Misunderstanding Diaspora Jews


With regard to Stewart Ain’s article (“MK, Non-Orthodox Clash On Conversion,” May 7) and MK David Rotem’s assertion that “he denied promising to withdraw the [conversion] bill if he failed to win the support of … leaders … here,” I can tell you I was present at four of his meetings and he often made just such a statement. It was then generally followed by the comment he would tell the olim from the former Soviet Union to blame the Americans for the lack of progress.

The sad part of Rotem’s visit was not that we failed to agree, but that it became clear he simply does not understand diaspora Jewry. Thus, when he says we should not care about his bill because it does not affect conversions here (a statement which is not clearly certain) he fails to understand our link to and deep concern for the Masorti and Reform movements in Israel as well as our commitment to pluralism in Israel.

If giving “responsibility” for conversions to the Chief Rabbinate were as “meaningless” as Rotem tried to assert, he would not have been so resistant to acceptance of clarifying language.

Finally, as to suggestions for how to improve the proposed bill, Rotem is reported to say we made none. In fact, we repeatedly said he should consult with our colleagues in Israel as we did not think it our place to negotiate for them the specifics of the Knesset bill. What Rotem seems to want to do is separate us from our Israeli partners. That will not happen.

Executive Director and CEO

Masorti Foundation

for Conservative Judaism in Israel