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Conservative Movement Announces New Aggressive Stance in Israel

Conservative Judaism’s new active program in the spheres of religion and education in Israel is aimed at strengthening pluralism in that country and guaranteeing the freedoms assured its citizens in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, two Conservative leaders declared here.

Dr. Gerson Cohen, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and chairman of the Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel, and Dr. David Gordis, the Foundation’s executive director, addressed 2,000 delegates attending the national biennial convention of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism.

Cohen said “there is already religious pluralism in Israel, but we are seeking to make that pluralism perceived. Above all, the Conservative Movement is concerned to see that the authoritarian hold that the Orthodox rabbinate exercises over many aspects of Jewish life and institutions is broken, allowing other forms of religious expression to gain official recognition and legitimacy.”

Gordis, contrasting the new dynamism of Conservative activity in Israel with the passive stance of the past, observed that “According to the Israel Declaration of Independence, all of Israel’s citizens are assured freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture. We will do everything we can to ensure that this equality be given not only to all people of other religions, but also to all Jews in Israel, including Conservative Jews.”

The Foundation far Conservative Judaism in Israel, created this year, embraces all arms of the Conservative Movement, including the Women’s League. It will coordinate the activities of and provide a cohesive program to which the Movement is already committed in Israel. It includes the establishment of the first Conservative kibbutz; the opening in the fall of 1984 of a rabbinical training program in Israel for Israeli Conservative rabbinical students.

Also, expansion of the publication “Jerusalem News-letter” in Hebrew and English; creation of a Conference Center to bring Israeli and American families together in Israel for educational programs; opening more Conservative synagogues in addition to the 40 which now exist in Israel; and enrichment of youth, educational, Women’s League and other programs in Israel.

Gordis said the decision to “no longer stand on the sidelines” will “force the Conservative Movement to define what we exist for. This is what both Israel and the Movement require.” The movement is important not only for Conservative Jews but for Israel, Gordis maintained.

“As a Jewish State, Israel must connect with Jewish tradition for all Jews. Israel is the principal arena in which Jewish life today is being worked out, and we as a movement must participate wholeheartedly in creating Israeli society, ” Gordis said.

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