The Israeli government will soon start paying non-Orthodox rabbis. This news, as it appeared in bold letters in my morning paper, literally put a smile on my face. Not because I am Reform or Conservative, or anything, but because I am really proud of my Israel finally growing up.
We are a start-up empire, we have the best sportsmen, we have a world-wide recognized culture, and a solid economy. By looking into all of these, Israel defiantly seems like a developed, modern country. However, even in 2012, it is run by Orthodox law. Since 1948, the Jewish state firmly condemned all other Jewish streams, by not recognizing them. The Orthodox law, supported by the Orthodox ministers in the Knesset, allowed the Orthodox stream its monopoly. This monopoly made the enlightened Israel, modern in every other way, old fashioned and medieval.
Earlier this week, the Attorney General’s office advised the Supreme Court Tuesday that Reform and Conservative rabbis in some parts of Israel will be recognized as “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities” and will receive wages equal to those of their Orthodox counterparts. Only 15 out of 90 Reform and Conservative Rabbis will enjoy this privilege, and this doesn’t yet allow total legal recognition of those non-Orthodox Jewish streams (Non- orthodox weddings will remain unrecognized by the state, and same goes for non-Orthodox conversion). Still, this may be the first step out of the Dark Age lasting from 2000 bc to today. Orthodox Judaism, while being the foundation of Judaism, is a bit old fashioned, unwilling to move forward with time. When it comes to people at their homes, I believe anyone can do whatever he/she wants and believes in behind closed doors. But when an Orthodox law is leading a country, it becomes everyone’s business.
The official recognition of Reform and Conservative Rabbis as Jewish communities’ leaders is what I hope to be the first significant step towards a fundamental change. The true recognition of Judaism as a religion of all people who desire to be Jewish, as they follow their own Jewish beliefs. One thing I strongly believe in is that a religion, any religion, is what you believe it to be. A religion is a belief. I, for instance, don’t keep Shabbos, and I don’t think this makes me any less Jewish, though I’ve been told so several times. The Reform summer camp I worked in last summer seemed very Jewish to me, just as much as any Orthodox Yeshiva. I believe God sees all Jewish people as equal, no matter what Jewish path they choose to follow. All you need is faith.