Women of the Wall
Women of the WallFlash 90

A delegation of forty Orthodox businessmen and other prominent figures in the Orthodox community in the US met recently with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and other Israeli leaders.

During the meetings, the delegation gave a presentation on the shifting demographics of the American Jewish community, highlighting the rapid growth of the Orthodox sector, while noting the steep decline in the number of Reform Jews.

The delegation expressed their support for the government's decision to nix the so-called "Western Wall Deal", which would have expanded the space allotted for mixed-gender prayer, and granted the Reform and Conservative movements de facto recognition as joint administrators of the holy place.

"The Kotel (Western Wall) plan was in fact canceled due to pressure by the haredi parties, but all Orthodox Judaism joined hands to pressure the Israeli government and prevent the Reform community in the US from influencing decisions in the matter," the delegation leaders explained.

In a meeting with Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud), delegation leaders explained that the Orthodox community spends some $500 million annually in Israel, through vacations, visits, and encouraging students to spend a year in Israel studying.

Dr. Irwin Levowitz, one of the delegation's leaders, told Hanegbi that each student sent by the Orthodox community to Israel costs thousands of dollars per month.

After meeting with Hanegbi, the delegation met with Coalition Chairman David Amsalem (Likud), Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home), Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home), and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud).

Speaking with Netanyahu, delegation leader and Chairman of the Board of Agudath Israel of America Rabbi Shlome Werdiger said the Reform community is disappearing, and compared it to the growing Orthodox community.

"If there are 40,000 Orthodox Jews in their 60s, today we have triple that number - 120,000 - in their 30s, and five times that number - 230,000 - children ages 0-9," he said.

Members of the delegation also told Netanyahu that the Trump administration has been openly sympathetic to the concerns of the Orthodox Jewish community, in contrast to the previous administration.

Werdiger told Netanyahu about a recent Shabbat (Sabbath) meal with White House adviser Jared Kushner and his family, and said that there is continuous contact between the Orthodox community and the Trump administration.

"They admire you very much, and see you as a great leader," Werdiger told Netanyahu. "And I can tell you that today, Israel and Orthodox Judaism have good friends in the White House."

Kahlon promised that the next time there is discussion regarding the Kotel plan, he will ensure that their voice is heard and they appear at the table.

The Western Wall plan would have altered the layout of the Western Wall Plaza and granted tacit recognition of the Reform Movement at the holy site.

The plan was suspended last year, before being officially cancelled in January.