Jews' Next Dor

Congregation Beth David's Young Adult Group for Jewish 20 & 30 Somethings

Help Oppose the Rotem Bill

Posted by moshez on July 15, 2010

You can read more about the Rotem bill in the Forward article.

Rotem’s bill originally was intended to ease the conversion process within Israel and make it easier for non-Jewish Israelis of Soviet extraction to obtain conversions and marry within Israel.

Despite its intent, opponents warned that the bill would consolidate control over conversions in the office of the Chief Rabbinate and drive a wedge between Israel and the Diaspora by carrying the risk that non-Orthodox conversions performed in the Diaspora could be discounted in Israel. In addition, they said the bill would affect the eligibility of converts for the Law of Return, which grants the right to Israeli citizenship to anyone who is Jewish or at least has one Jewish grandparent.

Here is a message from the Congregation Beth David Rabbis:

Dear Friends,

An important issue affecting our movement and world Jewry is currently before the Knesset. We urge you to read this urgent letter from Rabbi Wernick and to write Prime Minister Netanyahu about your concern on this
issue (link below).

Rabbi Daniel Pressman
Rabbi Aaron Schonbrun
Rabbi Philip Ohriner

_____

Dear Friends,

I write to you from Jerusalem after a long and exhausting day.

Together with Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, Rebecca Caspi, director general of the Jewish Federation’s Israel office, colleagues from the Reform and Masorti movements and a handful of others, I spent the day at the Knesset lobbying cabinet ministers and members of Knesset against the Rotem bill.

We met with almost 40 different people in a variety of venues, many public, to express our anger, hurt and great concern over the divide this bill is capable of creating between the Jewish people should it become law. Some of
the Israeli leaders with whom we met are Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein, Opposition Leader Tzippi Livni, and MKs Shlomo Molla, Mofaz, Peretz, Shai, Bar-On, Schneller, and more. We concentrated our efforts on the Likud, Labor, and Kadima parties. Jerry Silverman met with Deputy Minister Ayalon and Rotem.

For the reasons we’ve already elaborated our primary goal is to defeat this bill, but since we cannot be sure of this r ight now our immediate goal is to prevent it from being brought to the Knesset plenum for a vote during this session, which concludes on the evening of Wednesday, July 21. That will give us a few months of respite to continue to work collaboratively with the Israel government to address the issues and concerns about
conversion.

During our meetings with Israeli leaders the following points became clear:

1. The primary focus of our efforts must be on Prime Minister Netanyahu. Because he is the leader of the government a clear and public statement by him in opposition to this bill is essential. His continuing to avoid a position amounts to tacit approval. Therefore all our efforts to contact him directly through key supporters and to email petitions and letters must continue through Wednesday evening.

2. We must get as many people as possible to send this email to Prime Minister Netanyahu.  We must spread it as widely and as quickly as possible. So far more than 8,000 emails have been sent. We have to keep them coming!

3. We have to place ads in Israeli papers, especially the Russian speaking papers, this weekend. They must both educate and advocate. The Jewish Federations is working on this now.

4. We must continue to speak out against this bill in the Israeli and international press.

5. It is essential that we rally support in North America. These efforts, led by Rabbi Julie Schonfeld and others, are very much noticed here in Israel, and they matter.

6. Teaching Israeli leaders about Diaspora Jewry, and about Conservative Judaism in particular, must be a long-term goal. I am shocked by how little so many of them know about us.

Let me conclude with just a word about the tremendous collaboration that is happening as we strategizing and lobby Israeli officials on this most important matter of Klal Yisrael and Diaspora-Israel relations. This is
truly a worldwide effort, many people from North America, South America, Europe and Australia working together with great ease and commitment to each other, to the Jewish people, and to Israel.

I am remaining in Israel until the close of the Knesset on Wednesday, and working with Rabbi Schonfeld. I will continue to brief you from Jerusalem on our efforts. Keep the pressure up.

Thank you,
Rabbi Steve Wernick
International Executive Vice President and CEO

The Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley has more on this issue.

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