Reform Movement 'revolution' in Israel?

After string of victories, head of Reform Movement in Israel hints at wider agenda to radically change religious status-quo.

David Rosenberg,

Reform Jews (illustration)
Reform Jews (illustration)
Miriam Alster/Flash 90

In the wake of a pair of important political victories, the Reform Movement in Israel has laid out a path towards complete recognition by the Israeli government – and a total dismantling of the religious status quo.

Last Thursday the Israeli Supreme Court ruled in favor of Reform petitioners demanding use of state religious facilities for use in non-Orthodox conversions.  This decision came on the heels of the Israeli Cabinet’s adoption of a Reform-backed plan to create a new mixed-gender section at the Western Wall.

Following the ruling, Gilad Kariv, head of the Reform Movement in Israel, suggested the movement’s agenda were broader than perhaps previously assumed. 

The movement’s aims are not limited merely to protecting personal freedom of religion, he explained, but included demands that the state “provide appropriate infrastructure for maintaining religious life” – a thinly veiled reference to full recognition and state support.

“This is just one more milestone in the long judicial path towards recognition that there is more than one way to be Jewish and more than one way to join the Jewish people”, explained Kariv.

Historically, the Reform and Conservative movements have had minimal followings in Israel.  In recent years, however, both have worked to gain official state recognition in the hopes that they will be able to parlay official status into mass appeal, particularly amongst secular Israeli Jews.  

Pressure from American Jewish organizations and petitions to the Supreme Court have gradually eroded the so-called “status quo” – a series of political compromises delineating the relationship between religion and state ever since the establishment of Israel.  Formal recognition of the Reform Movement would constitute a complete renunciation of the status quo – and reopen a raw nerve in Israeli politics.




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