Thursday, June 10, 2010

Conservative and Reform Leaders Meet with Sharansky and Silverman

Conservative and Reform Leaders Meet with Sharansky and Silverman
The Jewish Federations of North America convenes discussion on proposed Knesset conversion bill

The leaders of the Conservative and Reform religious movements in North American Jewry met Tuesday with Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky at a meeting hosted by Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America.
This followed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent request that Sharansky dialogue with Diaspora leaders on issues of mutual interest. Sharansky initiated this week's discussion after he met with Conservative and Reform representatives in Israel to discuss their concerns about proposed legislation in the Israeli Knesset regarding conversion to Judaism.

Netanyahu last week wrote to the Conservative and Reform movements that any proposed legislation would ensure the unity "of the entire Jewish people." This week's meeting, which Silverman hosted, included Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement and Dr. Misha Galperin, the Jewish Agency's incoming head of Global External Affairs.

The rabbis repeated their concern that no single religious stream has authority to oversee or approve conversions. Sharansky assured the participants that he would communicate their views to the Prime Minister and would work with the Knesset to ensure that any legislation moving forward would reflect these concerns.

"This has been a very constructive start to an important dialogue," Sharansky said. "The Jewish State is a state of all Jews and the Government of Israel must balance its political concerns with the concerns of the Jewish people the world over. I am engaging in dialogue with all relevant parties at the request of the Prime Minister, fulfilling the Jewish Agency's historic role as the nexus between world Jewish communities and the State of Israel."

In March, a controversy erupted over proposed amendments to a bill intended to create local municipal conversion courts in Israel.

The amendments would, for the first time, place legislative authority for conversion under the offices of the Chief Rabbi. Leaders of Diaspora Jewry and the religious streams objected to the amendments that placed conversion in the hands of one religious stream because conversion is, by its nature, directly linked to the Law of Return and is therefore a matter affecting the world Jewish community.

"Since this issue arose, the Jewish Federations have partnered with the Jewish Agency to represent the concerns of Diaspora Jewry. By hosting this gathering of key partners in the religious movements, we are helping to ensure that our community is acting in unison to shape the best outcome," said Silverman.

The Jewish Agency, which has on its board representatives of the major Jewish streams, has long served as the body representing the Jewish world to the Government of Israel on matters concerning world Jewry.

Media Coverage of the Conversion Bill

Coverage of recent developments:
MK, Non-Orthodox Clash On Conversions, The Jewish Week, May 4th.
Conversion Division, Letter to the Editor by Reuven Hammer, The Jerusalem Post, May 4th.
Pulling the wool over our eyes, by Andy Sacks, The Jerusalem Post, May 3rd.
U.S. Jews Fight Israeli Laws On Conversion, Huffington Post, May 5th.
Free-market Judaism, Editorial by The Jerusalem Post, May 3rd.
Israel Conversion Bill A Hard Sell To U.S. Jews, The Jewish Week, April 27th.
Jewish Leaders Oppose Conversion Bill, The Jerusalem Post, May 2nd.
She doesn't live here anymore, April 30th
Morris Allen's response to "She doesn't live here" article. May 4th

No comments: