Reform Rabbis Demand Separation of Religion and State in Israel
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Reform Rabbis Demand Separation of Religion and State in Israel

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American Reform Judaism was called upon today to strongly protest the lack of separation of church and state in Israel “which continues to impede the free development of a non-Orthodox Judaism in that country.”

Three speakers at the 75th annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, meeting here, urged an intensified program to assure full religious liberty for all religious groups in Israel. The three rabbinical leaders sharply criticized Reform Judaisms “cautious” approach in dealing with the issue but disagreed on approaches and techniques in handling the problem. The speakers were Rabbi David Polish, Evanston, Ill.; Rabbi Albert S. Goldstein, Brookline, Mass.; and Rabbi Richard C. Hertz, Detroit.

Rabbi Polish said: “Reform Judaism is failing in its prophetic calling. We can no longer escape the contradiction of an American Jewry fighting for the separation of church and state in this land while acquiescing to a quasi-theocracy in the State of Israel.”

“The time has come to remonstrate not once but persistently, lest we desert and alienate beleaguered free spirits in Israel,” Rabbi Polish continued. “Conscience is being throttled in Israel, and because of the fiction of non-involvement, we in the Diaspora have been until recently silent and overly cautious.” A conspiracy of silence enshrouded the spreading scandal of religious repression in Israel, and out of a specious respect for the principle of non-intrusion, we did not protest.”

Rabbi Hertz and Rabbi Goldstein agreed on the need for Reform Judaism to press for the complete separation of church and state in Israel. At present there are five Reform or Liberal congregational groups in Israel. They are affiliated with the World Union for Progressive Judaism.


Reform rabbis throughout the United States and Canada have been sent questionnaires in a new research study of mixed marriages and conversions in a search for means to cope with the problem, it was reported at the convention last night.

Rabbi Hillei A. Fine of Harrisburg, chairman of the CCAR Committee on Mixed Marriage, told his Reform rabbinical colleagues that the questionnaire asks each rabbi to provide data on the history of mixed marriages performed during a period of up to ten years.

Data sought includes information on the number of conversions to Judaism by the non-Jewish partner before and after the wedding ceremony, on couples in which there was no conversion but who were members of the rabbi’s congregation, the rabbi’s personal attitude toward performing mixed marriages and on what happens to couples when a rabbi refuses to perform a wedding because the non-Jewish partner refuses to convert.

The rabbis also are asked to give their views on the CCAR position on the issue. The CCAR opposes performance of weddings in which there is no conversion to Judaism but does not forbid members to perform such weddings. Most Reform rabbis will not officiate at such a wedding ceremony.

Rabbi Fine also reported that a special study was currently being conducted of all marriages during the month of June in St. Louis. Rabbis, ministers, priests and others have been asked to give information on whether the officiant was the first choice of the couple being married, if not, what the first preference was, and what the reason was for the preferred officiant’s refusal to perform the marriage.

Rabbis of the five Reform congregations in St. Louis have also been asked to list the number of marriages at which they were unable or unwilling to officiate, with a summary of their reasons. A full summary and analysis of the study was adopted to be ready in September 1967.

Rabbi Leon Fever of Toledo, CCAR president, called on the organization to provide “greater financial resources” for an expanded program on research into the problems of mixed marriages as a step in meeting the “increasing threat” of Jewish assimilation in the American community. He suggested that the CCAR Committee be authorized to consult with similar agencies of Orthodox and Conservative Judaism on the problem “which is surely of mutual concern.”

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