Reform Judaism is welcome in Israel — not the new American version of Reform Judaism

Non-Orthodox streams of Judaism have made amazing leaps and advances since I first arrived in Israel in 1970.

According to sources in the Israel Ministry of Religious Affairs, there are now about 15,000 families now affiliated with 64 Conservative and Reform Jewish synagogues  Israel, all of whom receive some public funding from  the Israeli government and/or the Jewish Agency.

What gets little attention is the fact that Israeli Reform Movement will not accept the new standards of Reform Judaism in America.

Israeli Reform Judaism does not recognize “patrilineal descent” as  a legitimate determinant of Jewish identity.

Reform Jews in Israel recognize Jewish identity through the mother, not the father.  Nor does Israeli Reform Judaism allow interfaith marriage.

Yet the standard report in the media is that the Orthodox Jewish establishment stands alone in rejecting Reform Jewish religious practice abroad.

The time has come to realize that the American Reform Movement has taken steps that alienate their movement not only from Israeli Jews who follow normative customs of Jewish tradition, but that they have also cut themselves off from Israeli Reform Jewish practice.

The time has come to ask American Reform Jews to cope with their own movement in Israel which rejects them.

When my Reform cousins from the US and Canada visit a Reform synagogue in Israel and asked to be called to the Torah, they are asked a question that they are not asked at home: Is your mother Jewish?

All this begs the question: Will American Reform Jews start protests at HUC on King David Street in Jerusalem with the same gusto that they demonstrate against the Orthodox Rabbinate in Jerusalem?

About the Author
David Bedein, who grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Israel in 1970 at the age of 20, is an MSW community organizer by profession and an expereinced investigative journalist. In 1987 he established the Israel Resource News Agency, with offices at the Beit Agron Int’l Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also serves as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research. In 1991, Bedein was the special CNN middle east radio correspondent. Since 2001, Bedein has contributed features to the newspaper Makor Rishon. In 2006, Bedein became the foreign correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. He is the author of " The Genesis of the Palestinian Authority" and "ROADBLOCK TO PEACE- How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA policies reconsidered"and the director and producer of the numerous short films about UNRWA policy which can be located at: