Will Pluralism Be On the Jewish World’s Agenda in 5770?

The subject of religious pluralism is again making news in Israel. Just two weeks ago, JAFI head Natan Sharansky criticized Religious Affairs Minister Ya’acov Margi over funding comments. Now comes word of a new public opinion survey where a majority of Israelis were found to be against the status quo.

Released yesterday by Hiddush, a new educational/advocacy organization dedicated to religious freedom and equality, the survey found that 83% of Israelis maintain that freedom of religion and conscience must be upheld in Israel.

Seen as a partnership between Israeli Jews and world Jewry, “the new organization’s intention is to have an impact on Israel’s direction and the global Jewish agenda in the year ahead.”

Hiddush, which in Hebrew means innovation and renewal, is led by Israel based Rabbi Uri Regev, Esq. as president and CEO, and chaired by Los Angeles Jewish communal leader Stanley Gold.

Some of the survey’s key findings include:

  • 84% of secular Jewish Israelis think the state should grant equal status to all 3 major streams of Judaism (Orthodox; Reform; Conservative);
  • 84% object to the current system of mass exemption from army service for men who study in yeshivas;
  • 92% of secular Israelis support ending the ultra-orthodox monopoly on marriage; 95% of new immigrants from the Former Soviet Union;
  • 64% of all Israeli Jews support introducing civil marriage and/or Reform/Conservative;
  • 72% of Jewish Israelis object to the current policy of making conversion to Judaism contingent on observing the Sabbath and Kashrut (ritual dietary laws) and retroactively revoking conversions for not fully observing Sabbath/kashrut;
  • 66% of Jewish Israelis believe that Israel should take into consideration the opinions of world Jewry on matters of law of return, conversion, marriage and matters of religion & state;
  • 80% of Jewish Israelis object to the gender-segregated Mehadrin bus lines, public bus lines that segregate women and requiring that they sit in the back;
  • Tension between secular and ultra-orthodox is second in importance, after Arab-Jewish tensions, and double that of the tension between left and right or between poor and rich;
  • 71% support reducing financial support given to yeshivas and large families (5+ children) in order to increase participation in the workforce;
  • 60% of Jewish Israelis support the separation of religion and state in Israel.