Pluralism in Israel

A Social Justice Primer for Teens and Parents

The Broader Issue

Israel’s system of government is based on parliamentary democracy, and in practice operated under secular law. Additionally, each of the major religious communities (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc) has their own religious court that maintains jurisdiction of religious practices. The Jewish court, the Chief Rabbinate, uses Orthodox guidelines to dictate Kashrut, Sabbath, holy sites, and rituals such as marriage, burial, and more.

Orthodox guidelines are not representative of the majority of Jewish Israelis, however. While approximately 81% of Israeli adults identify as Jewish, only 18% consider themselves Haredi (Ultra Orthodox) or Dati (Religious), meaning the decisions made by the religious and spiritual authority do not resonate with a majority of Israeli Jews. Some of these rules, such as laws of Kashrut, do little to impact the daily lives of Israelis who opt out of religious observance; some, such as the requirement that all legal marriages must be conducted within the Orthodox rabbinate, have significant repercussions on intimate decisions; some, such as the prohibition of women from praying at the Western Wall, bring politics deep into personal religious identities.

The movement to enhance and secure pluralism in Israel aims to achieve equal recognition of the breadth of religious practices, encompassing the full range of sects and movements within Judaism.

The Reform Movement Position

It is the position of the Reform Movement that all Jewish practice be recognized by law in Israel, including, but not limited to: pluralistic governance of holy sites, recognition of non-Orthodox marriage, and recognition of non-Orthodox conversion.

Guiding Questions

  1. What does the word Zionism mean? What does it mean to you? How do you balance your Reform Judaism in America with your connection to a homeland in Israel? How are the two integrated in to your belief system?
  2. What are some of the human rights/civil rights topics in Israel you’ve learned about? Did you know they were issues in Israel, before this? If so, how did your stance change on them after this? If not, what did you learn and how did it impact your thinking about Israel?
  3. How can you, as a teen, influence the reality of Pluralism in Israel?
  4. What resources do you need to help you make a difference in these issues by addressing them in your own community?

Taking Action & Learning More

Raising awareness is the first step, but in order to affect real change, ongoing, tangible action needs to be taken. Your family, and your teen, may consider some of the following options to take their learning to the next level:

  • Visit ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America, for strategies to make your voice heard within the Progressive Jewish Movement.
  • Consider spending your summer with Mitzvah Corps Israel, exploring religious pluralism and social justice.
  • Find additional resources for teens from NFTY, the Reform Youth Movement.