For those of you not yet aware, I identify with the Mazorti (Conservative) stream of Judaism. Minor jurisprudential differences aside, the most obvious distinction between Mazorti and Modern Orthodox Judaism — and the one most apparent to anyone who actually attends a service of either — is that Modern Orthodoxy maintains the millenia-old archaic Jewish practise of gender segregation, while Mazorti does not. In Orthodox synagogues, I pray in male-only areas and am preached to by rabbis who can only be men, who stand on bimot (pulpits) on which only men can stand and read from torah scrolls from which only men can read. Meanwhile, the women are in a gallery above us where they can be neither seen nor heard. There is something dreadfully medieval about the whole experience, which I have found myself consciously avoiding recently. The Mazorti service has the same feel as the Orthodox one, follows the same procedure and sings the same prayers to the same tunes, the only noticeable difference being that I can sit with all of my family and friends, rather than have half of them forced to be somewhere out of sight on the basis of gender.
Why am I saying this now? Well another Mazorti man — Mati Gill — has written in the Times of Israel against Israel’s current marriage laws, which recognise only religious marriages and places all “Jewish” marriages under the purview of the Haredi-controlled State Rabbinate.
The official Israeli establishment recognizes me as a Jew, just not the way I choose to practice. The government of Israel continues to allow the ultra-Orthodox to fully control all Jewish-religious life in Israel.
They don’t accept that I prefer to pray in places of worship that allow women to take an active and equal part.
I am not allowed to choose the rabbi I wish will marry me one day.
When I pass away, the ceremony with which I will be buried will be dictated to my loved ones. I cannot choose the rabbi and cannot ask that I be eulogized by a female …
My sister Hadara and her fiancé Noam grew up, like me, as Conservative Jews. They went to a traditional high school and were active in the local Conservative youth movements, which were affiliated with the affluent Rama program. They will be wed this summer by a rabbi of their personal choosing in their own community of Kfar Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Their wedding will not count. Our family and friends will watch them stand below the huppah, reciting all the traditional blessings and text, sign a ketubah, exchange rings and break the glass. But their marriage will still not be recognized as Jewish. They will, absurdly, need to wed somewhere overseas in front of a civil judge in order to obtain marital status in Israel. Yet, still, their marriage will not be recognized as a “kosher” Jewish marriage.
This situation is absurd, discriminatory and isolatory. Ironically, the Israeli political party most dedicated to ending it is Yisrael Beitenu, with whom I disagree on most of their Putin-esque policies. When the majority of Jews in the world do not identify as Orthodox, howe does it make any sense to exclude them from Jewish ceremonies in Israel? Surely that will only isolate the Jewish people from the Jewish homeland.
The Orthodox community in Israel is clearly moving in a direction that no one else agrees with. Their domination of the State’s Jewish institutions needs to end.