JFNA AND THE WESTERN WALL : UPDATE :US Jews plan campaign to get Israelis in their corner,:

US Jews plan campaign to get Israelis in their corner, reverse Western Wall ‘sucker punch’

After meeting with Netanyahu, Federations head Jerry Silverman outlines two-pronged strategy to unfreeze pluralistic pavilion; will also fight conversion bill

BY AMANDA BORSCHEL-DAN June 27, 2017, 3:14 pm

Jerry Silverman, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, at the 2012 General Assembly in Baltimore, Maryland (photo credit: JFNA/JTA)Jerry Silverman, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, at the 2012 General Assembly in Baltimore, Maryland (photo credit: JFNA/JTA)

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Amanda Borschel-Dan
Amanda Borschel-DanAmanda Borschel-Dan is The Times of Israel’s Jewish World editor.

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While the Reform and Conservative leaderships canceled scheduled meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week in the wake of his announcement of a freeze of the “historic” January 2016 government decision for a Western Wall pluralistic prayer pavilion, the head of the Jewish Federations of North America did not.

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“We are the representatives of the entirety of the Jewish communities and I thought it important that he [Netanyahu] hear directly from the communities,” JFNA head Jerry Silverman told The Times of Israel from the Knesset on Tuesday.

Now, said Silverman, he and other Diaspora leaders are determined to fight back — to have the Western Wall deal implemented as originally agreed, and to challenge the government’s new conversion bill.

The meeting on Monday with the prime minister “was truly a meeting of listening. The prime minister was very interested in hearing and listening… He was incredibly respectful and open to hearing everyone’s response at the table — with no filters,” said Silverman.

Like many other leaders of Diaspora Jewish communities, Silverman is currently in Israel to take part in the Jewish Agency’s annual Board of Governors meeting. He said that he was blindsided by Netanyahu’s announcement on Sunday to freeze the Western Wall plan, one that the prime minister himself had initiated and, after three and a half years of negotiations, in January 2016 had dubbed “One Wall For One People.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, February 28, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, February 28, 2015. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

“To see the agreement go into dormancy for 18 months, and then in one day to have it frozen for political reasons, is feeling like you were sucker-punched and completely devalued,” said Silverman.

“It is a direct insult,” he said.

In the aftermath of Sunday announcement, Silverman and the other leaders have vowed to fight for the plan’s implementation. At the same time, they are struggling against a conversion bill making its way through the Knesset which would centralize all conversions with the chief rabbinate of Israel — an increasingly ultra-Orthodox institution.

Although the leaders are still examining what steps should be taken, there is a tentative two-pronged approach: to raise public awareness among Israeli citizens about the importance to Diaspora Jewry of the pluralistic pavilion and independent conversion courts, and to increase lobbying pressure on members of Knesset and government ministers.

“We are developing a strategy for a campaign to convince the Knesset and all Israelis as to the reasons why the Kotel [Western Wall] plan is so important,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 25, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 25, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Silverman said the federations, working in tandem with the Jewish Agency, plan to bring “influencers” to explain the importance of the two issues, the Western Wall and independent conversions.

“We’re going to put forth a real campaign to tell our story and fight it back,” he said. He said the federations are hopeful the “government gets creative” in restructuring the conversion bill, as it has when similar laws were threatened in 1987, 1997 and 2000.

Although some 85 percent of the Jewish communities represented by JFNA are not Orthodox, many federations, he said, support and fund the relatively new Giyur Kahalacha movement, which allows for conversions according to Orthodox Jewish law (halacha), but outside the bureaucracy of the chief rabbinate.

In 2016, Giyur Kahalacha performed more than 400 conversions, which constitute 20 percent of Orthodox conversions (outside of the Israel Defense Forces) performed in the State of Israel, according to Rabbi Seth Farber, the head of Giyur Kahalacha.

Efrat's Rabbi Shlomo Riskin officiates at a conversion examination for the Giyur Kahalacha conversion court, November 2015. (courtesy)

Efrat’s Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (center) officiates at a conversion examination for the Giyur Kahalacha conversion court, November 2015. (courtesy)

“The first year shows a real positive trend which we see from the data at Giyur Kahalacha,” said Silverman. (Whether the pending bill will also influence Reform and Conservative conversions in Israel, he said, is still not clear.)

As the Jewish leadership finalizes its strategy, more details will be forthcoming, said Silverman.

“The fact is that we’re one Jewish people. Period. That’s who we are,” he said.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

BIBI ; THIS IS OVER REACH

The Jewish people owes much to the haredi world – for its heroic efforts in salvaging Jewish life after the Shoah, for its self-sacrifice, for its dedication to Torah. But that gratitude cannot obscure the deep ideological conflict that exists between the haredim and the mainstream of the Jewish people, including many religious Zionists.

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-tragedy-of-the-western-wall/

“JFNA is deeply disappointed over the Israeli government’s recent decisions to freeze the 2016 compromise ov er egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall and to give the Chief Rabbinate a monopoly over Jewish conversion,” the orga nization said in a statement

Conservative Jewry, US federations decry ‘deplorable’ Western Wall reversal

Masorti movement sees ‘rising influence of an intolerant religious establishment as existential threat to future of Jewish people’

BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF June 26, 2017, 11:30 pm 1

Men and women of the "Women of the Wall" organization wear prayer shawls and pray on the plaza near the Western Wall in Jerusalem on July 8, 2013. (Zuzana Janku/FLASH90)Men and women of the "Women of the Wall" organization wear prayer shawls and pray on the plaza near the Western Wall in Jerusalem on July 8, 2013. (Zuzana Janku/FLASH90)

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The Conservative movement on Monday slammed the “deplorable” cabinet decision to shelve plans for a pluralistic worship area at the Western Wall, adding its voice to a chorus of criticism over the reversal of the hard-won agreement

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A statement from a collection of leading Conservative groups also lambasted the Knesset’s initial approval of a bill that would cement the ultra-Orthodox monopoly on conversions.

“The Conservative/Masorti movement, speaking as a whole, deplores this action, yet another failure to uphold an agreement reached after years of negotiations,” the organizations said of the Western Wall deal reversal.

The statement was sent on behalf of the Rabbinical Assembly, The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Mercaz Olami, Masorti Olami and the Masorti movement in Israel.

“Because we love Israel, and see the rising influence of an intolerant religious establishment as an existential threat to its future and to the unity of the Jewish people, we will not rest until these decisions not only are overturned, but also until Israel fulfills the promise of its Zionist origins and founding declaration to ‘ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex’ and to ‘guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture,’” the statement read.

The cabinet on Sunday suspended a government-approved plan to establish a pluralistic prayer pavilion at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, which was to have had joint oversight by all streams of Judaism, following calls by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition allies to scrap the deal.

In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said that Netanyahu instructed Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman and Likud Minister Tzachi Hanegbi to formulate a new plan for the site.

It also said construction work on the southern edge of the Western Wall plaza — where the pluralistic prayer pavilion was slated to be built — would continue uninterrupted.

Earlier in the day, Yizhar Hess, head of the Conservative movement in Israel, wrote in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily that he regretted reaching a compromise with the government over the issue.

One of the many negotiation meetings leading up to the January 2016 Western Wall compromise. Here at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, with former Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit (black jacket), Rabbi Steven Wernick, head of United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, executive director on the Masorti Movement Yizhar Hess (glasses) , and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, head of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly. (courtesy Yizhar Hess)

One of the many negotiation meetings leading up to the January 2016 Western Wall compromise. Here at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, with former Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit (black jacket), Rabbi Steven Wernick, head of United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, executive director on the Masorti Movement Yizhar Hess (glasses) , and Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, head of the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly. (courtesy Yizhar Hess)

“We made a mistake. We believed the government, we believed the prime minister, we believed that we needed at last to end this squabbling among ourselves over the Western Wall, and we agreed to a compromise arrangement,” he wrote. “But the Cabinet’s decision last night — a cynical, even wicked decision — took this historic agreement and threw it in the faces of millions of Jews around the world.”

The Jewish Federations of North America also condemned the government’s decision.

“JFNA is deeply disappointed over the Israeli government’s recent decisions to freeze the 2016 compromise over egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall and to give the Chief Rabbinate a monopoly over Jewish conversion,” the organization said in a statement.

The statement came as Netanyahu met with federation leaders to discuss the Western Wall reversal and the cabinet’s approval of the bill granting the ultra-Orthodox a de facto monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel.

No statement was issued by either side following the meeting.

The Western Wall plan was approved by government ministers in January 2016.

The cabinet decision to freeze it on Sunday coincided with a High Court of Justice deadline for the state to respond to petitions on its failure to implement the agreement and construct the mixed-gender plaza near Robinson’s Arch by this week.

The conversion bill, which was propounded by the ultra-Orthodox parties, would pull the government’s recognition of private conversions, namely those not conducted by the Chief Rabbinate.

The approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday gives the proposal coalition support, although an appeal against it by the Yisrael Beytenu party could undermine its chances of advancing

AJAY WHAR IS THS ? IS THIS FULLISHE? IS THIS SILLY? TEL ME ALL I ASKED , REGARDS, HOTMAN

Government official says work on pluralistic Western Wall space continuing

Cabinet secretary says Netanyahu supports all Jewish streams praying as they wish, accuses critics of not paying attention

BY STUART WINER AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF June 26, 2017, 6:28 pm

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, January 29, 2017. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman during the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, January 29, 2017. (Ohad Zwigenberg/POOL)

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Stuart Winer
Stuart WinerStuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

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Cabinet Secretary Tzachi Braverman said Monday that preparations for a pluralistic prayer section at the Western Wall in Jerusalem were continuing at the explicit instruction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite widespread hand-wringing after a cabinet decision on Sunday froze a previously approved plan regarding the site.

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Referring to a barrage of criticism from across the liberal Jewish world directed at Netanyahu, who was seen as caving in to ultra-Orthodox demands, Braverman accused critics of trying to score political points and said they had “paid no attention” to the details of the decision.

On Sunday, the government suspended a plan it had previously approved for a pluralistic prayer area, following calls by Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition allies to scrap the deal. The plan would have seen the establishment of a properly prepared pavilion for pluralistic prayer — as opposed to current temporary arrangements — under joint oversight involving representatives of all major streams of Judaism.

Currently, a prayer space at the Western Wall south of the main plaza and down several flights of stairs hosts pluralistic prayer. The deal would have seen construction work to raise the space up to the same level as the rest of the main plaza, and would have given control of the site to all religious streams under the state’s imprimatur.

Braverman said Netanyahu had ordered work to continue in preparing the plaza and that it remain open to all streams of Judaism.

“It is important to Prime Minister Netanyahu that every Jew be able to pray at the Western Wall,” Braverman said in a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.

He did not detail what kind of work was continuing at the site.

“The prime minister instructed Minister Tzahi Hanegbi and me to continue with talks in order to try and reach a solution,” he added.

Speaking to Army Radio on Sunday, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said that the plan for a mixed prayer area was suspended, but not nixed completely.

“I’m telling you the reality,” Hanegbi said. Leading ultra-Orthodox MKs “Gafni, Litzman and Deri met with the prime minister many times and tried to annul the mixed plaza deal as if it never existed.”

However, he continued, Sunday’s decision did not terminate the plans for a mixed prayer area. He said that construction would continue on a plaza at the southern wall where men and women have been able to pray together for over 15 years.

He said he would use the framework of the proposal which was put on ice as the basis for a new compromise solution.

The reversal was immediately condemned by liberal Jewish groups around the world and by the Jewish Agency, as well as numerous Israeli politicians, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who said the development was “a severe blow to Jewish unity.”

Women from the Women of the Wall group pray at the women's section of the Western Wall, Sunday, June 25, 2017. (Michal Fattal/Courtesy Women of the Wall)

Women from the Women of the Wall group pray at the women’s section of the Western Wall, Sunday, June 25, 2017. (Michal Fattal/Courtesy Women of the Wall)

The Jewish Agency on Monday passed a resolution calling on the government to rescind the decision regarding the pluralistic prayer pavilion, saying that the government’s move contradicts the vision of Israel’s founding fathers and the spirit of Zionism.

The resolution, passed unanimously by the agency’s board of governors in an emergency meeting in Jerusalem, marked the first time the institution — which predates the existence of the State of Israel — has explicitly called on the Israeli cabinet to walk back a decision.

Last week, the ultra-Orthodox parties again demanded the “total cancellation” of last year’s plan, as the Chief Rabbinate demanded it be allowed to hire its own lawyers to oppose the deal in the High Court.

The rabbinate’s request was backed up by Jewish Home Minister Uri Ariel and his party member Betzalel Smotrich in a letter they penned to Netanyahu on Thursday, which also implored the Israeli leader to scrap the deal in defiance of “extremist elements across the sea,” in an apparent reference to Reform and Conservative Jewry.