For the first time, hundreds of North American Reform rabbis were guests at Wednesday`s official meeting of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs. ”As one of the largest [Jewish] communities in the Diaspora, it is important to strengthen the connection between you and the State of Israel, in order to strengthen it as a Jewish and democratic country,” Committee Chairman Avraham Naguisa (Likud) told the rabbis.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said ”We are one people and one country that unites us. Jewish responsibility requires the granting of rights even for us. We do not ask favors but to work in partnership and dialogue to share with you the challenges. We care about the Jewish present and future. We are saving our strength in order to defend Israel.”
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, called the participation of Reform rabbis in an official Knesset meeting a ”historic moment,” and stated that ”a quiet revolution is under way in Israeli pluralism, and the Diaspora committee must verify the prime minister`s adherence to his commitments to this pluralism.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) called the invitation to the Knesset of representatives of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Reform Movement’s primary rabbinical body, an ”important step toward pluralism in Israel,” adding that progress can be seen with ”creation of a prayer space at the Kotel (Western Wall), the expansion of Reform synagogues in the country and the creation of an alternative to secularism.”
MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) told the rabbis they serve as proof that ”there is more than one way to be a [male] Jew and a [female] Jew,” and declared that together they would ”lead the struggle for public transportation on Shabbat, conversion and the use of mikvehs (ritual bath).”
MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Camp) charged the ”provocateurs are preventing the freedom the worship,” while Likud MK Amir Ohana linked the rights of the LGBT community to the rights of Reform Jews, ”because a Jewish state is a home to the entire Jewish nation.” MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Camp) stressed that ”Israel owes a lot” to the Jewish community in the United States, ”and it is committed to preserving this connection and to tightening it.”
MK Rachel Azaria (Kulanu) called to ”move on to the next stage – understanding that all those who are here, are here to stay,” and MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Camp) warned of signs indicating that the support for Israel`s right to exist and the justification of its existence was ”eroding”, adding that ”Israel`s Judaism cannot be a monopoly of the ultra-Orthodox parties.”
Anat Hoffman, the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the legal and advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, warned against violence towards ”Women of the Wall.”