An historic breakthrough has happened in Israel. For decades Reform Judaism has been striving for a measure of equality in the Jewish State! Time and again Reform rabbis and Reform institutions have been overlooked or shut out of state funding or Israeli government recognition. All that is beginning to change.
This week Rabbi Miri Gold successfully after more than seven years of lawsuits has finally been given equal status in Israel! Rabbi Gold is an Israeli Reform Rabbi who serves as a neighborhood Rabbi on Kibbutz Gezer. In Israel neighborhood rabbis are paid by the State of Israel. The Israel Reform Movement , led by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) and its executive director Anat Hoffman pressed the Israeli government through the court system to recognize her status. For many years they resisted. The Kibbutz itself (a non-religious kibbutz) support Rabbi Gold’s activities along with your donations from ARZA-the Association of Reform Zionist of America (It is a simple $36 dollar donation at www.arza.org!) Then Rabbi Gold was paid by the State but not as a rabbi but as a community athletic director even though she didn’t coach swimming or gymnastics.
The Reform Movement and Rabbi Gold pressed their case and just this week the Attorney General accepted the direction of the courts to recognize Rabbi Gold and to pay her the same salary as the over 4000 Orthodox rabbis who are paid by the State of Israel! This is absolutely groundbreaking. It sets the stage for the other Reform and Conservative rabbis who serve community synagogues to be recognized and receive their salaries in the same way as the Orthodox or traditional synagogue down the street.
For those of you that have visited some of the Reform synagogues and centers in Israel with me such as : Beit Daniel in Tel Aviv, Kol Haneshama and Har-El in Jerusalem, the Leo Baeck School and Ohel Avraham in Haifa, and Rabbi Leibovic’s congregation in Mevasseret Zion, and Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon’s community, Yozma in Modi’in , this ruling will potentially be revolutionary for their communities!
What a blessing!
This week’s Torah portion contains the three fold Priestly Blessing first given by Aaron the High Priest and still used by Jews at their most significant moments in life: from birth, to B’nai Mitzvah and Confirmation, Conversion and Weddings!
The word Naso means lift up and the Priestly Benediction also says May God’s face be lifted up toward you.
Clearly this blessing comes from God and the sense that the power of the blessing including the gift of shalom, peace comes from a certain kind of equality—God’s face lifted toward your face. This week we feel that blessing of equality, of God’s face lifted toward our Reform and Conservative Jewish faces in Israel.
May liberal Judaism continue to flourish and grow with our help. We say “Mazal Tov” to Rabbi Gold and the Israel Religious Action Center and the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism. Mazal tov to the State of Israel and the People of Israel for another step forward for equality and justice!
Indeed, what a blessing!