Am Echad weekly update for the week of January 9, 2022
Israeli religion and state legislation
· The Kotel Compromise
After being inundated with numerous inquiries from Jews around the world on how they could register their opposition to the Kotel Compromise, Am Echad has launched a petition drive aimed at presenting the Israeli government with 150,000 signatures against the move. The petition page can be found at www.onekotel.org.
Also this week, Cabinet Secretary Shalom Shlomo held a meeting on Monday with representatives of the Conservative and Reform movements. In the meeting, that focused on the Kotel Compromise, Shlomo presented the government's plans from constructions on the Southern part of the Western Wall (AKA Robinson Arch). The representatives were told that the government does not intend to freeze the deal, but will not push it in full force either. Rakefet Ginsberg, CEO of Masorti Israel, said after the meeting: "We found a friend at the Prime Minister's office." Parties present at the meeting said that "The state is giving the Reform and the Conservative a gift and, to some degree, changes the reality at the Western Wall."
· The conversion reform
While the conversion reform is still hotly debated in Israel, the Israeli Statistics Bureau is poised to expand its definition of Jews. Up until now, the bureau would classify citizens as Arabs, Jews, and "others." The latter includes those who are eligible to come to Israel under the Law of Return, but are not halachically Jewish. Now, at the request of Elazar Stern, the Minister of Intelligence Affairs, the "others" criteria would be discarded, and the "Jewish" category would be expand to "Jewish and expanded Jewish population," giving this demographic a de-facto definition as Jews. Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman filed a complaint with the ombudsman of public complaints against Chief Rabbi David Lau, after he froze all conversions to Judaism as long as the government continues to advance a plan to ease the process and dilute the Chief Rabbinate’s control over it. Liberman calls Lau’s move an "implicit threat, not to mention extortion." Legally, the chief rabbi's authorization is needed for all the conversions done in the country.
· The kashrut reform
Following a freedom of information request, the Rabbinate published its rabbinical court decision regarding the status of kosher supervision granted by Tzohar. The Rabbanut presented a list of cases in which Tzohar issued kashrut certification to establishments that failed to meet basic Kashrut standards. Among the cases, a winery that was certified as kosher 7 years retroactively, based on the owners testimony that only Torah observant workers took part in producing the wine, despite footage to the contrary. Tzohar denied the allegations but failed to provide any explanation to the cases presented by the Rabbanut.
· Daycare subsidies for Kollel families
The Israeli Supreme court ruled on Wednesday against Avigdor Lieberman’s move to strip Kollel families of daycare subsidies, since the Ministry of Finance did not implement the plan in due time. The court ruled that the changes could only start in the next school year.
BDS and anti-Israel Bias
· A marketing firm serving major Jewish progressive organizations in the past, declined to provide services to Shalom Hartman Institute due to its programming in Israel. The firm, Big Duck, worked in the past with the Jewish Theological Seminary, the National Council of Jewish Women, and Keshet, a Jewish LGBTQ group. The firm told the Hartman Institute, which has headquarters in Jerusalem and New York, that their staff had concerns regarding the activity that the organization has in Israel. The firm claimed that while they are not against working with Israeli-based customers, they asked the Institute if it would be willing to work with staff members, who have concerns regarding Israel's policies and practices. "We have mutually agreed that it does not make sense to work together," claimed Big-Duck's co-director Farra Trompeter.
Dorit Rabani, Hartman’s North America communications director, claimed the conversation was much less nuanced. She was asked whether the organization is Zionist and opposes BDS, and once the answer was positive, was told that Big Duck won't work with them.
· Progressive Israel Network along with J Street, The New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism and T’ruah issued a message welcoming the postponement of construction in the E-1 area, also as Mevaseret Adumim, meant to create a territorial continuity from Jerusalem to Maale Adumim. The organizations applauded the Biden Administration’s intervention in Israel's affairs, and urged them “to continue to push back against settlement expansion more broadly." CEO of T'ruah Jill Jacobs added that the organization was "deeply distressed to learn that the Jerusalem government advanced a plan for a new settlement neighborhood in East Jerusalem with nearly 1,500 new units." The organization demands government will cease all similar constructions.