Human rights, freedom of religion, mutual respect for each other’s rabbis and rites, and good citizenship are values dear to the vast majority of Jews around the world (“Conversion Crisis Could Threaten Pro-Israel Effort,” July 23).
The king-making power of the Israeli haredi political parties has resulted in coercive government religious policies that trample on these values. These policies include privileging Orthodox marriage and divorce law, which deny an agunah’s human right to establish a family, criminalizing women’s Torah reading at the Kotel, and tolerating state-subsidized buses that relegate women to the rear. And now the Rotem bill rewards and further empowers haredim, who for years have obstructed the Neeman Commission’s conversion institute, which accorded a measure of respect to all streams of Judaism.
Israeli Jews’ religious identity is being hollowed out as they eschew the politically entrenched but ethically unappealing state-sponsored haredi version of Judaism with its stone-throwing on Shabbat, education that produces economically dependent adults, evasion of army service, violent gender discrimination at the Kotel, and misogynistic rabbinical courts. The haredi strong-arm political tactics are also threatening diaspora Jewry’s ties to the State of Israel. Jews in Israel and around the world want to be inspired by and proud of the religious, spiritual, political, legal and social values exemplified by the State of Israel.
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin and the Rabbinical Council of America are wrong when they counsel diaspora Jewry to refrain from voicing their opinions on these matters. Jewish identity and Jewish unity are at risk. For the sake of Zion we must not be silent.