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Monday, January 16, 2017 

Sharansky has a point

Natan Sharansky, head of the Jewish Agency, spoke a few weeks ago at a Knesset hearing on the status of Reform/Conservative Judaism in Israel, one that no coalition members seemed to attend, and lamented that some MKs are ignorant of the sects, or worse, despise them for ambiguous reasons:
‘Hello rabbi? It’s Ruth the Moabite. I’m calling to let you know that because my conversion is in doubt, my grandson, King David, is being called a gentile and they’re burning his book, the Psalms.”

At the December 27 Knesset meeting of the Lobby of Religion and State, Rabbi Yosef Avior’s imagined scenario introduced a brief moment of levity into an otherwise intense meeting of past and serving MKs, rabbis and leaders from all streams of world Judaism.

In the meeting’s opening remarks, co-chairperson MK Elazar Stern stated its topics were to be two hot-button issues in Israel today: recognition of conversions from abroad, and the planned — and highly contested — pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall.

Had this been a “Seinfeld” episode, the Knesset session could have been in honor of Festivus and its Airing of the Grievances: After a turbulent year following the stagnation of the much-heralded Western Wall compromise, many of the slotted speakers had prepared passionate statements reflecting their despair and distrust in the current government.

Stern, frustrated that no members of the coalition were present for the session, obliquely said that had Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry been stronger, the recent anti-settlements UN Security Council Resolution 2334 would not have passed. MK Aliza Lavie, the other co-chair, decried Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “betrayal” of Diaspora Jewry and Liberal Judaism.
You know, there may be something to this. Also consider that if the Haredis weren't acting so disturbingly negatively and opposing freedom of religion at the Western Wall, or, acting as though ultra-Orthodox Judaism is the sole brand allowed to have any authority over it, it's possible that Reform Judaists might not be taking a potentially anti-Israel/Zionist stance. Which, ironically, plenty of Haredi sects like Satmar happen to hold, so isn't that bizarre they have such a problem with Reform, assuming any congregations of the Reform sect still take such a position.
However, Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky clarified that “with all the legitimate anger, I must remind everyone that the one who initiated the discussion [of the new Western Wall prayer pavilion] was the prime minister. If there is any politician in the State of Israel who recognizes the importance of Diaspora Jewry, it is Netanyahu.”

Like others at the session, Sharansky blamed a pervasive ignorance among Israelis about Liberal Judaism for the stymieing of the plan — specifically, the denigration of Reform Jewry on the part of Israeli politicians.
And the most ignorant of all are the Haredis. Who should by all means be pegged as the main culprits they are in this whole debacle. What's particularly disturbing is that nobody's commented on the nasty, abusive behavior by the Haredis that accompanied some of the Women of the Wall's prayer services, including sexual harassment. Do any of the dissenters realize that so long as that's not addressed or debated, they're only undermining their disagreements all the more? It's stunning how anybody can be so worried about a particular movement so much, they're willing to sacrifice all morale for the sake of defending a heritage site. Especially when you consider that none of them seem particularly interested in winning the Temple Mount back from the Islamofascists now dominating it.

I don't find Reform Judaism appealing, and it's not like I literally support WotW save for the issue of religious freedom. But as leftist as WotW's leaders happen to be, this is something where I'm decidedly not going to risk sacrificing certain rights in society if it jeopardizes Israel's own reputation on vital topics. This is why I'm not bothered about the court making a partial ruling in favor of the group bringing Torah scrolls to the Western Wall, because hey, if it's their scrolls and not the local management's...why should anybody care?

If any Orthodox Judaists here really, truly, absolutely have a problem with a sect that's not Orthodox, they'd keep perfectly quiet and not pay them any attention. If they'd followed that advice long ago, this could all have been avoided. As a result, I can't help wonder if they really do want to cause Israel trouble for the wrong reasons. Seriously.

And here's something to ponder: there are many adherents to Reform/Conservative who've been as much victims of anti-semitism the world over as any Orthodox adherent has. Not only that, there's also those who've been victims of sexual abuse, rape, pedophilia, physical torture and assault, among other horrors too frightening to mention. To deny them the right to pray according to the sect/custom they adhere to only adds insult to injury. Has it even occurred that some Reform/Conservative Judaists might even support Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount too? Why, my grandparents from both sides were all Conservative adherents and they fought and/or contributed to the US army's efforts during WW2. If they were alive today and wanted to pray at the Western Wall, any Orthodox Judaist - Haredi or otherwise - who violently opposed them after all the hard work they did would be hatefully spiting rather than showing gratitude to people who proved they have warm, loving hearts and believe in life, even if you don't agree with their customs.

So you see, because of the Conservatives my family's had in past generations, I have some experience and knowledge, and that's one more reason why I cannot and will not go along with any attempt to oppose non-Orthodox prayer. It would go against what I stand for, and I'm not going to do that. That doesn't mean I like WotW. But beyond their politics, I'm not going to make a mountain out of a molehill, and condone behavior that only makes Orthodoxy look bad.

And that's something I strongly suggest all who consider themselves Orthodox adherents think about.

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  • I'm Avi Green
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