This week our thoughts and prayers go out to those who lost family, friends and loved ones in Orlando. I pray that we will one day find the strength, courage and fortitude to build a society that no longer needs to throw out words like pluralism or inclusion as those will be traits that are engrained in our communities.
This week while on a much less threatening scale, yet no less important, are a number of events that are taking place in Israel that threaten the Jewish State relationship with the liberal movements of Judaism. It bears repeating that the existence of a Jewish State enables me to be the Jew I am in the world. Without the clout that Israel has in the world, the Jewry that we know, love and take for granted would not exist. That does not mean I have to agree with the policies or practices of the state at all times.
Over the past several months there have been discussions about creating an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel. While the Conservative and Reform Movements have had the ability to use the Southern Wall, there had always been a desire for equality of space at the Kotel (The Western Wall). This issue was brought front and center over the past few years by the group Women of The Wall, who are mentioned in the NY Times article (link above). After months of deliberation the cabinet approved a measure to move forward with the egalitarian prayer space. Then, about two weeks ago time ran out on the preliminary plans and the project was put on hold.
What has always been the saving grace for liberal Jews has been the Southern Wall, while not of equal status in the eyes of the Jewish world, it was a place to call home. That was till earlier this week when the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem and his disciples decided it was time to hold a prayer service at the Southern Wall, where upon they came with police and erected a temporary Mehitzah and began to pray.
Lastly, the knesset is deciding on a bill giving the Israeli Rabbinate the sole authority over usage of mikvaot (ritual bath). What’s the big deal you ask? The decision of who, when and why a women should be allowed to use the mikveh should not fall to one group. The author of the Forward article (link above) mentions a story of women who simply asked to “dunk alone”, without the female mikveh attendent from the Rabbanut present…police were called in to arrest her.
When I read about such pettiness from our own communities I can’t help but worry what our children will one day think. Will they decide, as I hope they do, that this is something worth fighting for OR will they look at each other and say “I have no connection this place, the Judaism I practice looks nothing like these people” and walk away completely. Will they believe, albeit falsely, that Israel is a place made up solely of right wing religious zealots.
At home we preach pluralism, tolerance and inclusion looking towards the outside world. In truth we need to learn the same lessons for which we are preaching to the world.