The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey is disappointed in the developments that occurred over the weekend in Israel regarding equal access to the Western Wall for all Jews. We are equally disappointed in a new conversion bill, sponsored by the Shas party, that was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation earlier today and has been sent to the Knesset for consideration. This bill changes the status quo of conversion in Israel and would block access to Israel's courts.
The following statement was shared by on June 25, 2017, by Richard Sandler, Chair, Board of Trustees, Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).
I am writing to you from the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meetings in Jerusalem about a two very significant and deeply troubling developments that have just occurred at the Israeli government’s weekly Cabinet meeting.
Early this morning, before that Cabinet meeting, Jerry Silverman and I, sent an urgent letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu urging him to continue to support the concept of “one Wall for one people,” but regrettably, the government voted to suspend its previous resolution approving the Kotel compromise. The government decision did not rescind the original cabinet resolution, but suspended it.
As you know, in January 2016 the Israeli Cabinet voted to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. The decision envisaged an upgraded and permanent prayer area for non-Orthodox services at Robinson’s Arch at the southern end of the Western Wall, along with a redesign of the approach to both this area and the traditional Kotel Plaza and prayer space.
Led by Natan Sharansky, Jewish Federations worked with the religious streams, the Israeli government, Women of the Wall and the Jewish Agency to help reach the agreement. Implementation of the plan was halted due to political pressures. Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky issued a statement which appears in full below. We echo his sentiments.
In addition, a new conversion bill sponsored by the Shas party was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation earlier today and has been sent to the Knesset for consideration. This bill changes the status quo of conversion in Israel and would block access to Israel’s courts.
We urge all Execs to communicate with their local Israel Consul General and share with them the community’s disappointment on the government decision to suspend the Kotel resolution. At the same time, you should urge the Consuls General to communicate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and let them know how disastrous this new conversion legislation would be for global Jewry.
Chair, Board of Trustees, JFNA
The following statement was released by the Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky on June 25, 2017.
“As Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel, and on behalf of our partners, I must express my deep disappointment at today's decision by the Government of Israel to suspend the implementation of its own decision to establish a dignified space for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. Five years ago, the prime minister asked me to lead a joint effort to bring about a workable formula that would transform the Western Wall into, in his own words, ‘one wall for one people.’
“After four years of intensive negotiations, we reached a solution that was accepted by all major denominations and was then adopted by the government and embraced by the world's Jewish communities.
“Today's decision signifies a retreat from that agreement and will make our work to bring Israel and the Jewish world closer together increasingly more difficult.
“The Jewish Agency nevertheless remains staunchly committed to that work and to the principle of one wall for one people.”
Only Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz voted against the resolution to suspend the 2016 Kotel agreement.
The Prime Minister’s Office announced that the Prime Minister has asked Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to lead efforts to come up with a new plan.
We continue to monitor the situation and discuss next steps, and will of course update you with any news of significance.