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Zionist Rabbis Gather in Jerusalem, Learn from One Another

The Tzohar organization's 4th annual International Rabbinic Conference brings together Zionist rabbis from all over the world.
By Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 7/28/2011, 2:01 AM / Last Update: 7/28/2011, 3:09 AM

Zionist rabbis from around the world gathered in Jerusalem from Monday to Wednesday for the fourth annual International Rabbinic Conference.

The conference was held by the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization, which works to make Jewish tradition accessible to all Jews, in conjunction with the Center for Religious Affairs in the Diaspora of the World Zionist Organization. The conference’s central topic was contemporary issues facing the Religious Zionist community in Israel and the Diaspora.

Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth, Director of Tzohar’s Overseas Department, explained what Tzohar is and what it does.

“Tzohar was established in order to try to bridge the gaps between the different segments in Israeli society – religious and non-religious people – by trying to open a window to the world of Judaism,” he told Arutz Sheva.

“In a sense we’re trying to enhance the accessibility to spiritual values and experiences for the Israeli society at large by building more and more communities across the country that do outreach activities,” he added.

In order to achieve this, the organization holds activities for non-religious people around Jewish holidays, and also reaches out to non-religious couples by performing weddings for them “in a much more welcoming and embracing way that can give them a positive experience from that encounter with Judaism,” according to Rabbi Neuwirth.

He said that Tzohar is not “trying to create an alternative” to other organizations. “We’re trying to do exactly what rabbanut was supposed to do but in a way that will, at the end of the day, give people not just the religious service but also the warmth.”

Rabbi Neuwirth noted that the international conference allows rabbis from Israel and from overseas to get together and learn from one another.

“For many years there was a complete disconnection between rabbanut here and rabbanut overseas,” he explained. “The vast majority of the rabbis here did not know any rabbis from overseas and vice versa.”

During the conference, he said, the rabbis learn from another about the similarities, the differences, and also the challenges that each of them faces.

“By nature, many phenomena that happen overseas come to Israel a few years later and things that we are dealing with here have had a major influence overseas,” said Rabbi Neuwirth, pointing out issues such as religion and state, marriage, and conversion which are common everywhere.