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Am Echad weekly update for the week of July 17, 2022

Update summary:

The Western Wall Deal

  • Am Echad op-ed: They turned the Kotel into a battleground and are now crying foul

Following the smear campaign led by the leaders of the Reform and Conservative movement against the entire ultra-Orthodox community, due to the despicable acts of several young individuals, Leah Aharoni, Am Echad Israel Director, writes: Anat Hoffman of the Western Wall Women, said in the past that she's looking for "cracks in the wall", in an interview in which she even said that she wants to see the removal of the mechitzah at the Western Wall, while violating the sanctity of the place. The very same people who turned the Western Wall into a battleground cannot suddenly remember that it's inappropriate for the place to be such. Every month, Women of the Wall disturb thousands of Orthodox female worshipers as they try to achieve maximum turmoil, yet Reform leadership ignores its part of stocking the conflict.

Moreover, the fact that the leaders of the Reform movement attack the entire ultra-Orthodox community due to the misbehavior of individuals, is unacceptable. Would an American leader dare to paint the entire African-American population in the United States in broad brushstrokes based on the actions of a few teens misbehaving? Of course not. Accusing the 1.2 million ultra-Orthodox Jews of responsibility for the actions of a handful of hooligans is equally racist. Is it, Aharoni asks, the same disregard for the will of a large public that wants to preserve the sanctity of the Western Wall, that creates the disregard for the absolute majority of the law-abiding ultra-Orthodox public?

Aharoni argues that in the three-week commemoration of the destruction of the Holy Temples, the responsibility for the sanctity of the Kotel lies with us all. Am Echad works with the leaders of the ultra-Orthodox community on educating the youth to protest in proper ways. The leaders of the Reformers and the Women of the Wall, for their part, must take responsibility for their part in stoking the fires of conflict and stop abusing the Kotel for their political agendas. (Jerusalem Post)

Diaspora Relations

  • Shechita UK: Reform report on kosher slaughter endangers the Shechita

A report issued by the Assembly of Reform Rabbis and Cantors endangers the status of kosher slaughter in Britain, warns Shimon Cohen, director of Slaughter UK. The organization advocates for Jewish slaughter and unites several community organizations and kashrut organizations in the United Kingdom. In the report, the Reform authors argued that it "became acceptable" to stun the animal before the slaughter, a practice that is widely forbidden by Jewish law authorities. The reform report, Cohen warns, is a "potentially dangerous interference," is "woefully ignorant" and a "reckless disgrace." The report authors, says Cohen, made "no meaningful attempt to engage with experts, to study the science or understand the political landscape in order to understand any of these issues."

"In no way is it a serious engagement around animal slaughter or freedom of religious practice,"

Cohen says. The Reform authors, for their part, insist that their opinion has not changed, and a body that promotes secular issues and calls for stunning the animals before slaughter has already used the reform report as support for their calls to oblige animal stunning. (Jewish News)

  • The Conservative Movement is in a free fall, a paper warns

The Conservative movement is shrinking to the point of free fall, warns Joel Hoffman, a former educator in Conservative institutions, who is actively involved in proposals to rehabilitate the movement even after leaving it. Hoffman, who relies on data from the PEW Research Institute as well as the movements' data itself, presented some core data indicating a drop in the movements' size and warned that ignoring the data by the leaders of the movement and behaving as "business as usual" causes the movement to shrink to an insignificant size.

The data he quotes shows that from 49% of American Jews in 1990, the movement dropped to only 17% in 2020. The average age of its congregants is 62, compared with 53 in the Reform movement and 35 among Orthodox Jews. Among young adults, aged 18-29, only 8% are Conservatives, compared to 17% Orthodox and 27% Reform. The highest decline is in favor of the Reform movement: 22% of the Reform Jews today were raised Conservative (compared to 3% who were Orthodox). From 900 synagogues at the its peak, the number of Conservative synagogues dropped to 560 in 2020. And out of 73 schools in the Solomon Schechter network, the Conservative movement's school network, the number dropped to thirty-something, with some becoming community schools. In addition, only 1% of conservatives identify "Sabbath-observers" by Conservative definition that includes driving to and from the synagogue. Only 13% attend services on Shabbat when there is no bar mitzvah (compared to 4% in the Reform movement), and only 25% -30% keep strictly-kosher home by the Conservative definition. In the upcoming high-holidays, it is expected many Conservative synagogues will have no rabbi, due to the retirement of many without the ordination of younger people. (Times of Israel)


  • Jewish group endorses candidate who supports BDS

The Jewish Vote, a progressive organization, has announced its endorsement of a congressional candidate who recently announced her support for the BDS movement. Yuh-Line Niou, currently a NY state assembly member, has lost the endorsement of another NY state lawmaker following her declaration of support for the BDS. Even after activists from the Orthodox community met with her to explain to her at length the nature of the boycott's harm to Jews and Israel, she again chose on Tuesday to insist on her supports for the BDS, calling it a "non-violent tactic" and claiming it has a right to exist. Despite her views, the progressive organization, founded by Jews For Racial & Economic Justice, announced that Niou "respects" the Jewish community and that the organization will support her as a candidate. (Forward)


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