Israelis voice support for non-Orthodox, but want Diaspora Jews to butt out


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Expanding the role of non-Orthodox Jews in Israel has long been a primary goal of American Jewish organizations, and it appears that a majority of Israelis now agree with them.

According to a survey carried out by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research at the Israel Democracy Institute, 57 percent of Israeli Jews polled indicated that Reform and Conservative Jews should be able to offer their own religious services in Israel. A full half of respondents supported the government providing funding to these denominations “according to their share of the population.”

The Israeli government supports Orthodox religious institutions, while the haredi Orthodox-controlled Chief Rabbinate has a monopoly on issues ranging from marriage and divorce to Kosher certification.

At the same time, fully half of those polled stated that the State of Israel should not take Diaspora Jewry into account when making decisions. Thirty-eight percent disagreed and 12 percent said they did not know.

“The relationship between the state of Israel and the Diaspora suffers from an internal dissonance,” said IDI Vice President Yedidya Stern. “On the one hand, at least on the declarative level, the recently passed Nation-State Law includes an explicit commitment to the Diaspora. On the other hand, in practice with regard to the provision of religious services, the state disregards the majority of Diaspora Jewry who belong to non-Orthodox streams of Judaism. This de facto non-recognition by the State of non-Orthodox streams conveys a message of disrespect and exclusion, thus widening the rift among the Jewish people.”

Meanwhile, while the share of religiously observant Jews is projected to increase dramatically in the coming decades, at the moment only some 38 percent of Israeli Jews say they keep kosher. Sixteen percent say they only keep kosher at home and eat non-kosher food outside.

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