Tags: ML | Israel | US Jews

Israeli PM Delays Conversion Bill That Angered Liberal Jews

Friday, 30 June 2017 11:38 AM

JERUSALEM (AP) — A bill that would enshrine ultra-Orthodox monopoly over Jewish conversions in Israel will be postponed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday in an apparent attempt to calm tensions with U.S. Jewish groups.

The bill, along with a decision to scrap plans for a mixed-gender prayer area at Jerusalem's Western Wall this week, has angered liberal American Jewish groups, which have hinted the issues could undermine their longstanding political, financial and emotional support for Israel.

"Domestic peace among the Jewish People is important to me. It is important to me both as Prime Minister of Israel and as a son of the Jewish People," Netanyahu said after a meeting with the heads of the coalition parties over the crisis.

Netanyahu said it was decided legislation, as well as an appeal over the issue, will be "frozen" while a team works for about six months "on finding solutions for an agreed-upon arrangement." He said the government together with the appellants will on Sunday ask the High Court of Justice for a stay on its decision.

He said he hopes the court will grant the joint request "because it will calm things down and also open a door to hope for an agreed-upon arrangement among our people."

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, who heads Israel's Reform Jewish movement told Channel 10 TV his group will continue to fight for the issue as well as for mixed gender prayer rights at the Western Wall

"We will not allow the ultra-Orthodox authorities in Israel to have a monopoly on conversion. We hope to achieve that through talks with the government and if that fails we will return to the court. Our expectation is that the prime minister will understand the same regarding the Western Wall as well," he said.

The plan to officially recognize the special mixed-gender prayer area at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, was reached in January 2016, after three years of intense negotiations between liberal Israeli and American Jewish groups and Israeli authorities. Under ultra-Orthodox management, the wall is currently separated between men's and women's prayer sections. This week Netanyahu's government scrapped the plan.

Israeli media reported that ultra-Orthodox politicians stormed out of Friday's emergency meeting.

The meeting came after Netanyahu met with a senior delegation from the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC Thursday night.

Most American Jews belong to the more liberal Reform and Conservative streams and feel alienated by Israel's ultra-Orthodox authorities, who question their faith and practices.

This week's conversion bill and Western Wall decision touched a raw nerve and sparked a rare display of public anger from American Jewish groups.

Ultra-Orthodox leaders in Israel in turn ramped up their criticism and said diaspora Jews would have no say in how religion was conducted in Israel.

Ultra-Orthodox rabbis strictly govern Jewish practices in Israel such as weddings, divorces, burials and conversions.

The ultra-Orthodox religious establishment sees itself as responsible for maintaining traditions through centuries of persecution and assimilation. It resists any inroads from liberals, who it often considers to be second-class Jews who ordain women and gays and are overly inclusive toward converts and interfaith marriages.

The liberal streams have made some progress in recent years, but have encountered ultra-Orthodox resistance when it comes to official state recognition and having a say in religious practices.

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A bill that would enshrine ultra-Orthodox monopoly over Jewish conversions in Israel will be postponed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday in an apparent attempt to calm tensions with U.S. Jewish groups.The bill, along with a decision to scrap plans for a...
ML,Israel,US Jews
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2017-38-30
Friday, 30 June 2017 11:38 AM
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