American Reform Movement Allocates Funds to Expand Its Efforts Among Israelis

Funds from a special campaign among American Reform congregations are being allocated for the hiring of two additional rabbis in Israel, starting this fall, which will bring the number of full-time liberal rabbis there to five, according to a report by Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch, director of the Israel Committee of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

He reported that the funds being received from a campaign seeking $1 from each Reform congregant were being transferred to the World Union for Progressive Judaism for that purpose. He reported also that the money will be used to raise the salaries of rabbinic staff members in Israel, to set up “an equitable personnel plan” and to increase subsidies to the seven Liberal synagogues in Israel to enable them “to expand their programming and acquire better physical facilities.” Details of the program were reported in the current issue of “The Voice,” issued by the Reform Jewish Appeal, which raises funds for the UAHC and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reform seminary.

Rabbi Hirsch added that funds also were being allocated to establish a national budget for the Board of Progressive Synagogues in Israel and to finance a joint advertising campaign in Israel for holidays and special events.

He disclosed also that the UAHC Israel committee had allocated funds for an Office of Youth Activities in Israel which will coordinate all programs for American Reform Jewish youth in Israel. He said the new office also would assume “responsibility for the development of an indigenous youth movement of Progressive Judaism in Israel.”

He reported also that he had learned of a study of attitudes of young Israelis indicating that most of them, when asked what they were, “preferred to identify themselves as Israelis, rather than as Jews.’” He said the study, being made by a Hebrew University sociologist, whom he did not identify, showed also that young Israelis tend to associate the word “Jew” with religion and with Jews outside of Israel and that “Israeli” identifies them “and their own nationhood.” He added that the study also indicated that “the average young Israeli admits condescendingly that religious expressions of Judaism are good for Jews outside of Israel because they help to keep Jews alive but he sees no place for the institutions or forms of religion in Israel.”

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