Celebrating Religious Freedom
Rabbi’s Message – March 2, 2021
“Mi shenichnas l’Adar marbim b’simcha.”
When a person enters into Adar (the current Hebrew month), he or she increases in joy.
Today, progressive Jews are exuberant, celebrating religious freedom with Reform and Conservative Jews in Israel. Yesterday, Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the Israeli Orthodox rabbinate would no longer hold a monopoly over legitimate conversion for the Law of Return. This was the culmination of more than 15 years of legal appeals that sought to provide Israeli citizenship to those who converted to non-Orthodox Judaism. Previously, a ruling had forced the state to recognize non-Orthodox conversions performed abroad as eligible, but not those performed in their own country. This major breakthrough opens the door to a more pluralistic vision of Jewish identity. My colleague Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Cohen said it beautifully when proclaiming that this monumental win “constitutes a moral victory for all Jews who battle religious coercion.”
The High Court rightly anticipated a strong negative response by the Orthodox community, who have long opposed and delegitimized Reform and Conservative Judaism. Some of the highest Orthodox rabbinic authorities in Israel refer to these new Jews as “non-Jews” and call our conversion process a “forgery of Judaism.” The court tried to point out that this ruling was only about the secular issue of citizenship, and not religious identity, but all involved understand the true significance of this vote. Israeli politicians have begun to turn this into an election issue, promising to reverse the decision. We cannot allow them to dampen our spirits. Let’s take a moment to celebrate. Tonight, join me in offering a toast to the non-Orthodox clergy in Israel. May we continue to see successes like these in our fight for religious equality in the Land of Israel.