Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Kehillat Beit Yisrael in the sea-side city of Netanya in Central Israel. Beit Yisrael is an older congregation seeking to revitalize itself using its beautiful ritual and social space to address today’s community needs. Of special interest was Beit Yisrael’s outreach program for Russian-speaking Israelis, who make up a very large portion of Netanya’s population and are generally a very secular segment of the Israeli population.
The Masorti Foundation has been working with the Masorti Movement in Israel to help Beit Yisrael address a variety of demographic and other challenges and were alarmed to learn of a vicious vandalism campaign launched against this community. Activists from the movement report:
“This is what a hate crime looks like. Three times in the last month they smashed doors and windows in our synagogue. It is painful to know that here, in the Jewish State, a synagogue can be attacked over and over again. The members of this community are being threatened and their ability to come together to pray in their synagogue is now at risk.”
Member of Knesset Yael Cohen Paran, a member of the Masorti community in Pardes Hannah, reached out to Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan and has raised a motion for a quick debate in the Knesset on the vandalism at Beit Yisrael. MK Paran declared, “I am a member of the Masorti Movement and my community are victims (of the attacks). This is a difficult and painful situation. There are elements in the city who apparently do not recognize that we are praying there.”
The Masorti Foundation stands with the Beit Yisrael community and the Masorti Movement in Israel. We applaud MK Paran for her leadership and hope and expect that the Israeli authorities will find and punish the perpetrators. Justice must be done to demonstrate to all that freedom of religion is an essential right of every Israeli.
UPDATE TO VANDALISM IN NETANYA POST:
Since my May 23 post was written, Netanya’s kehillah was attacked again–making it the fifth attack on our community. This is shameful and we must not accept this kind of violent behavior against our kehillah. See the article and the pictures of the vandalism below.