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Mercaz Satisfied with Plans for Conservative-style Worship at Absorption Centers in Israel

June 5, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Officials of the Conservative Zionist movement, MERCAZ, at a meeting of the MERCAZ board here, lauded the decision of the Aliya Department of the Jewish Agency instructing directors of absorption centers in Israel to arrange for worship services in both the Conservative and Reform modes at the request of new settlers, Rabbi Stanley Rabinowitz, MERCAZ president, reported yesterday.

A resolution approving the order, issued by Raphael Kotlowitz, head of the Aliya Department was approved by the 25 members of the MERCAZ board at its semi-annual meeting here Monday, Rabinowitz said. The formal title of the Conservative Zionist movement is “The Movement to Reaffirm Conservative Zionism.” Rabinowitz said the 25 board members are equally divided between rabbis and lay leaders.

Rabinowitz said Kotlowitz’s order, issued last April, was in the form of a memorandum to directors of absorption centers and community centers for new olim. He quoted the directive as declaring, “It is the policy of the executive of this (Aliya) department to facilitate these services, if the demands for it come from a reasonable number of olim who live in that particular center.”

When that happens, the memorandum continued, “it is the manager or director” who must “make available a suitable place for those who are interested.” The memorandum set restrictions however, presumably needed because of Orthodox dominance of religious activities in Israel.


The memorandum said it was not permitted to announce the Conservative and Reform services or “publicize these announcements in the newspapers, or to send written invitations” to the worship services to Conservative and Reform Jews who do not live in the centers. The memorandum also instructed that “in those (absorption) institutions in which the olim ask for a Seder according to the Conservative or Reform style, a suitable place must be made available to them on the condition that all the food must be fully kosher.”

The MERCAZ board members approved another resolution viewing “with alarm” a request by the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem that the World Zionist Organization stop certifying Conservative and Reform students in its courses in Jerusalem for Israelis who will serve abroad. They are taught shechitah (ritual slaughter) and Brith Milah (ritual circumcision). Rabinowitz said the training program had been in operation for the past three or four years with no ban on Conservative and Reform students. He said that, to date, no such ban had been enforced.

He observed that there are presently 35 Conservative congregations in Israel, each served by a Conservative rabbi and a total of 120 Conservative rabbis have settled in Israel, all members of the Rabbinical Assembly, serving in a variety of functions, including teaching.

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