The first year of any new job is full of learning, but I feel especially blessed to have this opportunity to learn about the Masorti Movement in Israel and its supporters in the United States. The story is one of dreams come to life, passions and commitments passed down generation to generation. It is the story of a small but ever-growing number of people who have labored ceaselessly to see Israel become the place it was meant to be: one of diversity, pluralism, respect and freedom.
Our purpose is to promote ties, understanding and knowledge between Conservative Jews in the United Sates and Masorti Jews in Israel. We are one family, and as a family, we want to support each other. Each of our communities is enriched when we learn from, and support, the other. And we do need to support one another.
Here’s one important reason why: as American Jews, we take for granted our long-standing Constitutional separation of religion and state. We don’t receive government funding; we support our own congregations, raising the funds needed for buildings, clergy salaries and religious education.
It is different in Israel. Founded as a Jewish state, the government does provide financial support for religious institutions (include those of minorities). Funding for Jewish institutions, however, has been under the tight control of the Orthodox since the founding of the state. Rather than promote the flowering of Jewish diversity, the Orthodox have attempted to stamp it down. Thus Masorti clergy do not get salaries. Masorti synagogues are not paid for by the state. The only choices for schooling children are secular or Orthodox ones.
If we want to see that flowering of diversity—of inclusion, of respect and of freedom for all streams of Judaism in Israel–then we in America, and the Masorti Movement in Israel, will need work together and support one another with funding, with advocacy and with heart!
One of the things I hope to learn and share with you is the current status of the fruits of our labors.