Sunday, March 25, 2012 "Kadima candidates speak before a meeting of the Masorti Movement; try to convince Conservative Jews that they are the right choice to lead the centrist party."

Kadima members set to vote for leader / In campaign's final days, Livni and Mofaz argue against tribalism

Kadima candidates speak before a meeting of the Masorti Movement; try to convince Conservative Jews that they are the right choice to lead the centrist party.

By Ophir Bar-ZoharIn the final days before the Kadima leadership primary, Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz are urging Israelis to refrain from the factionalism that has plagued society in recent years.

In a speech before tomorrow's vote, Mofaz spoke about the social protest movement, drafting ultra-Orthodox youth into the army, and changing the system of government. Livni spoke about Israel's long-term future. She said the social fabric was coming apart.

Livni, Mofaz - Alon Ron - 2008

Kadima MKs Shaul Mofaz (left) and Tzipi Livni, in 2008.

Photo by: Alon Ron

The two candidates were speaking before a meeting of the Masorti Movement; they are also trying to convince Conservative Jews that they are the right choice to lead the centrist party.

"Status quo isn't a value," Livni said, referring to relations between the country's religious and secular communities. "Some things that were valid when the state was created must be reopened for discussion.

"When one says unity, it usually means that everybody must agree on an issue for a decision to be taken. But what it really means is that small groups that have hijacked the public agenda have a right to veto decisions by the Zionist majority. We only have a few more years to reach such a decision. The word agreement has become a substitute for impotency and a lack of will to make political decisions."

Livni said the lack of a genuine debate was apparent in the compromise on the Migron outpost that the High Court of Justice rejected yesterday.

"I think it's immoral to take these people, who unfortunately must be uprooted, and plant them on an adjacent hill where they might again be uprooted as a result of a political decision," she said.

"Instead of saying to them, as unpleasant as it may be, 'come back home to Israel,' such a debate doesn't exist. We need a leadership that can have a real debate. Elections in Israel have become about who gets which portfolio. There are no disagreements and ideology anymore. This government must be replaced."

Mofaz, for his part, said Israel is a military superpower but weak socially. "There are huge gaps here, as I've felt personally. The flag we must raise is one of a new social order."

Mofaz, too, said Israel's main problem was the clash between various segments of the population. "We must return the country's unity; we should have one law for everyone. We're composed of many tribes, and every tribe follows the laws as it sees fit. That's why we're not a strong society."

Mofaz said he plans to have Kadima lead the social protests in the coming months. "This summer the citizens will again take to the streets, and they will have a lot to say about the exclusion of women, equality, a fair carrying of the burden and rising prices," he said. "I believe that the elections are not much more than a hundred days away."

Mofaz added that the three or four largest parties could change the system of government; he believes that toppling the government in the Knesset should require more than the current 61 votes.

Labor on the offensive

The Labor Party, meanwhile, has launched a campaign it hopes will lure disenchanted Kadima voters. Video clips on website feature Kadima members who have left the party - the largest in the Knesset - and joined Labor. The campaign's slogan is "I, too, left Kadima for Labor."

The campaign is aimed at young people using the social media, but also targets older people. Labor activists plan to take part in events aimed at pensioners.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Rabbi Reuven Hammer: "Tradition Today: Remembering Chief Rabbi Hertz" "Tradition Today: Remembering Chief Rabbi Hertz"
By Rabbi Reuven Hammer

The position of chief rabbi in England is certainly one of the most prestigious rabbinical positions in the Jewish world. Both the current chief rabbi and the former were made Lords, not an insignificant achievement. It should be noted, however, that the post – known in England simply the "the chief" – is not really chief rabbi of Great Britain, but chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, the largest organization of Orthodox synagogues. The ultra-Orthodox have their own organization, as do the Liberal, Reform and Masorti movements, none of which recognize the authority of the chief rabbi.

As the United Synagogue begins its search for a new chief rabbi, it is interesting to look back at one of the most celebrated chief rabbis, Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz. Hertz was a graduate of the first class of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York in 1894, before the Conservative Movement as such had been created, but when the Seminary represented the approach of the Historical Positive movement in Judaism that had been founded by Zecharia Frankel. He served as a rabbi in a synagogue in Syracuse, New York, that was identified with that approach as well.

He was chosen as chief rabbi in 1913 and served in that post until his death in 1946. During that time, although he was opposed to liberal Judaism in England, he never denied his Seminary background and surely the open, inclusive attitude that is shown in his writings reflected that.

The Humash that bears his name was the most widely used Torah commentary in English-speaking synagogues for generations and was, for its day, an excellent combination of traditional Biblical commentary and modern understanding. In recent times it has fallen out of favor due to a number of factors. To its misfortune, it is both too liberal and not modern enough.

The Reform and the Conservative/Masorti movements have each produced a Torah commentary reflecting modern Biblical studies and the specific ideologies of each movement. At the same time much of Orthodoxy has moved to the Right and finds Hertz too liberal, preferring the more fundamentalist ArtScroll version.

LESS WELL known is Hertz's commentary on the prayer book which was issued following his death in 1946, although major portions had been published during his lifetime. Unlike the recent Daily Prayer Book of the current chief rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, Hertz's was evidently not intended for synagogue use, but for study purposes and thus never replaced the standard "authorized" Singer's prayer book.

A glance at Hertz's work, however, reveals how startlingly open was his approach. It certainly reflects quite a different time in the history of British Jewry, one in which the chief rabbi felt quite free to utilize non-Orthodox authorities in his commentary and to voice unusual views.

Hertz quotes liberally from non-Jews including William James, Joseph Addison, Matthew Arnold, George Foote Moore and many Christian biblical scholars. Even more startling is the fact that he quotes from non-Orthodox rabbis, including Solomon Schechter and Leo Baeck. He even includes twice a long excerpt from Cyrus Adler, a non-rabbi who was president of the (Conservative) Jewish Theological Seminary of America, calling him "a noble Jew," and also quotes Moses Mendelssohn and Kaufman Kohler, the president of the Reform Hebrew Union College! 

No less daring for his day was his statement that an intensive Jewish education must be extended to "every Jewish boy or girl" (page 120) and his statement that some think the Messiah may be Israel itself (page 254). In his comments to the blessings in the early morning service thanking God who "has not made me a heathen," "not made me a slave," and "not made me a woman," Hertz quotes a Prof. Abraham Berliner, who urged that these three be eliminated and replaced with the words "who has made me an Israelite."

Hertz concludes, "He has rightly maintained that 'to be filled with gratitude to God for having allotted to me the distinction of participating in Israel's mission and destiny, is surely far more expressive than the present negative formula'" (page 21). I agree, but I also wonder if Hertz were alive today, would he be considered as a suitable candidate for the position? 

The writer, former president of the International Rabbinical Assembly, is a twotime winner of the National Book Award. His latest book is The Torah Revolution (Jewish Lights).

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Monday, March 19, 2012

A Response to Peter Beinart from Fran Gordon

A Response to Peter Beinart 
by Fran Gordon

Like many, I cringed when I read Peter Beinart's essay "To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements."  Unlike Mr. Beinart, however, as I write my response to his challenging piece, I do not cringe.  As opposed to a pincer, my counteroffensive to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is a performance of "Sacred Rights, Sacred Song" - A Concert of Concern.  The aim of this creative arts project is to strengthen the modern Jewish democracy through music and song.  Avoiding the problematic B.S.D. campaign, I am leading a movement to engage American Jews to be in a "vigorous embrace of democratic Israel."   Like Mr. Beinart, I am a committed Jew, owning a second home in Jerusalem, I belong to a Masorti congregation in Beachwood, Ohio, sent my children to Jewish school and having just married off my 21 year old daughter in a traditional Orthodox wedding, have obviously instilled in my children a  devotion to the Jewish people.  However, unlike Mr. Beinart, my activism on behalf of Israeli democracy, is not a painful, unnatural act.  Rather, my response is a proactive invitation to American Jews to join with Israelis in the social change movement that I call the modern Jewish Democracy Movement.  The name of my counteroffensive is The Sacred Rights, Sacred Song Project.

While I agree with Mr. Beinart's assertion that the "counteroffensive must begin with language," I would shift the focus of the conversation from distinguishing between "democratic Israel" and "nondemocratic Israel."  This is a harmful conversation and mires modern Zionists in the complexities of the geopolitical, strategic, and military morass presented by settlements, especially those such as Ariel.  Rather than place those who believe in a democratic Jewish state "between the jaws of a pincer", I invite modern Zionists to strengthen Israeli democracy by joining forces with leaders such as Anat Hoffman.  Since her days as a member of Jerusalem's City Council, Anat has been advocating for a Jewish state that reflects the vision of Israel's founders which Mr. Beinert quotes in his essay:  one that "ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex."

Mr. Beinart may well respond that my concern with freedom of religious expression for all Jews, regardless of sex or style of observance, and my concern with the treatment of women in the public sphere, segregated buses, chained women, unequal distribution of taxpayer resources and other such social issues does not measure up to the issues of the settlements.  Perhaps not.  But frankly Mr. Beinart, I prefer to be active in a place that doesn't place me "between the jaws of a pincer."  I am inviting American Jews and Israeli Jews to be involved in conversations about the nature of the Public Judaism of the Jewish State.  Rather than speak about "religious pluralism" and the overempowerment of the Chief Rabbinate, I suggest that we speak about "spiritual civil rights".  We should be drawing the analogy between the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's in America to the internal struggle to protect the spiritual/civil right of the vast majority of Jews in the Jewish world to enjoy being Jewish in the Jewish State.   We should begin to demand a Public Jewish Law that reflects the best of Jewish tradition, one that enshrines and encodes the Core Values of the Jewish People into the civil law of the State of Israel, leaving strict Orthodox law to the private realm where it will not suffocate "the hope of a Jewish democratic state." 

Finally, I maintain that strengthening the Israeli middle in this manner will prepare the Israeli public for the two-state solution.  For Mr. Beinart to claim that "Through its pro-settler policies, Israel is forging one political entity between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea" is just false.  I leave the refuting of that claim to the Israeli government.  I do maintain, however, that strengthening Israeli democracy in a way that is proactive, creative, engaging and otherwise constructive is a much better alternative than the type of Zionism that Mr. Beinart suggests.  I invite those interested in  The Sacred Rights, Song Project to visit the website.  More importantly, I invite Mr. Beinart to consider engaging in a positive, productive conversation with the pro-Israel community rather than one that places him "between the jaws of a pincer."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Yasher Koach to Rabbi Ellen Wollintz-Fields!

Yasher Koach to Rabbi Ellen Wollintz-Fields, 
upon offering the Opening Prayer for the New Jersey Senate voting session 
on Thursday, March 15, 2012! 
[The text of Rabbi Wolintz-Field's prayer is below.]


Let us direct our attention at this time to a power greater than us, which is different for each of us,

because of our various faith traditions, as well as unique and individual for each of us, within the same faith.


I pray to Rebbono Shel Olam, Our God in Heaven, who shows both mercy and justice,

to whom we show gratitude for both the good and the bad. 


We are grateful for each day and moment we spend here on earth,

for as far as we know this life we live is not a dress rehearsal.


Let us use each opportunity that we have to make this world a better place,

especially those elected to serve in this holy place of the New Jersey Senate. 


Our Higher Power, just as we have built Sanctuaries, so that the presence of God can dwell amongst us,

so too here, in the New Jersey Senate, our elected officials have built a holy, sacred space,

so that they can lead the good people of the State of New Jersey, to do the right and just thing.


Our Garden State of New Jersey, is not as depicted on popular TV shows –

whether it be bad reality TV, or fattening baking shows, or HBO Original Series –

we are a state of good, caring, respectable, honest people, who do not use our hands to just fist pump,

but use our hands to help others, to lend a helping hand, to hold our neighbors' hands in time of need.  


We are a state of people of all nationalities, those born in America, those who are recent immigrants,

those waiting to become United States Citizens. 


We are white, black and everything in between. 


Some New Jersey residents live in mansions, and others live in Tents – which make their own cities.


We pray to you God, or whatever higher Power we may believe in, that the good elected leaders of our State of New Jersey,

            remember the holiness in their work;  cherish what makes the residents of the State of New Jersey the same,

and respect what makes us all uniquely different, and strive to help all who live in the state of New Jersey.


O God, watch over our elected leaders so that all their deliberations will be done with good and honest intentions,  

in order that all discussions and decisions will be carried out with genuine and open minds,             

honest and insightful thinking,  caring and giving hearts, and sensitive and sincere souls.


During this month of March, Women's History Month, it is an honor and privilege for me to be invited here

            today to deliver the Opening Prayer for the New Jersey Senate Session.


I conclude by blessing all our elected leaders, and their dedicated staff

and supportive family, friends, and constituents with the holy words of the Priestly Blessing: 


Y'varechecha Adonai v'Yishmerecha             


May God Bless you and Keep You.


Yaer Adonai Panav Elecha V'Chuneka                      


May God cause God's spirit to shine upon you and be gracious to you.


Yisa Adonai Panav Elecha V'Yasem L'cha Shalom.


May the Lord turn God's spirit unto you and grant you peace, and let us all say, Amen. 

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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A Message From Rabbi Alan Silverstein

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the masorti (conservative) movement in israel - promoting religious pluralism and building community through inclusive, traditional, egalitarian Judaism
Dear Friends,
As we sit in the safety of our homes, synagogues and offices, our brothers and sisters in southern Israel will enter into Shabbat in dire peril.
On Tuesday, I sat with our colleague and friend, Mauricio Balter and heard about the horrors of last Shabbat in Beersheva's large and loving Masorti kehilla.
With no advance notice, rockets hit Beersheva at numerous points during early and late Friday night, early and late Saturday morning and throughout the afternoon.
Without a large enough bomb shelter, congregants had to quickly decide "who could and who could not go inside to safety."
Mauricio remained with those who were outside the shelter - lying face down on the floor with his hands covering his head.
Of course, the Bar Mitzvah family canceled their ceremony, since guests from other places throughout the country were too intimidated to attend.
Schools were closed by the municipality on Sunday and Monday, while a fragile "truce" was negotiated.
As we enter Shabbat, what we do in solidarity with our friends and family?
We can and should pray the prayer for "Shalom HaMedinah."
We also should send emails, phone calls and other forms of solidarity communications.
And we should donate funds --- tangibly indicating that we STAND WITH Rabbi Mauricio Balter and Beersheva, with Rabbi Gustavo Surazski and Ashkelon, with Rabbi Gil Nativ and Omer and their communities.
It is time for us to STAND UP AND BE COUNTED.
Shabbat Parah urges us to become cleansed in preparation for Passover. It focuses each of us upon being part of Am Yisrael, suffering under oppression emanating from Egypt and Gaza.
So, too, this year, Shabbat Parah calls upon us to act, to become cleansed of the sin of inaction or indifference and to respond to the call.
I urge each of us to enlist the generosity of our membership in responding meaningfully, by donating to the Masorti Foundation.
Shabbat Shalom,

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;

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chancellor Arnold Eisen: "Israel in Winter"

Chancellor Arnold Eisen: "Israel in Winter"

/ 13 Adar 5772

A friend wondered aloud, as we sat in a Jerusalem restaurant on a mild winter day in mid-February, why it is that books continue to be written, and reviewed in Ha'aretz, asking whether Israel has a future.

"Is there any other country in the world where this could happen?" she said.

None came to mind. Nations routinely worry about all sorts of things: political divisions, economic stagnation, ethnic conflict, and the like. Few, even if they were born more recently than the Jewish State, seem plagued by anxiety about their very survival. Israel will turn 64 this May—the age that had the Beatles asking, "Will you still need me? Will you still feed me?" —and it's not uncommon to read or hear of dire warnings that if something is not done soon about this problem or that (settlements, Haredim, Palestinians, lack of a constitution, divisions between "religious" and "secular," divisions between "right" and "left"), the country will not live much past 70, whether needed or not and no matter how well-fed.

"Oy," one wants to exclaim. "Enough with the doom-saying already. Let apocalypse remain a genre of ancient text and only that. Israel has so much going for it right now. Couldn't we just get on with the daunting business of facing today's problems, and appreciating tomorrow's possibilities, undistracted by worry about whether there will bea tomorrow?"

Two very real threats, one emanating from outside Israel's borders and one from within, seem primarily responsible for the latest bout of fear for Israel's future.

First and most important, there is Iran—a subject much in the news right now, of course, but one about which I heard much less during this visit than I had expected. I suspect that worry about Iran's acquisition of nuclear capability is ubiquitous among Israelis and never far from the surface of conversation or consciousness. How could it not be? Everyone understands the threat Iran poses; they know too that, should Israel attack Iran's enrichment plants, thousands of missiles would almost certainly rain down on Israeli population centers. Casualties would be enormous. Why then so little talk about it? For several reasons, I believe: the danger is too great to ponder, and so it is not pondered; the average Israeli will not have much say in how events unfold and so sees no point speculating; the matter does not lend itself to insertion into ordinary conversation. ("How has your trip been so far? We may lose entire neighborhoods or cities to Iranian missile strikes, you know. What did you think of the restaurant in your hotel? We need these rains, you know. ") It is assumed that a way will be found out of the current impasse, because it must be found. What is more, Israelis generally seem to rely on America to resolve the Iran crisis, with the assistance of Israeli talk about a possible attack. Here in America, by contrast, it seems that Israel is driving events, with the US in a supporting role.

Whatever the reason, the Iranian threat has become part of the so-called matsav, "the situation," which has been the subject of hourly news bulletins for as long as anyone can remember. Israel has rarely known moments of real peace. Everyone agrees that its problems with Palestinians and its neighbors are serious—and no one expects to see a solution any time soon. The matsav is therefore not permitted to interfere with the joys, cares and satisfactions of daily life. Existential danger to the country, for everyone but soldiers on active duty, constitutes one more hassle one learns to handle . This is perhaps as it should be, or needs to be.

I am always struck most by continuity rather than crisis when I visit Israel. The announcer on the morning radio news show was the same one who has been doing the program for decades. Traffic, as always, was worse than ever. The government has been slow in responding to the social protests of the summer. Ministers are under investigation. The sun shone in clear blue skies after drenching rains. Jerusalem, its light rail system finally operating, was magical as ever on Shabbat. Tel Aviv throbbed all the time, except by the sea. Life for my friends, despite all the problems they face, seemed good indeed.

The principal internal threat to Israeli democracy, if not to Israeli survival, seemed uppermost on people's minds this winter: the growth in Haredi numbers, power, and assertiveness. The issue is not so much recent offenses by ultra-Orthodox extremists as the long-term questions of Israel's democratic and pluralist character. Will the State be ruled by the laws passed in the Knesset or by halakhah as interpreted by ultra-Orthodox "Torah sages"? Will soldiers wearing kippot obey orders from their commanders or their rabbis? Will Israeli public space be made to conform with Haredi convictions, a move that infringes particularly on the rights of women? (Buses segregated by gender with women forced to the back, streets divided down the middle like an Orthodox synagogue, women's voices silenced within range of Haredi men's hearing.) The questions are still rhetorical in 2012 when posed by me or those with whom I spent time on this visit. For many Haredim—the fastest growing segment of the Israeli population by far—the desired answer to all the questions I posed might well be different.

A professor of Jewish law at Hebrew University who once headed the office of the chief rabbinate recently published an opinion piece that bemoans and excoriates the recent wave of outrages committed by Haredi extremists. "The time has arrived for radical change." "The only solution that seems plausible, for the good of religion and the good of the State . . . is separation of religion and state." I think he may well be right—but the chance of that happening any time soon is close to nil. There seems broad agreement outside Orthodox sectors that Israel desperately needs a written constitution, but I doubt the American model of separation between church and state is fully applicable to Israel in any case. Judaism is not Protestantism; the relevant unit of covenant and faith in our tradition is not the individual but the family, the community, the Jewish people worldwide. Israel in my view should be the arena where competing visions of Judaism are peacefully contested and consensual ideals of Judaism are put into practice in public life. Restricting Torah to private space and time is not a possibility compatible with the Sinai covenant.

A new survey of belief and practice among Jewish Israelis released last month by the Guttman Center of the Israel Democracy Institute reveals just how complicated the situation is. Only 7% defined themselves as Haredi, and only 3% as "secular, anti-religious." 15% said they are Orthodox, 43% are "secular, not anti-religious," and another 32% eschew those labels and call themselves "traditional." Asked "to what extent do you observe tradition," 26% said to a great extent, 44% to some extent, and only 16% not at all. Detailed questions about observance confirmed this pattern. 94% said circumcision of newborn boys is important, nearly as many said one should sit shivah and say kaddish for deceased parents and have male children bar mitzvahed. Sabbath observance to varying degrees is nearly universal.

The main take-away? Neat divides between "religious" and "secular" are woefully off the mark. I think the categories should be dropped entirely in Israel (as among Diaspora Jews). They tell us little that is important—and turn our view away both from commonalities that should not be missed and from divisions that are all too real and will not be healed any time soon. Israelis are bound by a "covenant of fate" that links them powerfully to the Jewish people and the Jewish past. Questions of faith are not easily avoided.

In Ein Karem, a former village now on the outskirts of Jerusalem, I watched a dozen young Israeli men and women—students at the "secular yeshiva" recently established there—discuss the meaning of words such as secular, holy, Torah, obligation, freedom, and rabbi. Two founders of a project devoted to reviving piyyut—ancient Jewish liturgical hymns—told me of the many choirs that have sprung up all over Israel in the past few years to sing music that crosses and re-crosses the boundary between "secular" and "religious"—just like the members of those choirs. I learned about a "secular prayer" group that has been meeting for some time and about the Friday night service that has taken root at the "secular" moshav of Nahalal, once home to Moshe Dayan. I discussed a new program that explores Jewish values with a range of Israelis drawn from all different walks of life and religious leanings. An Israeli general explained how his entire life, like that of many Israelis, has been shaped by faith that the country he serves evinces a divine purpose. Rationality must loom large in the nation's decisions and the authority of the government, he believes. The army cannot be undermined in the name of Judaism. But neither can the state be separated from God and Torah.

Because of individuals like him and the others I met this visit —thoughtful, dedicated, idealistic, free with jokes about Israel's inadequacies, quietly lending new meanings daily to the word Jewish—I never come home from Israel depressed about the challenges facing the country, even knowing full well just how euphemistic that word "challenges" is in this context. One final example: the soldier who gave a tour of an IDF robotics lab to the "Nachshon" group from Chicago of which I was happily a part for several days. The man was so competent, so bright, so naturally and un-self-consciously proud of his unit and his country. "Look at the talent this country has at its disposal," I said to one of the guys with me on the tour. "It's hard to worry about Israel with that reserve of character and brain power."

I know, I know: there is ample cause for worry; Israel had better face up to the looming threats from within and without, and do so sooner rather than later; complacency will hurt us; time, if we are passive in the face of danger, is not on our side. But it would be helpful, as we face difficulties and seek solution, to stop dividing Israelis into "religious" and "secular," as if those categories are homogeneous or explain much of anything, and it would help still more to cease apocalyptic warnings at every turn that the end is near.

I expect the traffic will still be bad next time I visit and, with luck and skill and Providence, the morning news will sound much the same.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Masorti Foundation: Believe It Or Not!

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Dear Friends,
I've been saying for years that Masorti in Israel is a dynamic, growing movement.
Now, we have solid proof, hidden in plain sight.
Would you believe that more Israelis self-identify as Masorti and Reform than say they are Haredim? What if I told you there is independent data that 30% of all Israeli Jews have been to a Masorti or Reform service?
Where does this information come from?
You may recall an end of January Guttman Center-AviChai report about religiosity and tradition in Israel. There were press reports trumpeting the news that 80% of Israeli Jews believe in God and 76% eat kosher at home.
What Guttman-AviChai did not tell us, and we might not have known but for some thorough reporting by Shmuel Rosner in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, was that 8% of Israeli Jews define themselves as Masorti (with a capital M) or Reform and only 7% say they are Haredi.
Lest you think there might be some ambiguity possible with the self-identity question, here is another one narrowly tailored and with no ambiguity:
"Did you ever attend/did not attend a service or religious ceremony in a Conservative or Reform synagogue?"

In response, 30% said they had attended. While most did so "rarely," it is still quite a significant number. I should also note that although I am a proponent of the use of "Masorti" rather than "Conservative," in this case the use of "Conservative" in the Hebrew removed any element of ambiguity about whether it was Masorti with a capital or lower-case mem.
One final note: the data collection for this survey was in 2009. Especially given the attention Masorti has garnered in the last two years, it would not be unrealistic to think the poll results would be even a bit more positive today.
Click here to read Rosner's report, "Can you believe it? Israel has more Conservative and Reform Jews than Haredi?" (February 23, 2012).
Of course, we still confront the fact the government provides more than $450 million a year to Orthodox programs and institutions and pays the salary of 3,000 or more Orthodox rabbis, while Masorti gets less than $50,000. Without your financial support, we cannot continue to make progress.
Please help us maintain the momentum. You may donate online at, or mail your check to us at: Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 832, New York, NY 10115-0122.
In Canada, please visit
David H. Lissy
Executive Director & 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;

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Check out my new album"Within" on itunes!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Masorti Olami: Jewish Identity in the time of Achashverosh, and today

Tuesday, March 6, 2012                      י''ב אדר, תשע''ב
Jewish Identity in the time of Achashverosh and today



Sitting here in Jerusalem, thinking about the Megillah that Jews all over the world will read several times in the next few days, I am struck by the historical context in which the story of Achashverosh, Esther and Mordechai took place.


We learn in Chapter 2, verses 5 and 6 in the book of Esther, that Mordechai was the son of Yair, who was the son of Shimei, who was the son of Kish, who had been "carried away from Jerusalem with the captives that had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away." In short, we learn that Mordechai was a Diaspora Jew, doing his best to keep up his Jewish identity in a land where Jews were a minority.


Mordechai was clearly not alone; an entire community of Jews lived in Shushan and throughout the provinces of Achashverosh's empire, all of them doing their best to meet the challenges of Jewish life in the Diaspora.


Several thousand years later, Jews today still live in many different communities in many countries around the world. The Haman of today is anti-Semitism, discrimination, isolation and lack of values and identity. Masorti Olami, just like Mordechai, works to support and strengthen Jewish identity, fight anti-Semitism as well as maintain and develop Jewish communities in Europe, Latin America, parts of Asia, Australia and Africa. Our work is meaningful and rewarding as we encounter phenomena of Jewish renewal all around the world.


One example of these phenomena is the Abayudaya community in Uganda, a community of 1,500 local people who converted to Judaism, and today live a traditional Jewish lifestyle according to the values and principles of the Conservative/Masorti movement.


Judy Gray, a long-time Masorti Olami activist, has travelled to Uganda twice in recent years to volunteer with the Abayudaya community, helping them with Jewish identity building programs for their youth as well as other projects. Recently, Israel's Channel 2 prime-time 'Mussaf' magazine show broadcast a report about Judy, her husband Steve, and their work with the Abayudaya. Click below to watch this short video about their work.


Judy & Steve Gray volunteer with Abayudaya   


If you would like to perform the mitzvah of Matanah Levyonim - a tzedekkah gift - this Purim to help support our work with Masorti communities around the world including the Abayudaya, go to for details of how to make a donation online, or the address to send your check.


Wishing you a Purim Sam'each,


Rabbi Tzvi Graetz

Executive Director, Masorti Olami



How are you celebrating Purim ?
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d stories with us ! 
As always we want to know how you and your Conservative/Masorti kehillah celebrate Purim. Send us a few photos and a short description of your celebrations to and we'll include them in our next newsletter.
Check out our Facebook gallery of Purim photos from last year for ideas of how our Conservative/Masorti friends from around the world celebrated.