A consultation meeting held on Sunday by the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) drew a range of response to an initiative from the Israeli government.
Attendees described sitting among a cross-section of the Jewish community, hearing a range of “passionate” ideas about how best Israel can address some of the country’s ideological concerns.
Board of Deputies Senior Vice-President Laura Marks said: “Opinions varied, with big disagreement among participants as to the extent to which the State should legislate Judaism on people, but we’re all on the same side.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is trying to establish a formal state framework rooted in the ideal that Israel is committed to be both Jewish and democratic.
“This possible new constitutional arrangement could have far-reaching ramifications for World Jewry,” said a JLC statement. “We have agreed to collect and articulate the perspective of our community.”
On some issues, it may be difficult to speak as one, with members of Liberal Judaism fully recognising that they had submitted “an uncompromising response” to the consultation, arguing that Israel “should value dissent”.
Representatives from the Board, BICOM, Yachad, New Israel Fund and United Synagogue discussed which core Jewish and democratic values Israel must insist on having, and what principles should guide Israel’s actions when it has to choose between “Jewish” and “democratic”.
“Diaspora Jews often feel that their views are not wanted,” said Marks. “The fact that the Israeli government has asked us what we think has built bridges.”