Am Echad weekly update for the week of January 16, 2022
Israeli religion and state legislation
· The Israeli Reform movement: The Kotel Compromise is just the beginning
Reform movement officials have come on the record calling the Kotel Partitioning Plan a "symbolic battle," meant as a first step towards dismantling Israel’s Jewish identity. In a video, Anna Kislanski, CEO of the Israel Reform Movement, says that "the failure to implement the Kotel Deal will distance us from public transportation on Shabbat and civil marriage… the moment the Charedi monopoly on the Kotel is broken, we can finally advance civil marriage and Shabbat public transportation."
· Reform movement oppose a plan for investments at the Western Wall
The Israeli government approved on Sunday a 5-year plan to renovate and develop the Western Wall, with a total budget of NIS 110 million. Quick to protest it, the Reform and Conservative movements responded that the plan only applies to the main Kotel Plaza and not to Ezrat Israel. " The government's decision is puzzling," said Yizhar Hess, Deputy and Acting Chairman of the World Zionist Organization, complaining that "Netanyahu made promises and disappointed us, but why is the current government continuing in his corrupt ways?" Ministers Elazar Stern, Nachman Shai, Tamar Zandberg and Omer Bar-Lev abstained in the vote.
· Data Shows: Claiming that the Kotel Partition would bring the Diaspora Jews in is baseless
In an op-ed article in the Jerusalem Post, Am Echad Co-Chair Sol Werdiger presented data disproving the claim that the status quo at the Kotel is at the heart of the Israel-Diaspora rift. Almost 60% of members of the liberal movements’ members have never been to Israel, and 20% have visited only once. Moreover, the Pew study shows that of those who self-identify with the Reform movement, 85% visit their own synagogue a few times a year or not all. "If the vast majority of those whom the Reform leaders claim to represent cannot be bothered either to attend their neighborhood temple nor to make a trip to Israel, it is hard to believe that changes in the prayer tradition at the Western Wall would foster deep emotional ties to the holy land", writes Sol Werdiger.
The conversion reform
· Elazar Stern: We should be more inclusive towards intermarried people
Minister of Intelligence Elazar Stern, who pushed to change the definition of non-Jews in the Israeli Bureau of Statistics and include them into "wider Jewish population," explains that his motivation is to encourage Aliyah of intermarried family from North America. Stern says we have to be more "inclusive" towards such families, so their partners and children would feel a part of the Jewish state. In this, Stern is de-facto encouraging intermarriage, which already reaches 72% among young Jewish Americans.
· Exposed: Kahana worked to include a private conversion network in the reform
The independent network for conversion, Giyur Kahalacha, accused Minister Matan Kahana of "breaking the promises he gave us that the conversions by Giyur Kahalacha would be recognized by the conversion reform bill." Kahana said he tried to do so, but could not find a legal way to recognize the network's conversions retroactively, and therefore these conversion were not included in the proposed bill. Some of the rabbis who identify with the network, Channel 14 exposed, are linked to organizations acting to undermine the Jewish identity of Israel.
· Rabbi Lau takes over the Conversion Authority
Chief Rabbi David Lau notified the Civil Service Commissioner that he would head the Conversion Authority by himself. According to a government decision, "the Conversion Authority of the State of Israel will operate according to halacha and will be guided by the President of the High Rabbinical Court." Rabbi Lau said he would use this authority granted to him to manage all the details of the Conversion Authority by himself. With this decision, the Chief Rabbi effectively bypasses Kahana’s nomination of Rabbi Benayahu Bruner as the Head of the Conversion Committee.
Unilever suffer loses since Ben & Jerry's boycotted Israel
Since Ben & Jerry's notified that it would end their relations with their Israeli franchisee Avi Zinger, Unilever's stock crashed by more than 20%. Ben and Jerry’s is a subsidiary of Unilever. During the same period, the FTSE 100 index, which includes Unilever rose by more than 10%. The loses amount to $26 billion.
· Am Echad to Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker: We were inspired by your bravery
Am Echad co-chairmen Sol Werdiger and Dr. Irving Lebovics sent a letter of support to Rabbi Charlie Cyron-Walker and the entire community of Congregation Beth Israel, following the hostage standoff last Shabbat.
Werdiger and Lebovics commended his bravery and bold actions, which helped bringing the most fortunate outcome to a situation of grave danger.
"The targeted act of terror that has put you and your community through this harrowing ordeal is yet another reminder of the danger which anti-Semitism and the anti-Israel sentiment pose to the life and welfare of all Jews, in every corner of the world", they wrote in the letter and wished him and the entire community peace and healing.