It was like theater: A conversation about a new book seemed to turn into a live version of the book. As soon as we began talking, the two co-authors, both rabbis, were conversing as friends, but disagreeing with each other all the way.
Reform Jewish officials announced plans this week to raise $50 million over the next decade to build synagogues and community centers throughout Israel as part of an aggressive and ambitious new strategy to boost the movement worldwide.
The announcement by Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, executive director of Reform's Zionist and international arm called ARZA/World Union, comes as North America's largest Jewish denomination begins its biennial convention in Orlando, Fla.
A spate of vandalism against Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel has non-Orthodox leaders worried about a new, intensified level of physical violence against them by Orthodox opponents.
The concern by both American and Israeli leaders is being expressed following a window-breaking attack last week against the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem — the second attack at HUC in less than a month.
Two weeks ago, vandals torched a Conservative synagogue in Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood.
As Israel’s fourth prime minister in four years begins to stitch together a new parliamentary coalition, some American Jewish leaders are cautiously optimistic that Ehud Barak will fulfill campaign promises and usher in a new era of religious pluralism in the Jewish state.
Reform and Conservative leaders are threatening to hit Israeli politicians where it hurts — in the pocketbook — for supporting a new two-pronged legislative attack aimed at blocking non-Orthodox efforts to gain equality in Israel.
In this sudden escalation of Israel’s religious pluralism war, non-Orthodox leaders this week angrily denounced the Israeli Orthodox coalition’s aggressive political maneuvers to try and prevent Reform and Conservative representatives from taking their seats on local religious councils.
Talk about your rocky starts. Israel’s new multi-denominational committee to create a joint religious conversion institute held its first board meeting Monday, but things immediately went wrong.
As an act of protest, the Conservative movement refused to send its official representative to the government-sponsored panel.
On Sunday the rabbis kept the prime minister waiting.
In 1997, during the height of the debate in Israel over the "Who is a Jew?" issue (which religious standards would determine converts' status as Jews) Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch led a delegation of American Reform rabbis to Jerusalem "literally overnight."
The rabbis' plane landed five hours late. Whisked from the airport to the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu late at night, they found the Israeli leader still working.
"He waited for us five hours," Rabbi Hirsch said.
In the end, the fight over whether Reform and Conservative leaders could sit on powerful religious councils in Israel apparently turned on a Talmudic loophole. By a vote of 50-49, the Knesset this week adopted a bill crafted to keep Reform and Conservative representatives off religious councils, which dispense millions of dollars to religious institutions throughout the country.
As the Labor Party reaffirmed its intention to stay out of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new government, the chairman of the secular Shinui Party spoke of joining: and for the first time softened his demand that government handouts end for fervently Orthodox men who don't work.
"You have to do it gradually," Shinui leader Tommy Lapid told The Jewish Week. "We don't want to cause unnecessary suffering to large families. But people who are able-bodied men should go and work.