The American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest are not alone in working to promote pluralism within Israeli society (Editorial, “Unity and Oneness,” Oct. 1). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently criticized the hateful and ignorant remarks made by Israel’s religious services minister about Reform Jews. Within that atmosphere, Rabbi Uri Regev, a Reform
rabbi, is one of Israel’s most prominent advocates for religious freedom.
As president of a non-governmental organization called Hiddush — Freedom of Religion for Israel — Regev refers to Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which states as a goal religious freedom and equality for all. He fears that the promise of the Declaration of Independence is at stake as facts on the ground deny that freedom.
Regev focuses on life cycle events which, in Israel, are mostly controlled by the ultra-Orthodox leadership. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, 12 percent of Israelis identify as Conservative or Reform yet a wedding officiated in Israel by a Conservative or Reform rabbi is not considered to be legal. There is no civil marriage or divorce in Israel, therefore there is no choice
for marriage to be performed except by the Orthodox Rabbinate. Conversions performed by Conservative or Reform rabbis are not recognized as kosher.
Rabbi Regev notes that non-Orthodox streams are the majority in Israel and in the Diaspora and while Judaism teaches respect for others, Israel is the only democracy in the world where such religious freedom is violated. Painful as it is to be critical of Israel, if we don’t recognize the problem and bring it out in the open, it can only get worse to the detriment of Israeli society and Diaspora attitudes toward Israel. Regev believes that respect for all streams of Judaism, as exists in the United States, makes for a stronger Jewish community.