Rising Streams: Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel

The movements have probably been most active and successful in providing Israelis with non-Orthodox alternatives for conducting life-cycle events – namely weddings and bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies. The Reform Movement estimates that it conducts about 500 weddings a year and about 2000 bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies within the official communities. The Conservative Movement estimates that it conducts about 250 wedding ceremonies a year and 1200 bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies. The vast majority of the participants are non-members who engage with the communities on a “pay-per-service” basis. There are also an estimated 300 hundred weddings conducted yearly that might be officiated by a Reform or Conservative ordained rabbi but are not conducted officially through the movements.34

The movements also conduct conversion ceremonies in Israel. The Reform Movement converts around 250 people in Israel a year; the Conservative movement conducted 160 conversions in 2016. Although these conversions are not recognized by the Rabbinate, the Interior Ministry recognizes non-Orthodox conversions undergone by Israeli citizens (mainly from the former Soviet Union) and registers the individual as Jewish.

In addition to these conversions, the Reform Movement conducted around 400 lifecycle event ceremonies in 2016 – including funerals, circumcisions and pidyon ha-ben.35 The Conservative Movement conducts roughly 500 such lifecycle ceremonies each year, including around 100 burials. (See figure 5 for lifecycle events.)

To be sure, the number of life-cycle ceremonies conducted by the non-Orthodox movements pales in comparison to those conducted in Orthodox synagogues or by the Rabbinate (e.g., ~37,000 Orthodox weddings versus ~1000 Reform or Conservative weddings a year).