Friday, June 30, 2017

Kotel For Everyone

After listening and reading to non stop comments on the cancellation of the Kotel Agreement, and the impact it may have on the unity of the Jewish people, I thought that I should add my own 10 Agurot to the discussion.

The Reform Leadership was insulted by the Israeli Government. This was a deliberate and calculated insult from the Charedi parties that have been politically fighting the Reform movement since it was created in Germany over a hundred years ago.

However the insult was only aimed at the Reform Leadership. It does not impact Egalitarian prayer at the Kotel which as been happening since 2000 (actually much earlier) at the southern part of the Kotel, the area near Robinson's Arch in the foreground in the picture above (picture from 1865).

Over the past 15 years, the prayer area by Robinson's Arch has been expanded considerably, and there are plans to further increase the size and accessibility of this area. The Masorati (Conservative) movement provides prayer books and Torah Scrolls in the area, and it is available for Bar or bat Mitzva ceremonies ( This has not changed with the cancellation of the Kotel Agreement.

What has changed is that the Reform leadership will not get government recognized rights over this area in the same way that the Orthodox Rabbinate are recognized as the administrators of the large Kotel Plaza immediately to the north or Robinson's Arch  (the area beyond the wooden supports in the picture above) .

Quite rightly, the Reform leadership feel insulted, however I think that their response could be very damaging to their own membership.
There have been reports that the Reform leadership are threatening to decrease political and financial support to Israel. This is very hurtful to Israel; although thank G-d Israel is less reliant on the political and financial support from the American Jewish Community (which is tiny compared to the Support Israel receives from non-Jewish groups like Christian Zionists), however the Reform Jews are our family, and is never nice when members of a family cut ties with one another.

However, this cutting of ties could do serious damage to the Reform movement itself.
One of the biggest challenges of Jewish communities abroad is how to keep their membership active and involved. Unfortunately many Reform Jews do not have a daily connection to Judaism, they do not keep kosher or Shabbat, many do not attend regular services, and many are not familiar with Jewish history, literature, and customs.
One of the areas where many Reform Jews are still connected to the Jewish people is their support for Israel. The Reform leadership should be looking at ways to increase this connection, not because Israel needs it, or the Charedi parties love them, but for the sake of their own constituents.

Instead of threatening to reduce ties with Israel, the response of the Reform leadership should be to show the world how important their connection to Israel and the Kotel is. They should encourage all their members to visit Israel regularly, they should try and get all families to consider the Kotel a far better location to celebrate a Bar Mitzva than an expensive events hall.

If the Reform movement manged to bring thousands or tens of thousands of Bnei Mitzva and other groups to the Egalitarian Prayer area at the kotel every year, that would not only strengthen the connection of their own members to Israel and to the Jewish people, but would force the government to further increase the size and accessibility of this area, and give them a much stronger negotiating position next time the Kotel issue comes up before the government or court system.

Lets hope that over the coming years Israel, Jerusalem, and the Kotel continue to serve as a source of unity for the Jewish People (in spite of our differences), and not an excuse to throw insults at one another