Virtual immersions for virtual conversions?

My prayer for Israel is that someday it will be a country where all Jews get along together, where there is respect for religious pluralism and different points of view.  Unfortunately, Israel has a LONG way to go.  If you agree with the sentiments expressed in my below letter to Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon, I encourage you to send a similar one.  Feel free to "borrow" my wording.  Things will only change if we succeed in making our voices heard.

Reb Barry

To: ‘
Cc: ‘
Subject: To Ambassador Ayalon

Dear Ambassador Ayalon:

I am writing to protest very inappopriate remarks by a member of the Israeli government, which demonstrate a serious insensitivity to the views of millions of non-Orthodox Jews both in Israel and around the world.
MK Yitzhak Cohen, who has been put in charge of religious affairs by the government of Israel, recently remarked concerning the court case of the Masorti Movement for the right to use government sponsored mikvaot for conversions, "Conversions of reform and conservative organizations are virtual conversions, and they deserve to immerse in a virtual immersion. This is a vexing petition. The only immersion the reform are aware of is Baptism. So they can continue to walk on water and leave the people of Israel alone."
As a Conservative/Masorti rabbi in the United States, I am deeply offended by Minister Cohen’s ignorant remarks.  The conversions my colleagues and I preside over are conducted according to the same manual, the Shulhan Arukh, that the Orthodox use.  They are very real conversions.
My family and I are making aliyah next year.  Mr. Cohen’s remarks make a very nice "welcome to Israel" to all Conservative Jews considering coming to Israel, whether for vacation or to make aliyah.
The Conservative movement was the very first movement to embrace Zionism–we were Zionist in the early part of the 20th century, back when both the Reform and Orthodox thought a Jewish state was a bad idea.  As sincere and loyal supporters of the State of Israel, we demand that the government officially repudiate these words and rebuke Mr. Cohen. If Mr. Cohen does not then apologize for his words, he should be dismissed from his post. He cannot represent Israel on religious affairs if he cannot learn to respect religious movements in Judaism.  Israel is home for all Jews, not just the ones whose theology meets with Mr. Cohen’s approval.
Rabbi Barry Leff
Toledo, Ohio

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Keep me up to date, sign me up for the newsletter!