This Yom Ha’atzmaut, on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s independence, joy mixes with concern. We wonder, who are the New Chalutzim (pioneers) to build the State and secure its future? Has the era of Diaspora Jewry providing essential support and partnership to the Chalutzim come to an end? How does the Masorti Movement in Israel fit into this story. And crucially, how can you fit in?
History shows that American Jews have played a vital role in Israel – settling Jews and creating Kibbutzim, the Israeli Defense Forces, world-class hospitals, universities and culture. At each point, the Chalutzim depended on support from abroad for Israel’s security and advancement.
In a country where only 11% of the population is Ultra-Orthodox, official Israeli religious life is monopolized by strict Ultra-Orthodox forces. Marriage, divorce, conversion, the Kotel — all are controlled. Pluralism — and Jewish spiritual creativity for the vast majority of Israeli Jews — is stifled. And the dangerous wedge between Israel and Diaspora Jewry, which is overwhelmingly connected to liberal streams, grows daily.
This is where the Masorti Movement in Israel comes in. And it is why we are asking that as you celebrate Israel at 70, you step up and join the Chalutzim of Masorti by generously supporting the movement to build a Jewish future in Israel that is traditional, egalitarian, modern and inclusive.
With support from Diaspora Jews like you who are committed to Conservative/Masorti Judaism, the Chalutzim of Masorti will expand:
♦ Nearly 80 Masorti kehillot providing alternative religious, educational and community services to Jews;
♦ ADRABA’s unique programs for Israeli youth and adults with disabilities who look to Masorti’s commitment to K’vod Habriot (dignity of all) for Bar and Bat Mitzvahs;
♦ Pluralism Watch, which monitors the Knesset and organizes Israelis to fight for their rights;
♦ The Religious Affairs Bureau to coordinate services at Azarat Yisrael (the Masorti Kotel) where all Jews — Israeli and Diaspora — can pray together based on their own traditions;
♦ The NOAM youth movement with nearly 2000 members, 21 branches and a Ramah-Noam Camp that unite children and youth of all backgrounds and traditions through Judaism, Zionism, pluralism and social justice; and
♦ The Rav Siach, a program to strengthen the relationship between Israeli and Diaspora Jews and to promote unity of the Jewish people.
The Israeli government spends an estimated $1billion a year – or more – from the Israeli taxpayer to support programs, institutions, salaries and other Orthodox activities. This monopoly isolates Jewish women, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ and others from the Jewish tradition, and creates a deep fissure with religiously pluralistic Diaspora Jewry.
As with challenges of past eras, today, Israel’s survival as the sole Jewish and democratic state is at risk if nothing is done. And because Masorti receives almost no government support, unlike the Ultra-Orthodox, it relies on Jews like us – supporters in the Diaspora — to be able to grow, to build and to serve greater numbers of Israelis and Israeli society.
As you celebrate this Yom Ha’atzmaut, we ask that you continue the tradition and be a true partner with Israel’s New Chalutzim. With your help, Masorti can build a powerful movement to secure the pluralistic Jewish State of Israel envisioned at its founding 70 years ago.
Chag Yom Ha’Atzmaut Sameach,
Rabbi Robert S. Slosberg, Chairman of the Board
Gideon Aronoff, Executive Director