Resolution of the Board of Trustees of Congregation Rodeph Shalom concerning Egalitarian Prayer at the Western Wall and Conversion in the State of Israel – June 27, 2017
This week in Israel, the Netanyahu government made two major decisions affecting most of the Diaspora, decisions which are especially hurtful because, as Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism put it, North American Jews have a “deep and unshakeable commitment to Israel.” Like we see our fellow Rodeph Shalom members as family, we see the Israeli people as family. We feel joy and pride with each Israeli accomplishment and we mourn each Israeli loss.
This week Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government walked away from the Kotel agreement brokered by JAFI (Jewish Agency for Israel) Chairman, Natan Sharansky. Under the agreement, the egalitarian section of the Western Wall near Robinson’s Arch was to be significantly expanded and placed under the authority of a pluralistic committee.
The essence of the agreement states, “The customs of this site will be based on principles of pluralism and gender equality, and prayer at this site will be egalitarian and un-segregated, women and men together, without a partition.”
This egalitarian section of the Kotel would have had a common entrance with the rest of the Western Wall plaza.
By permanently suspending the agreement, Reform and Conservative Jews, including our congregants, will continue to be unable to pray together at the Kotel. We will have to separate, men to one side of a fence, and women to the other.
Moreover, the Chief Rabbinate could again attempt force women to pray in silence at the Kotel, with no group prayer, no tallit and no Torah scrolls. In fact, on Sunday, 100 members of the Women of the Wall participated in a service at the Kotel, but before entering the Western Wall Plaza, the women’s bags and belongings were searched, including every page of every prayer book they had. The search was conducted in large part to prevent the women from bringing a Torah scroll to the Wall. While praying aloud, they were whistled and shouted at in order to silence them. Those harassing them were not removed. They did manage to smuggle a Torah scroll in with them.
Also this week, the Netanyahu government agreed to a conversion law which grants to the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly over Jewish conversion in Israel. The conversion legislation revokes the de facto state recognition of Orthodox conversions through independent, Orthodox rabbinical courts, and the right of Reform and Conservative converts to register in the Interior Ministry as Jewish.
In other words, those Jews converted by Rodeph Shalom clergy, many still members of our sacred congregation, along with countless converts to Judaism by Reform and Conservative clergy across the globe, will not be considered Jews in Israel.
The actions of the Israeli government are an attack on the ethics and principles of the Reform movement. They are disrespectful of our clergy, our mothers, daughters, sisters, Jewish women across the world and our Jewish values as human beings. They disenfranchise those who became Jews by choice in Reform synagogues, including cherished members of our Rodeph Shalom family.
Rabbi Jacobs was clear this week that we cannot go on as if nothing has happened. He is correct that the Israeli government’s shameful decisions annulling the Kotel agreement and passing the conversion law “have caused an acute crisis between the Israeli government and the diaspora Jewry.” The Prime Minister has made it abundantly clear we cannot depend on the Israeli government honoring its agreements.
By adopting these two actions, it would seem that the Israeli government has definitively rejected Klal Yisrael, the concept that we are of one community, regardless of our background.
We therefore resolve:
While our love and support for the miracle of Israel is steadfast, in consideration of the historic actions by the Israeli government this week, the Board of Trustees of Congregation Rodeph Shalom,
Resolves to continue to support the concept of Klal Yisrael, that all Jews are members of the Jewish community of the world regardless of background, and
Resolves that we continue to believe in the equality of all Jews and are committed to Jewish peoplehood, the underlying unity that makes each individual Jew a part of the Jewish people, and
Resolves to support the clergy of the Reform movement by our acknowledgement that they are our teachers and spiritual leaders, with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of any ordained clergy throughout Klal Yisrael, both in Israel and the Diaspora, and
Resolves to support the Reform movement, the Conservative movement, the Women of the Wall, and other Jewish organizations seeking to bring equality of prayer to the Kotel where women have the same rights as men and where men and women may prayer together both figuratively and literally, hand-in-hand, and
Resolves to support those who have been, are and will be converted to Judaism by Reform clergy and recognizes them as authentic Jews along with their progeny.
We further resolve to carry out each of these resolutions in word and deed to the best of our ability.