Tuesday, June 16, 2015


I've been having an exchange of letters with President Rivlin and his representative about the recent controversy related to the proposed B'nai Mitzvah service, which was originally supposed to be led by a Conservative rabbi.  Here is the correspondence:

Dear President Rivlin:

In 2010 my wife and I made Aliyah from Sacramento, California.  We now live on Rehov Harlap, within 100 meters of Beit HaNasi.  I gave up a highly successful business in Sacramento, and we left our family and friends in California to live in our homeland, Israel.  Our youngest child, our daughter, also made Aliyah around the same time.   We sold our 300 meter suburban home and the three of us now live in a 50 meter apartment that is three flights up with no elevator.

Prior to making Aliyah I was President of Sacramento’s Conservative (Masorti) synagogue.  My wife had been President of the local Jewish Federation.  We were both active supporters of AIPAC and were active in many other ways in the Jewish and pro-Israel communities.  No one in either the Jewish or the general community ever questioned our Jewishness.  No one ever considered us other than first-class and full Jews.

But here in Israel, because I am a Conservative/Masorti Jew, I am treated as less than a first-class, full Jew.  My movement is treated differently than the Orthodox movement.  My rabbi cannot preside at the wedding of my daughter.  I am constantly told that I am less of Jew.  Despite my commitment and my sacrifice, my Judaism is questioned.

Your recent refusal to host a B’nai Mitzvah ceremony with a Conservative/Masorti rabbi is a painful, bitter disappointment to me.  Since you became President, I have admired your work to reach out to Israeli minority citizens and to encourage all Israelis to feel equal and included.  But to me, a committed Jew, you joined the rest of the established powers and said “No, you are not completely included as part of the Jewish people in Israel.  Because you are a Conservative Jew, you are not equal.”  Your message is a terrible blow.  When you should have continued to lead toward an inclusive, equal, tolerant Israel, you instead reinforced an unequal, exclusive, painful Judaism in Israel.