Welcome Home, Kind Of

Posted on by Rabbi Barbara Symons

To: Jews by Choice
From: Israel
Subject: Welcome Home, Kind Of

On Monday, March 1, per the Times of Israel (3/1/21): the Israeli Supreme Court voted to allow for Conservative and Reform conversions to be accepted regarding the Law of Return and citizenship.  There are many question that might arise from this sentence, not the least of which is: why would this decision be before the Supreme Court? To further confuse (and upset) matters, this is what was written about Shas: “The ultra-Orthodox party vows to initiate legislation to overturn the court’s ruling, and also to support legislation that will prevent the court from intervening in such matters in the future.”  This begs the follow-up question: why would this decision be before the legislature?

It is time to pause and thank God (irony intended) that we live in a place that separates Church and State.  America’s first Amendment, though often tested, stands firm: our government cannot impose religion on us or keep us from practicing our religions (within limits).

Given the lack of separation of “church” and state in Israel, I stand with Yesh Atid’s (a political party) Yair Lapid, who notes, “A sane government will put an end to the ridiculous situation whereby Israel is the only democracy in the world without freedom of religion for Jews.”  To which I say: Amen!  Selah!

Sadly, these are the words of the Chief Sephardi and Ashkenazi Rabbis who seem to have a difficult time loving their fellow Jews as themselves, to say nothing of their feelings about Gentiles: “What the Reform and Conservative [movements] term ‘conversion’ is nothing but a falsification of Judaism and will mean including thousands of Gentiles among the people of Israel,” says Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau says: “Those who converted through Reform conversions and the like are not Jewish. No High Court decision will change that fact.”

I believe their concern is the slide down what they would see as the slippery slope: will Reform and Conservative Rabbis in Israel soon be able to perform weddings and officiate at funerals?  More so, I believe their concern is about losing power.

With this news, let us sing.  Am Yisrael, Chai! (The people Israel lives!)  While “Israel” here usually means “the Jewish people,” let it mean both Israel the modern nation and the Jewish people, for we are them and they are us.  Let us be equal to other Jews in the Jewish State.    Let us sing and dance and visit and yes, even move to Israel if we want to.

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