distancing themselves from the Jewish state.


This is alarming. The response by all of us should, of course, be the very opposite. In view of the onslaught against pluralism in Israel, Jews living abroad should endeavour to strengthen politically, psychologically and financially the institutions that promote equality and democracy in Israel.

The response to the York University symposium should be that though it may seem easier to lead a non-Orthodox Jewish life in the Diaspora, the safety of Jews and the future of Judaism are inextricably bound up with the State of Israel. Therefore, despite the frustrations and the sense of betrayal by opportunistic politicians, it behooves Conservative and Reform Jews in the Diaspora to forge even stronger links with Israel, especially with like-minded people and organizations, and to increase support for them.

Opportunities abound. The Reform movement in Israel has today some 50 congregations and several significant educational and advocacy institutions. This week, the Israel Rabbinical Programme of the Hebrew Union College ordained its 100th rabbi who was trained in Israel and, like most graduates, was born in the country.

These women and men, together with the role models who inspired them, the institutions that trained them and the congregations that employ them, deserve the commitment of like-minded men and women from all over the world. Turning away from Israel is a cheap protest that plays into the hands of opponents and harms the cause of protesters.

What’s true for Reform Jews in Israel is in equal measure true of their Masorti (Conservative) sisters and brothers in the land.
The lies their opponents spread want the public to believe that the Conservative and Reform movements are agents of erosion of authentic Judaism and promoters of assimilation. A former chief rabbi has even dared to aver that they’re worse than Holocaust deniers.

Those who attack liberal Judaism refuse to see that it has made Judaism possible – not easy, but possible! – for millions of Jews all over the world. Their close links to Israel are essential for their lives as Jews.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu describes himself not only as the leader of the Jewish state, but of the entire Jewish People. It’s for us to remind him in every possible way that, to earn this title, it behooves him to act in the interest of all Jews, not only his political allies.

  • Michael Mann

    “Reform,” “M’sorti,” “Reconstructionist,” “Egalitarian.” This is American mishegaas associated with politics of the past…maybe 100 years. None of these denominations existed previously in Judaism and the responsibility for divisions in K’lal Yisrael are a consequence of the American festish of “equality,” which is irrelevant to an understanding of Jewish culture.
    “Liberal” Judaism has not “made Judaism possible.” It has led to a process of entropy. I can hardly distinguish American Reform services from Protestant liturgy. We have the stats to show where Liberal Judaism leads — to oblivion for Jewish culture.
    Those denominations deserve no status in Israel where it’s possible to maintain Jewish identity through legislation. That doesn’t mean individuals cannot practice any way they like in what is a multi-cultural democracy. Hey, worship Ba’al Tsaphon if you like,but don’t expect official recognition.

    • fabrent

      yeshivish; kollelish; litvish; hareidi. Labels, labels.
      that’s what Orthodoxy morphed into the last 50 years as it “Balkanized” under rabbinic fiefdoms.

  • TerrorIsEvil

    There are a lot of threats to Jews and Israel but the biggest threat of all are people who cannot distinguish friend from foe: The IJV’s and lobbyists for Islamic groups who absolutely ignore Islamic terror and antisemitism; preferring to attack anyone on the right.

    Many friends of ours who are accused by Jewish socialists are pro-Israel, but they are often falsely accused of being anti-Semites by leftist Jews.

    The religion of these accusers is socialism and communism – those beliefs burn religiously in their souls and are hard-wired – it certainly isn’t Judaism or freedom or anything that resembles support for Israel.

    The real anti-Semites today are the anti-fascist left wingers who join forces with the so-called “Palestinian” groups on campus to attack Jews.

    My message is this: Make friends with obvious friends regardless of where they are on the political spectrum…and fight those like Antifa and BLM and IJV and J-Street and NIF and certain journalists at CJN who are obvious and open propagandists against Israel but wrap themselves in the Canadian and Israeli flags just to deceive.

  • wally knowll

    Israel since its formation as a state in 1948 has never recognized non- orthodox Jews as Jews regardless of right wing or left wing Israeli governments. Why then should non-orthodox Jews recognize Israel. It is the Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox Republic of Israel. It has nothing to do with non-orthodox Jews

  • (Daniel 12:10) = Jeremiah 17:5 Thus saith Jehovah: Cursed is the man that confideth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from Jehovah.
    Psalms 118;14 Jehovah is my strength and song; And he is become my salvation
    20 This is the gate of Jehovah: the righteous shall enter therein.
    Hosea 13:14 From the hand of Sheol I do ransom them, From death I redeem them, Where is thy plague, O death? Where thy destruction, O Sheol? Repentance is hid from Mine eyes.

  • Beer Baron

    The very definition of irony: the same Reform Movement that wants an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel also want to give all of East Jerusalem, including the Kotel, to the Arabs; consequently, Jews will no longer be allowed to pray there.