Many in Israel are free to practice their religion and connect to the spiritual path that they prefer. But Orthodox Judaism remains the only stream of Judaism recognized by the state. The ultra-Orthodox establishment that controls Israel’s civil sphere continues to exclude other streams of Judaism (including secular) on issues ranging from marriage to conversion to burial.
Did you know?
Although non-Orthodox Jews comprise 70 percent of Israel’s population, a tiny percentage of the budget for Jewish culture and education is allocated to Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and other streams of Jewish learning. Many non-Orthodox Israelis feel disconnected from Orthodox Judaism and develop a profound resentment of religious coercion, leading some to reject their Jewish identity in favor of a solely national affiliation. Israel’s non-orthodox communities face denigrating circumstances not just when they are practicing their religious traditions, but in their everyday lives.
Today, Jews of all types are connecting or reconnecting to their Judaism in programs supported by New Israel Fund of Canada (NIFC). Immigrants from the former Soviet Union are setting up vibrant spiritual communities and discovering their Jewish heritage. Non-orthodox streams of Judaism are making a major impact on Israel’s education system with dozens of schools and kindergartens educating thousands of the country’s schoolchildren. Liberal Orthodox women are finding ways to increase their role and involvement in Jewish religious ritual within the framework of Halacha (Jewish Law). Young secular Jews are flocking to new schools combining study of Jewish texts with social action inspired by Jewish values. Arab women are exploring their status by means of modern interpretations of their religious tradition.
Our 2014 Religious Pluralism projects include:
Kolech: Mentoring Young Israeli Religious Women
Ne’emanei Torah V’Avoda: Time for Action- Educational Activities
Shaharit: Nurturing Community Leadership in Common Cause
KIAH: Memizrach Shemesh Democratic Leadership Training from a Traditional Mizrachi Perspective
Our work makes a difference.
With mentorship from Kolech: Orthodox Feminist Alliance, young Israeli women spearheaded new, social initiatives such as teaching sensible financial management among single religious women, widows and divorcees as well as educating women in the process becoming religious to retain their feminist values and attitudes.
By confronting questions that engage Orthodox Jews in Israel, Ne’emanei Torah V’Avoda (NTV) strengthens education for democracy and social justice. NTV and NIFC work with parent groups in State-run religious elementary schools across the country to counter discrimination against girls and prevent gender segregation in early grades. NTV also runs student groups on university campuses, and presents models for pluralistic religious community-based services throughout the country, with the aim to decrease dependence on the ultra-Orthodox State run religious authorities.
Over the past decade, Memizrach Shemesh has successfully created culturally-appropriate paths for Mizrahi Jews to reconnect with their individual heritage and foster pride in Mizrahi identity in the face of ongoing discrimination. Inspired by the Mizrahi Jewish experience, philosophy and commentaries, Memizrach Shemesh has trained and nurtured leaders who are committed to the Jewish values of solidarity and social justice. With expertise, they train rabbis, create volunteer centers for youth and students, develop community leadership through Batei Midrash (houses of study), and work with local groups in underprivileged neighborhoods.