This past month, the Israel Democracy Institute published new statistics on the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism in Israel. This new poll only goes to prove what the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) has been witnessing in the field, all over the country, day after day. The movements for Reform and Conservative Judaism are firmly placed on the Jewish identity map of Israel, and it shows its citizens are embracing our belief that there isn’t only one way to be a Jew.
The poll found that more than 7% of the Jewish public in Israel, nearly half a million Israelis, define themselves as Reform or Conservative. Similar findings also appeared in the Jewish Identity Survey conducted by the Institute two years ago. Although the IMPJ welcomed the results of that previous survey, many of their findings were widely criticized. This led to the current poll which focused on these two movements.
Why is this important? This poll once again shows that hundreds of thousands of Israelis are looking to express their Jewishness and connect to their Jewish heritage and tradition, in a liberal and pluralistic way. Our communities are there to answer the need for those who wish to celebrate a Gay Pride Shabbat, be part of social justice activism, and perform works of loving kindness and tikkun olam, the repair of our broken world. Our rabbis are providing an inviting, respectful and welcoming atmosphere for thousands of Israelis along their journey to become Jews by Choice. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis are with us in our struggle for freedom of marriage and divorce in Israel.
In fact, our growing numbers are proof that the citizens of Israel are willing to join hands with us to continue to lead Israel Jewish renaissance and strengthen its democracy. Most importantly, for the millions of Jews in the Diaspora, we are their home in Israel.
As we begin the month of Av, we are reminded that it includes both sinat chinam (baseless hatred) and ahavat chinam (unconditional love). We hope that over the coming years Israel’s society will succeed in exchanging the spirit of Tishah B'Av - the spirit of controversy and hate, with the spirit of Tu B'Av – the holiday of love – with mutual respect and a renewed connection between all the tribes of Israel.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, executive director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, has been a leader and advocate on behalf of liberal Judaism in Israel since 1998.