The Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia consists of over 135 rabbis affiliated with the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Renewal movements, as well as those who are not affiliated with a movement. We are dedicated to the proposition that all Jews are worthy of care and respect. We model pluralism and collegiality in our activities and programs because we believe strongly that our Jewish values teach us, among others, Vahavta Lere’akha Kamokha, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
We are, then, very troubled and disappointed by two recent developments in Israel, where we are deeply connected by bonds of love and loyalty across time and space. The first is the suspension of the agreement on broadening access to one of Judaism’s most sacred site, the Kotel (Western Wall). This agreement was carefully drafted through years of negotiations between representatives of different streams and movements of Judaism, and it was a model of compromise between different groups of Jews who disagreed on much but who managed to agree on the importance of respecting each other’s needs for prayer and worship according to their particular beliefs and customs. The second is the introduction of a new bill in the Knesset that would limit the authority to enact conversions to a very small group of state-sponsored rabbis, disallowing the conversions of many of our Orthodox colleagues and all of our non-Orthodox colleagues.
Both of these developments send a distressing message of disrespect and intolerance that may have far-reaching consequences for the relationships between different kinds of Jews. As a group of diverse rabbis who share a deep love and commitment to the State of Israel, we urge our sisters and brothers in Israel to reconsider these moves and to instead find ways to bring the Jewish people together through respect for our differences, rather than allowing those differences to continue to divide us.