Who is responsible for Israel's rupture with Diaspora Jewry?

The crisis between Israel and world Jewry has nothing to do with Israel's non-recognition of the Reform and Conservative movements. Opinion.

Tzvi Lev,

Reform leaders attempt to enter Western Wall Plaza
Reform leaders attempt to enter Western Wall Plaza
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Earlier this month, Princeton University's Campus Hillel canceled Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely's speech after being pressured by a host of left-wing Jewish groups, such as J Street U, Tru'ah, and Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP).

The groups accused Hotovely of "outing racist ideologies, including denying the Palestinians very existence," and waged a noisy campaign to scuttle the speech, arguing that Hotovely's right-wing views violated Hillel's guidelines regarding guest speakers.

Back in Israel, many laid the blame for the unprecedented flare-up with Americans Jewry at the feet of the Netanyahu government, pointing to the cancellation of the Western Wall Plaza compromise deal in July that would have established a non-Orthodox prayer area at the central Western Wall Plaza. There is currently a separate prayer space open to non-Orthodox movements at the southern end of the Western Wall.

Lior Shlein, the host of the Gav Hauma satire show, repeatedly laid into Hotovely on Saturday, accusing her of igniting the controversy at Princeton by provoking the Reform and Conservative movements.

"American Jews refuse to accept how you are treating them," Shlein told her. "You expelled American Jews, 90% of whom are not Orthodox. You expelled them with the Orthodox monopoly on conversions and the canceling of the Western Wall Agreement."

Shlein is wrong. The Jewish groups that petitioned Hillel to cancel Hotovely's speech were not upset over Israel's lack of recognition granted to the non-Orthodox movements. They opposed Hotovely because they are against Israel's very existence; or in the case of J Street U, because they are fundamentally opposed to any Jewish presence in the heart of the historic Jewish homeland, Judea and Samaria.

For example, Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), which was one of the most vocal opponents to Hotovely's speech, are an enthusiastic backer of BDS and recently hosted convicted PFLP terrorist Rasmeah Odeh to speak at their annual conference. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) lists them as an anti-Israel group and says that "JVP works to demonstrate Jewish opposition to the State of Israel and to steer public support away from the Jewish State."

A missive sent to the Daily Princetonian opposing Hotovely's appearance was signed by the Young Democratic Socialists of Princeton, the Princeton Committee on Palestine and the Muslim Advocates for Social Justice & Individual Dignity (MASJID), none of which are known as fervent advocates of the progressive Jewish movements.

In fact, the letter never mentioned the issue of the status of Reform and Conservative Jewry in Israel. The missive was focused entirely on the Israeli government's allegedly ‘hateful’ policies toward the Palestinians, vowing that "We will not sit by quietly as the Israeli government continues to entrench its control over Palestinians".

This is part of a bigger fallacy which holds that Israel's non-recognition of the Reform and Conservative movements is turning American Jews against Israel. While this approach might make sense, in theory, it doesn't hold up after close scrutiny.

The 2013 Pew survey on American Jew found that only 29% of Reform Jews believe in God. In addition, just 19% of Reform Jews said they attended religious services at least once a month. According to the survey, the number of Reform Jews who have a Christmas tree in their home during the holiday season is greater than the number of Reform Jews who keep kosher.

To think that Reform and Conservative Jews are angry at Israel for not recognizing a religion which they themselves do not follow is absurd. American Jewry's alienation towards Israel is a natural reaction of their continuous drift away from Judaism and Jewish practices, and Israel should in no way shape or form change its internal policies based on an angry cacophony of empty threats by Jewish leaders without a flock.


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