ARZA Canada, strengthening ties of Reform Jews to Israel
ARZA Canada is an affiliate of the Union for Reform Judaism and its Canadian Council. We are a member organization of ARZENU, the International Association of Reform Zionists, and the Canadian Zionist Federation. With over 6,000 members, our mandate is to connect with Reform communities throughout Canada, foster connections with and strengthen our ties to the Reform Movement in Israel, and work to realize the vision of Reform Zionism.
Israeli Minister Says Reform Jews Are Not Really Jewish
ARZA Canada President Miriam Pearlman responds.
With any social change it is often two steps forward and one step backward. Sometimes even two steps backward. So it is for progressive Judaism in Israel. The apprehension about Israel's current government with respect to our movement is being proven well founded. The recent intolerant Reform bashing by Israeli Government officials is being quickly responded to and challenged by our leadership.
Israel considers Jews of all denominational stripes Jewish. But as many of you know, that same legal system doesn't recognize Reform religious ceremonies or Reform rabbis. While Reform Jews can gain Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return, Israel's religious policy does not recognize Reform or Conservative marriage, divorce, conversion or burial. In Israel, the only recognized marriages and conversions are Orthodox. Community rabbis who receive salaries from the Religious Services Ministry are all Orthodox. Through relentless efforts from our leadership including IMPJ and IRAC, the past few years have seen a handful of non-Orthodox rabbis gain the right to government salaries. (A step in the right direction despite being provided by the Culture and Sport Ministry, not the office of Religious Affairs). Although Orthodox Rabbis receive salaries paid by the State, most Conservative and Reform rabbis do not. To read more, please click here.
Dear friends and colleagues,
It seems as through ultra-Orthodox MKs have decided to go on a "field day" at the expense of our movement. As many of you have probably already heard, yesterday, Minister of Religious Affairs, MK David Azulai of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party lashed out for the second time within a week against Reform Judaism. Last week, in a conversation with Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Azulai stated that "Reform Jews are a disaster to the Jewish people." This was followed up yesterday in an interview on one of Israel's leading radio stations, when Azulai said that "I cannot allow myself to call people who practice Reform Judaism real Jews." This morning, MK Moshe Gafni, chair of the Knesset Finance Committee "joined the bandwagon," blaming Reform Judaism for wide-spread assimilation and inter-marriage.
We, of course, did not remain indebted and immediately issued statements in response. It is important to note that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Minister Naftali Bennett, with whom we have deep ideological disagreements, both issued statements condemning Azulai's remarks, claiming that all Jews are Jews, no matter their denomination. To read further, please click here.
A TALE OF TWO EUROPES
Rabbi Lawrence Englander
The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) is charged with strengthening relationships between the State of Israel and Diaspora communities. At a recent meeting of the JAFI Board of Governors, we heard two presentations on the Jewish communities in Europe and the prospects for their future. These two "tales" gave me two distinct perspectives on the relationship between the State of Israel and Jewish communities throughout the world.
The first tale gave the story of a population in crisis. It reminded us of the recent anti-semitic attack on the Jewish-owned grocery store in Paris. This tale pointed out that the attack was not an isolated incident; in fact, there were twice as many anti-semitic incidents in France in 2014 as there were in the previous year. We were informed that one of the causes of this increase is the alarming rate of unemployment in France and the resultant unrest. As a result, several thousand French Jews have made Aliyah to Israel, and thousands more -- especially young people -- have attended extended programmes in Israel or have made inquiries about making Aliyah. The tellers of this tale projected that Israel could expect up to 20,000 more Olim in the year 2016. French Jewry was graphically depicted as a community in crisis. Click here for the rest of the Tale.
The Mishna says it is not our task to finish the job, but rather to move the process forward. As I take the mantle of President and as we move forward together to do the holy work of ARZA Canada as a new Board, we will do so by standing on the shoulders of the giants who have come before us.
On behalf of all Reform Zionists, all members of ARZA Canada, together we express our heartfelt thank you to Les Rothschild, now Immediate Past President. His passion and tireless effort on our behalf have been recognized by the many tributes that poured in from key players in the world of international progressive Judaism, saying what we all felt, that Les is a true "mensch" and a "chaver". I know you join me in wishing Les well as he moves on to serve on the Executive Board of World Union of Progressive Judaism (WUPJ). If you are so inclined, may I suggest that you show your admiration and appreciation for Les by making a donation to ARZA Canada in his honour, via Canadian Friends of WUPJ (at CanadaHelps.org). Here is the link. Please choose IMPJ Nursery School as the fund and indicate in the message box, "In honour of ARZA Canada Immediate Past President, Les Rothschild".
I look forward to working with you and all of our Canadian Reform congregations as well as our affiliate organizations that support Reform Judaism and Reform Zionism, both in Canada and in Israel. Together we can strengthen our organization through participation from all our Canadian Reform congregations with 100% membership in ARZA Canada.
Here are my five goals for ARZA Canada as incoming President:
(1) To support and promote Israel engagement and Israel travel in our Canadian Reform congregations
(2) To work with IMPJ and IRAC to support the growth of Progressive Judaism in Israel
(3) To help our movement in Israel work for a Jewish, pluralistic, just and democratic society
(4) To serve as the voice of Reform Zionists in Canada and advocate for Israel in the wider community
(5) To represent Canadian Reform Jews in national and international Zionist organizations (CZF, WZO)
Thank you for your support and for your belief in me as your new President. I am both humbled and excited about the opportunities ahead.
ARZA Canada, President