Rising Streams: Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel

The final section examines the legal status of the movements in Israel regarding specific and practical points of contention: conversion, marriage, access to the Western Wall (Kotel), access to the education system, use of public religious facilities like mikvehs, and burial. While no doubt the symbolic aspect of each is significant, we focus here more on the legal, technical, and practical aspects. We do not relate to functions that do not involve the state or public sphere such as prayer services, textual learning, bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies, circumcisions, etc., as the movements are able to fully and freely operate in these matters.

In large part, access or equality in these various matters, where it exists, has been achieved through the legal activism and lobbying efforts of IRAC where Israeli law does not explicitly mandate that certain issues must be Orthodox or controlled by the Rabbinate. Marriage and divorce are the only matters explicitly mandated under Israeli law as “Orthodox” and controlled by the Rabbinate, and are, thus, the practical issues in which Reform and Conservative Judaism have no authority whatsoever. At the time of this writing, the Government of Israel is seeking to pass a conversion compromise while the Reform and Conservative Movements attempt to advance their rights through the courts and the Haredi parties seek to advance legislation subverting these efforts.

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