Progressively Speaking: Israel’s prejudice against non-Orthodox Jews

Progressively Speaking: Israel’s prejudice against non-Orthodox Jews

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein gives a progressive Jewish view on a topical issue

Rabbi Goldstein is Senior Rabbi of Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue

Rabbi Dov Haiyun was detained last week for performing a non-Orthodox wedding
Rabbi Dov Haiyun was detained last week for performing a non-Orthodox wedding

I write on the eve of our family holiday to Israel, the destination insisted upon by our daughters who had not been for two years. They are turning out to be passionate Zionists like their parents and grandparents.

They know, from conversations and from time with Israeli friends including Christian and Muslim Arabs, about the prejudice within Israeli society toward non-Jews.

However, they were astonished to learn Progressive Jews are prejudiced against Israeli Government law and policy too.

Acting on a hitherto-redundant law, police detained, at 5:30am, an Israeli Conservative (Masorti) rabbi, Dov Haiyun, for officiating at a chuppah. In Israeli law, a chuppah outside the Chief Rabbinate is illegal and invalid. Ironically, by detaining Rabbi Haiyun, the Chief Rabbinate validates this as a chuppah!

I doubt further action will be taken, but this brief detention exemplified the corrosion of politics when infiltrated by religion. It also highlighted the fact Progressive Judaism is not afforded the status in Israel it is throughout the diaspora.

I love Progressive Judaism and the land and state of Israel. It pains me that the Israeli Government does not love me or Progressive Judaism.

Some may struggle to understand why many young Jews across the denominations, as part of their Zionism, seriously and publicly question the Israeli Government and its policies on a multitude of issues.

Seeking to police Judaism in Israel, as the Israeli Government has sought to do, will further isolate the country from many passionate Zionists. That is why, together with 15 Liberal, Masorti and Reform colleagues, I recently demonstrated under a chuppah outside the Israeli Embassy in Kensington.

We wanted to demonstrate our outrage at Rabbi Dov Haiyun’s detention. We wanted to let Israel know the perversity of disallowing Israeli Jews to marry religiously as they choose.

In the UK, Progressive Judaism is proud to be part of the continuity of Judaism, providing Jewish marriages. We must continue to work to ensure equality of religion in Israel.

Israel is a model for so much good. One hopes it will have the humility to admit when it can learn from the diaspora.

  • Aaron Goldstein is rabbi of Northwood & Pinner Liberal Synagogue


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