Religion and State in Israel – December 24, 2007

By ,

Religion and State in Israel special edition
December 24, 2007
Editor – Joel Katz

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

International Conference on Contemporary Reform Judaism: Sociology, Education and Theology
Van Leer Institute, Jerusalem
December 24-25, 2007

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Halakhah and Ritual in Reform Judaism
Chair: Yotam Benziman
Michael A. Meyer, Transformations in the Religious Service and in the Character of Reform Synagogues in the United States
Dalia Marx, The Ma’amad: The Search for Liturgical Authenticity in the Israeli Reform Youth Movement
Shai Wozner, Examining Reform Halakhah: Reflections on Rabbi Zemer`s Sane Halakhah
Mark E. Washofsky, Reform Halakhic Decision-Making: Law and Rhetoric in the Life of a Liberal Jewish Community

Gender Perceptions: a Critical Examination
Chair: Rachel Elior
Paula E. Hyman, The Influence of Feminism on the Reform Movement (English)
Ariel Picard, Halakhahic Discourse in the Reform Movement: Homosexual Marriage as a Test Case
Yakir Englander, The Perception of Homosexual Sexuality in Reform Halakhah and its Influence on Rulings

The Influence of Reform Judaism on Other Groups and Movements
Chair: Yochi Fischer
Adam Ferziger, Between Enemy and Brother: Reform Judaism in Contemporary Orthodox Discourse
Jack Wertheimer, “Loyal Opposition?” – The Posture of Conservative Judaism vis-à-vis Reform (English)
Moti Zeira, The Fourth Movement – Its Connection with or avoidance of Reform Judaism

Respondent: Michael Marmur

Concluding Session – Israeli Society and Reform Jews
Chair: Avinoam Rosenak
Aviad Hacohen, Reform Judaism and the High Court of Justice: A Cultural, Legal and Social Analysis
Yehuda Maimaran, The Traditional Jew and Reform Judaism
Asher Cohen, Integration Problems of Reform Judaism in Israel: Socio-Cultural Analysis

Respondent: Anat Hoffman

Concluding Remarks
Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie

CLICK HERE for Live Coverage of International Conference on Contemporary Reform Judaism: Sociology, Education and Theology

Rabbi Eric H.Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism:

“The fact that important researchers and world-renowned scholars are attending a conference that is taking place in Jerusalem reflects the growing standing of the Reform movement in Israel.”

Orthodox rabbi to oversee Reform conference in Jerusalem
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz

Prominent Reform movement supporters in New York maintained that the conference in Jerusalem will have practical implications for the movement’s future standing in Israel.

The impression they gave was that this conference marks the beginning of a process of recognition for Reform Judaism in Israel – a process that bypasses the Orthodox rabbinic establishment in Israel, which utterly rejects the movement’s presence in the country.

Van Leer Institute to host first ever Reform Judaism conference
By Neta Sela,

Dr. Aviad Hacohen, Dean of the Shaarei Mishpat Academic College, objects to what he sees as the overwhelming number of petitions Reform leaders have filed with the High Court.

“Reform Judaism’s use of legal channels through which it has filed several dozen petitions in the past 20 years has not brought them the results they had hoped for.
In a way, it has even damaged their position in the eyes of the legal community as well as the general public.”

“The vast appeals to the High Court has worsened the image of the (Reform) movement in the eyes of the public in Israel.”

He thinks the movement does not have a real following and sees their appeals to the High Court as a pathetic attempt to be admired by the Court, a goal which was also not attained in most cases.”

The differing emphases of Judaism’s 3 streams

The Reform and Conservative movements have had shaky foundations in Israeli society, due in part to the monopoly enjoyed by Orthodox Judaism on state funds and official recognition.
However, both non-Orthodox movements have experienced significant growth in recent years.

Both will devote special sessions to the reasons for their relative weakness in Israel compared to in the US.

Progressing slowly

Dr. Asher Cohen, of Bar-Ilan University’s political science department, will speak about Reform Judaism’s absorption difficulties in Israel from a socio-cultural point of view.

“From a pure socio-cultural analysis, we see that the number of congregations – some 26 around the country – hasn’t changed in the past decade and I think this data speaks for itself.”

Israel Religious Action Center head Anat Hoffman rejects most of Cohen’s conclusions.

“We do not define ourselves according to numbers.”

“This is a very narrow look at the sea of Judaism and this is not our way. We have taken it far beyond that, to the notions of justice and equality.

Reform shies away from homosexual rabbis, study reveals


In another research paper to be presented at Van Leer, Dr. Aviad Hacohen, rector of the Sha’arei Mishpat Law College, found that the Israeli Reform Movement failed in most of its legal battles in the Supreme Court.

Instead of putting more emphasis on building communities and less on legal battles, the Reform Movement in Israel has tried to improve its status vis-à-vis the Orthodox establishment by appealing to equality before the law.

Hacohen argued that only did the Reform Movement fail to make major headway, it also hurt its own image. About 90% of its Supreme Court petitions were rejected, thus reaffirming the Orthodox monopoly.

In addition, the lost battles in the Supreme Court presented the movement as rootless in Israeli society. The movement appeared pathetic in its failed attempts to win the Supreme Court’s sympathies, Hacohen wrote.

Religion and State in Israel is not affiliated with any organization or movement.

Please send your comments or suggestions to

No comments yet.

Your Thoughts