Rabbinical Assembly Responds to Right-Wing Efforts to Disparage Non-Orthodox Jews

Calls for Swift Implementation of Kotel Deal

NEW YORK – In the weeks since the historic agreement to create a permanent space for pluralistic and egalitarian prayer at the Kotel (Western Wall), Israel has seen Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the head of the Shas Party, the United Torah Judaism party and other Haredi lawmakers denounce the agreement and disparage the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism. These have included proposals to override the agreement with new legislation and disparaging remarks towards non-Orthodox communities implying that they are not real Jews and desecrate the faith. In response, Rabbis Julie Schonfeld and William Gershon, executive vice president and president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association for Conservative/Masorti rabbis, released the following statement:

January’s agreement to create a permanent space for pluralistic and egalitarian prayer at the Kotel was not only long overdue, but allowed the Israeli governing Cabinet to publically acknowledge and support that there is more than one way to be Jewish and that there should be "One Wall for One People." This decision was not reached lightly or easily, and is a momentous step in creating a more welcoming environment for all Jews who wish to connect with their heritage at the Wall.

As the proposal’s implementation faces roadblocks and threats of legislative action to delay or stop the construction of this space, we thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for his support in this endeavor and know we can count on his continued support in embracing all streams, and all Jews. We hope his leadership will allow those in his coalition to also recognize that "Reform and Conservative Jews are part and parcel of the Jewish people and should be treated with respect…This is the government’s policy."

Talk of embracing all Jews in Israel and the Diaspora must be supported by action. The Prime Minister’s government must begin work on making this symbol of Jewish unity a reality. Only through engaging and embracing all Jews will we maintain our strength as a Jewish people. As Hillel taught in Avot 1:12, "[love] your fellow creatures and [attract] them to the study of Torah."