Conservative Movement Condemns Extremist Takeover of Kotel

Calls for immediate implementation of long stalled Kotel Agreement

Jerusalem – Responding to a group of extremist, hardline Orthodox activists, taking over a Conservative/Masorti movement prayer service and megillah reading for Tisha B’Av at the Western Wall, and preventing some of its worshippers from entering the egalitarian section of its site, Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, CEO of The Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, issued the following statement:

“The events of the night of Tisha B’Av are just the latest example of the despicable behavior of some fanatics against other Jews,” Rabbi Blumenthal said. “The rabbis assigned this day on the Jewish calendar to warn against sinat hinam, baseless hatred, yet this is how some act against their Jewish siblings. We call on all in the Jewish world, and particularly Israeli governmental leaders, to denounce this behavior and affirm the right of all to practice Judaism according to their traditions and conscience throughout Israel, including at the Kotel. We call on the new coalition government to quickly fulfill its promise in their coalition agreement to carry out the Kotel Agreement that has been stalled for years. The Masorti-Conservative movement affirms Ahavat Yisrael, a love for all Jews, and expects others to do so as well, particularly as we mourn and commemorate our shared history of destruction and suffering.”

Rabbi Blumenthal continued, “On our recent solidarity mission, we heard support first-hand for religious pluralism from leaders from within the coalition government and beyond. The hatred expressed on the night of Tisha B’Av means we cannot wait any longer. The government must immediately carry out the terms of the Kotel agreement, ensuring that all who wish to pray and celebrate at the Kotel may do so in safety and joy.”

Added Rabbi Ashira Konigsburg, COO of the Rabbinical Assembly and Chief Program Officer for United Synagogue, who, with Rabbi Blumenthal led a Conservative movement delegation from the U.S. and Israel to meet with new Israeli leaders about issues such as these very ones: “We are appalled. And yet we are also grateful to [Minister] Nachman Shai for his support via Facebook and glad MKs Kariv and Tal were there. It all shows the urgency of the need to implement the kotel agreement, as if there were any question.”

More than a dozen leaders of the Conservative movement in the U.S. joined their Israeli colleagues last week and met with new Israeli President Isaac “Boogie” Herzog at his official residence, with four government ministers and half-a-dozen members of Knesset.