Here in America, many religious fundamentalist would like nothing more than to create a theocracy in which their religious views and social standards become the law of the land. Wanting to insure the “Jewish character” of the new State of Israel in 1948, the very secular first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, established a Ministry of Religious Affairs. The Ministry has the right to determine: who is Jew, who is a rabbi, who can marry whom, what synagogues are entitled to government funding, which schools are providing a “real” religious education and should be funded by the State, who can be buried in a Jewish cemetery, what constitutes a legitimate conversion to Judaism, etc. etc.
Because of Israel’s very dysfunctional political system, every government since the State’s founding has had to grant control of the religious life in Israel to some of the most right-wing, fundamentalist Orthodox Jewish groups in the world. The result is that non-Orthodox streams of Judaism are not recognized. A non-Orthodox rabbi can conduct a wedding ceremony in almost every country in the world, EXCEPT the Jewish State of Israel. In fact, of late, even some “modern” Orthodox rabbis are also being denied the right to convert people to Judaism.
Hopefully, a time will come soon when the people of the State of Israel will demand that their government discontinue right-wing Orthodoxy’s monopoly on religious life. A real democracy does not dictate religious beliefs or standards.
The Masorti movement is a traditional, egalitarian religious movement in Israel, affiliated with the worldwide Masorti/Conservative movement. It is guided by halakha (Jewish law) and an open and pluralistic approach to contemporary scholarship, Jewish living, democratic ideals and Zionism. Learn more at WWW.MASORTI.ORG