This morning, Israeli police burst into a house at 5:30 am to detain someone. His crime? He was a Conservative rabbi who presided over non-Orthodox weddings.
Conservative Rabbi Dov Haiyun of Moriah Congregation in Haifa was taken for questioning following a complaint filed against him by the Rabbinical Court in Haifa for allegedly “marrying those who are not eligible to be married.” Today’s incident was the first attempt in Israel to enforce a 2013 law forbidding performing weddings outside the Rabbinate, a law carrying a sentence of up to two years in prison.
This should matter to you if you are a Jew who believes that Israel should be the nation of all Jews, regardless of their denomination. The idea that non-Orthodox rabbis cannot perform weddings in Israel — even between two Jews, mind you — is already offensive enough (Dayenu!). But actively detaining someone whose only “crime” was marrying two Jews in Israel is absolutely preposterous, and needs to meet with serious responses from Jews who believe this is wrong, regardless of your politics.
Yes, I realize you may be thousands of miles away from Israel as you read this — and there are considerable battles underway on domestic political fronts. But here are some ways you can — and should — help fight for religious pluralism in the Jewish state.
1. Contact your local Federation
Via social media, I reached out to mine in Greater MetroWest New Jersey, and was told by our CEO, Dov Ben-Shimon: “This year our Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ is allocating over $400,000 for programs on religious pluralism, diversity and tolerance in Israel. We’re sending kids to Muss and partnering with religious streams across the spectrum. We’re launching three new programs this year to further develop our commitment to a tolerant civil society in Israel. We’ve been supporting a program focused on the marriage issue in Israel for the last three years.” Federations do things like support liberal streams of Judaism in Israel; find ways to get involved and raise your voice on the issue.
2. Support The Honey Foundation for Israel
This organization is attempting to accomplish a truly remarkable feat: to increase open access to Jewish life in Israel, and to encourage connections between Israel and North American Jews. To quote from their website: “We are guided by pluralistic and inclusive Jewish values and are committed to supporting community rabbis and spiritual leadership in Jewish life across Israel. We yearn for the existence of a free market of Jewish expression whose diversity and richness reflects Israeli society and meets the needs of Israelis.” Yup. They do this by helping inclusive, pluralistic Jewish communities on the ground in Israel, helping them gain a foothold of reach and legitimacy.
3. Send your kids to Alexander Muss High School in Israel
If you have high school-age kids, Alexander Muss High School in Israel offers 6-week, 8-week, and full 18-week semester programs throughout the year; it’s a course that teaches the history of the Jewish people in a pluralistic environment, all too rare in Israel, while actively promoting the idea of Am Yisrael — the people of Israel — as a collective whole.
4. Support grassroots organizations
Follow, support, and speak up for Women of the Wall/Nashot HaKotel, and other organizations attempting to attain legitimacy for different streams of Judaism in Israel.
5. Use the upcoming holiday of Tisha B’Av as inspiration
Tisha B’Av, which this year starts on Saturday evening, July 21, bemoans the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Use the somber day to talk about sinat chinam — causeless hatred — and why it has been a path to our own spiritual destruction and dissolution time and time again. When we learn nothing from history, we are condemned to repeat it. For materials to learn more about the holiday and to approach it with introspection and contemplation, click here.
Header Image: “Women of the Wall celebrating with the flag of Israel” by Yochi Rappeport