The Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel

Jewish Pluralism Watch is a project of Masorti promoting values of inclusion and Judaism through monitoring, advocacy and education. By closely tracking activities of the Knesset, JPW works to insure that all Jews are full recognized in Israel,and the Masorti kehillot receive their fair share of funding from the State.  Read the full week’s update here.

Start with this important update from  Nerya Raphael Knafo, the Director of JPW and Emily Levy-Shochat, Chair of JPW:

Dear friends,

During the course of the week it is expected that former Justice Minister Moshe Nissim will submit his recommendations on the issue of conversion in Israel.  At the end of June 2017, a bill proposed by Minister Aryeh Deri giving the Chief Rabbinate in Israel total monopoly over conversions was approved by the government for passage to the Knesset.

The bill aroused intense opposition from the Masorti/Conservative and Reform movements in Israel and the Diaspora and also threatens to revoke the recognition and citizenship rights afforded to Orthodox converts who convert in independent, Orthodox rabbinical courts – rights that were granted by the Supreme Court in a 2016 decision.The agreement was subsequently put on hold by PM Benjamin Netanyahu who appointed a special team led by Nissim to formulate recommendations for a compromise agreement.

Last week the Knesset plenum rejected two bills submitted by two opposition MK’s in a preliminary hearing. On Wednesday May 16, MK Yael German’s (Yesh Atid) bill for an amendment to the Adoption Law was rejected. The bill proposes to redress the discrimination in the adoption laws which give preference to married heterosexual couples, by granting eligibility to single men or women, or same-sex couples to adopt as well. MK Yael German: As long as members of the gay community are discriminated against by the law and are unable to adopt children or have recourse to surrogacy, there is no equality in the country and when there is no equality, democracy is threatened.”

On the same day the plenum rejected the bill submitted by MK Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) proposing an amendment to the Kashrut Fraud Protection Law 2016, which seeks to grant a certificate of kashrut to restaurants and other food businesses that operate on Saturdays, by a majority of 43 opposed to 26 in favor. MK Lavie: “The Kashrut License has become a tool for blackmail and a weapon used against businesses and hotels whereby the Rabbinate tries to enforce norms that are not within its authority.”

The Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs will hold a special discussion to mark Equality Day for the Community of Ethiopian Immigrants which will take place in the Knesset, on the issue of the infringement upon the equality for the reunion of families comprising Israeli citizens of Ethiopian descent, with family members left behind in Ethiopia. These Jews remaining in Ethiopia are classified as Falashmura, a term for Ethiopian Jews whose ancestors converted to Christianity, often under duress, generations ago. Because the Interior Ministry does not consider the Falashmura to be Jewish, they cannot immigrate under the Law of Return and therefore must get special permission from the government to move to Israel. There are approximately 8,000 Jews in Ethiopia with close relatives in Israel who are waiting to emigrate.

After the preliminary reading of the amendment to the bill for budgeting religious councils was approved in the Knesset last week, the Knesset Finance Committee will discuss it this week before it returns to the plenum for its first reading. This bill, submitted by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), seeks to progressively increase the government’s funding of religious councils to match government funding of other areas in local councils such as education and welfare.

We invite you to come to the Knesset and participate in the discussion. Write us and we will assist you to coordinate your visit. Email us at

As always, you are welcome to follow the JPW’s Facebook page and twitter account in real time, and to invite English speakers to sign up to receive this newsletter by writing to the email:


Nerya Raphael Knafo                                         Emily Levy-Shochat
Director, Jewish Pluralism Watch                     Chair, Jewish Pluralism Watch


Tuesday, May 22, 2018 at  10:00 a.m.
The Finance Committee

The Jewish Religious Services Law amendment–extent of government participation in the council’s budget) submitted by MK Moshe Gafni, MK Uri Maklev and Yakov Asher) in preparation for the first reading.

Tuesday May 22, 2018 at 11:30 a.m
The Committee for Immigration, Absorption, and Diaspora Affairs

Discussion on the reunification of families of Ethiopian immigrants–marking the Equality of Ethiopian Immigrants Day in the Knesset.


On Saturday evening, May 12, 2018, it was reported on “Weekend News” that one of the women visiting the mikveh in Kiryat Motzkin, had expressed doubts as to the Jewishness of an Ethiopian attendant (balanit). After first having her working hours reduced, the town rabbi announced that the purity of the mikveh would be invalidated during this attendant’s presence, which led to her finally being transferred to a mikveh in another town. MK Penina Tamanu-Shata (Yesh Atid): “When the rabbinate is controlled by a group of elitists who think that they have the monopoly, it is no wonder that anyone who is different from them suffers. It is time to break the silence and to fight with all one’s might against the discrimination by the rabbinical establishment.”

On Sunday, May 13, 2018, after Israel’s success in the Eurovision and with the prospect of holding the contest in Jerusalem next year, the chairman of the United Torah Judaism faction, Deputy Health Minister Yakov Litzman, sent a letter to the government ministers whose ministries will be involved in the organization of the contest, emphasizing that when planning the 2019 Eurovision in Israel, “Care must be taken not to violate the sanctity of the Sabbath and to make every effort to avoid desecrating the Sabbath in accordance with the law and the status quo.”

On the same day it was reported that female students from a high school in Kfar Saba who attended a performance at the Kfar Saba Cultural Center marking Jerusalem Day, were asked to sit separately from the boys, owing to the participation of a religious school in the event. While the boys were seated in the front rows, the girls were seated separately in the back seats. MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz): “Children in the (non-religious) state education system will not take part in activities behind partitions, and girls will not have to sit at the end of the auditorium while boys sit in the front. Not even once.”

Wishing you a very good week from all at

Jerusalem Pluralism Watch!