Conservative Movement Condemns Proposed Shas Bill on Egalitarian Worship at the Kotel

Posted on: Friday December 2, 2016

NEW YORK - The member organizations of the Conservative/Masorti movement of Judaism has issued the following statement regarding the Shas Party's announcement Monday that it would submit a draft bill to the Knesset that would prohibit any practices at the Western Wall that are not deemed strictly Orthodox:

The Conservative/Masorti movement is outraged by the Shas Party's draft bill, which would ban egalitarian services from taking place anywhere near the Western Wall, and would ban women from wearing tallitot or tefillin at the Kotel. If it were to pass the Knesset, this ban would represent a major setback not just for the Masorti movement (known as Conservative in North America), which for years has been involved in a battle to create a permanent space for pluralistic and egalitarian prayer at the Kotel, but for all Jews, and would rupture the Diaspora-Israel relationship. The bill also would ban women from reading the Torah or blowing the shofar in the women's section.

The Shas bill is clearly an attempt to put a permanent end to a plan, which the Cabinet approved in January but that has not yet been implemented, to establish a sacred space at the Kotel where all Jews can pray together.

That the announcement of the "Kotel Law" comes just a week after a Reform synagogue in Ra'anana was vandalized and leaders of the Reform movement received death threats is particularly disturbing.

Such a bill is an insult to the majority of the world's Jews, and we urge Knesset members to reject this draft.  If Israel is to be the spiritual and physical home for the Jewish people it must embrace all Jews. We join Israelis who condemn this bill for what it is - an attempt to give the most fundamentalist and rigid rabbis sway over all Jews. As the sage Hillel taught in Avot 1:12, '[love] your fellow creatures and [attract] them to the study of Torah.' This bill seeks to instead turn them away.

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President, Rabbinical Assembly
Rabbi Philip Scheim, President, Rabbinical Assembly 
Rabbi Steven Wernick, Chief Executive Officer, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Ms. Margo Gold, President, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Dr. Arnold M. Eisen, Chancellor, The Jewish Theological Seminary
Rabbi Dr. Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies
Ms. Barbara Kavadias, Executive Director, Masorti Foundation
Rabbi Robert Slosberg, Board Chair, Masorti Foundation
Mr. Yizhar Hess, CEO, Masorti Movement
Cantor Stephen Stein, Executive Vice President, Cantors Assembly
Ms. Carol Simon, International President, Women's League for Conservative Judaism
Rabbi Charles Simon, Director, FJMC
Mr. Allan Gottesman, President, Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs, Inc.
Rabbi Ariel Stofenmacher, CEO, Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano
Ms. Gillian Caplin, President, Masorti Olami
Dr. Marilyn L. Wind, President, Mercaz USA
Ms. Sarrae G. Crane, Executive Director, Mercaz USA
Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin, President, The Schechter Institutes, Inc.