Tuesday, June 14, 2011

[Shefa] Fwd: Eternal Rest



From: jrosen@masorti.org
To: alanjayg46@aol.com
Sent: 6/14/2011 2:18:41 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Eternal Rest
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Dear Friends,
Shavuot, with its reading of the story of Ruth, calls to mind the terrible way sincere non-Orthodox converts are treated in Israel. We have in the past addressed this, but what follows below will give you a fresh perspective and understanding of how painful this can be – and why we must persevere.
Just before Shavuot, Yizhar Hess, the Executive Director of Masorti in Israel, wrote an article that was published in Hebrew. It concerned a fallen IDF soldier who had grown up in the Masorti movement and the fear that he would not be permitted a Jewish  burial. To us, here, this may sound paranoid, but Yizhar quite properly did not identify the soldier or his family or whether his death occurred  in action in Lebanon, Gaza or elsewhere, lest some fanatics in the official Rabbanut react by attempting to disinter his body.
Please read these two excerpts from Yizhar's piece, translated into English:
"He was an outstanding student in high school, a hiker, a bright, happy boy. When he was drafted, no one was surprised to hear that he chose to serve in an elite unit. The news of his death reached us late at night and plunged us all into deep pain. Then - we tensed. His mother had undergone a Masorti conversion in Israel: according to the fundamentalists who are in charge of most cemeteries in Israel, he was not considered Jewish. Where are they going to bury him? Do they know about his mother? Will they allow him eternal rest in the military cemetery, or will they try to create some secluded plot for him, on one pretext or another? What must we do now – should we tell the parents about these fears? Add to their frenzied sorrow with the shock that their son's funeral might become a travesty? It wouldn't be the first time.
We decided not to involve the parents; we readied a battery of lawyers and counted the minutes until the funeral and then during its course. Afterwards, we breathed a sigh of relief, as callous as that may sound. The IDF rabbinate and Hevra Kadisha Burial Society didn't know anything about his mother, as far as we could tell. He was buried like any other Jewish soldier killed in action."
"He was permitted to serve in the IDF, but – had he not been killed – if, after his military service, he had wished to marry, the State of Israel would have turned him down pointblank. Any proof he could have furnished of his Jewishness, at the Chief Rabbinate offices where he lived, would have been met with an arrogant sneer, or even cruel contempt. He could have had a Masorti rabbi perform the ceremony, but such a marriage is not recognized by the Ministry of Interior Affairs; for legal recognition he would have had to go to Cyprus, because Israel does recognize the authority of the Larnaca municipal officials in performing marriages. Upon his death, he was spared the humiliation of the dead that we were afraid of. But in all honesty and with great sadness, we have to say that every day the State of Israel humiliates the living.
May we celebrate Shavuot this year with love and joy, and hope that thanks to the compassionate deeds of Ruth the Moabite, we will learn her lessons and celebrate Shavuot next year in an Israel that is more moral and just."
I do not enjoy writing to you about things that do not present Israel in a positive light, but we must also face facts.
If you are troubled, as you should be, by what Yizhar Hess has written, please help us in our efforts to assure the Jewish State will be a democratic and pluralist one.  Make a donation to the Masorti Foundation. You can do so by clicking here or by mailing a check to the Masorti Foundation, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 832, New York, NY 10115.
David H. Lissy
Executive Director and CEO
Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel
To learn more, please contact:
Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 832
New York, NY 10115-0068
(212) 870-2216; 1-877-287-7414
http://www.masorti.org/; info@masorti.org

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