We Have a Say in Israel?


This article from the JTA is far too short, but let’s our imaginations run wild:

A substantial majority of Israelis want the country’s lawmakers to consider Diaspora Jewry when devising new legislation on Jewish identity issues, according to a poll.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents to a survey carried out last week by the Ruderman Family Foundation agreed that it was extremely important for members of the Knesset to consider Diaspora views, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The 509 Israeli adults were answering the question, “How important do you believe it is for Israeli lawmakers to consider the views of Jews in the Diaspora when creating legislation such as ‘Who is a Jew?’ ”

According to The Jerusalem Post, the poll was administered ahead of an event sponsored by the Israeli-American Jewish Knesset caucus in order to raise awareness on the important relationship between Israel and world Jewry.

Wow. Can you imagine what would happen if every single person who converted under Reform, Reconstructionist, or Conservative guidance in the Diaspora contacted Israelis, imploring them to view non-Orthodox conversions as “just as Jewish” as Orthodox conversions? Can you imagine what would happen if every single child of an intermarriage contacted Israelis, urging them to see their families, bar or bat mitzvahs, and marriages as “just as Jewish” as the child of inmarried parents? Can you imagine what would happen if every single Jewish organization that welcomes, includes, or otherwise supports interfaith families contacted Israeli organizations and explained their reasons for being welcoming, inclusive, and supportive of interfaith families in Israel?

77% of Israeli respondents think Diaspora Jews need to be kept in mind when Israeli law defines “who is a Jew.” Interfaith families are Jewish families in the Diaspora – and should be recognized as such in Israel as well.

[sub](Hat tip to Jeremy Burton's tweet, alerting me to this article.)[/sub]

One thought on “We Have a Say in Israel?”

  • Dear Benjamin:

    I appreciate your thought that adult children of intermarriage should contact Israelis on “who is a Jew” issues and try to get them to do something about Israel’s poor attitudes towards interfaith families and conversions.

    I and my group, the Half-Jewish Network, have been doing this for several years. My experience has been mixed. First the negative experiences and then the positive experiences.

    The negative — I have begged, pleaded with and all but groveled — and sometimes rebuked Israelis — on these issues. I have implored them to stop referring to half-Jewish people in ways that are very demeaning and to be more supportive of us on “who is a Jew” issues both in Israel and the Diaspora.

    But some Israeli Jews simply don’t think like Diaspora Jews or even non-Israelis of other faiths. They don’t share many of our common assumptions about how societies should operate.

    One Israeli secular scholar who was trying to cut a deal with the ultra-Orthodox on “who is a Jew” issues proposed that I publicly throw my group’s weight behind a deal that would make patrilineal Jews “real Jews” in Israel — if my group would support a provision in a proposed Israeli constitution permanently banning gay marriages.

    I explained that Americans don’t trade one group’s rights for another group’s, and that a friend of mine is a patrilineal gay Jew — I couldn’t throw him under a bus.

    Another Israeli scholar of some influence told me bluntly — when I urged him to tone down condemnation of Ethiopian Jews as not really Jewish — that he was sick of having Diaspora Jews ship black Jews to Israel and that all Israelis want are “Anglo” white Jewish couples from the U.S. and England with funds.

    Knesset members ignored my emails entirely, I suppose because I am not an Israeli. The Israeli government ignored my emails.

    A liberal Israeli commentator living in the U.S. wrote me that I must understand that the Israeli situation is “complex” and Israel will never be a democracy in the way that the Western democracies understand democracy.

    That was not a good message. Multiply these encounters by dozens!

    Now for the good news — there are three Israeli Jewish groups who would are fighting for the rights of interfaith couples and half-Jewish people and would love to hear from Americans in interfaith families.

    They need your money and would gladly direct your emails to the correct figures in the Israeli power structure on the “who is a Jew” issue:

    1. Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism at:


    2. Association for the Rights of Mixed Families (in Israel):


    3.  New Family:


    They would love to hear from American Jews in interfaith families. Your donations and emails would be put to proper use.

    Robin Margolis

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