JERUSALEM (JTA) — American rabbinical students from the Conservative movement were prevented from holding afternoon prayers in the Knesset synagogue.
The students, who attempted to hold the service on Tuesday, were told that the synagogue is to be used exclusively for Orthodox prayer services, the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel said in a Facebook post.
The students were at the Knesset for a discussion of personal status issues and how the absence of religious pluralism in Israel directly undermines the country’s democracy and security.
The students were offered an alternative venue at the Knesset for their services, Haaretz reported. According to Haaretz, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein told the group that egalitarian prayer is not allowed in the Knesset synagogue.
Also participating in the program were rabbinical students from the Reform movement’s Abraham Geiger College in Berlin, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia and Hebrew College, a pluralistic school in Boston.
“A lot of the students were very upset and shocked,” Rabbi Joel Levy, director of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, told Haaretz. “You’d think that the Knesset would be a place of ingathering of the Jewish people, but actually we learned that it has boundaries that don’t include liberal Jews. Paradoxically, this decision served as an appropriate end to our conversation about religion and state in Israel.”