"To slam a door on a Jewish teen at the moment they are about to enter the fellowship of the Jewish People is terrible; to do so to a young person with disabilities is unforgivable. The insult to the dignity of these teens and their parents is egregious. Together with all those who believe that a tolerant and diverse Israeli society is the key to its survival, we are shocked and dismayed by this decision. The Masorti movement has helped to create strong Israelis who are unfettered by the handicaps and challenges they face. Mayor Malul should be ashamed of himself."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A Statement by Masorti/Conservative Jewish Leaders To the Cancellation of Bar and Bat Mitzvah Ceremony For Children with Disabilities in Rehovot, Israel
(New York, NY) -- It is a bitter irony that following on the heels of the Masorti Foundation’s mega-successful Dare to Dream gala Monday evening in New York City -- where hundreds of our movement's supporters heard an inspiring message on the Zionism of hope -- the families of children with disabilities in Rehovot have been victimized by the Zionism of fear. As has been reported in the Israeli press, the city's mayor cancelled their bar and bat mitzvah ceremony 48 hours before it was to take place.
Yizhar Hess, the Masorti movement's CEO said, "To slam a door on a Jewish teen at the moment they are about to enter the fellowship of the Jewish People is terrible; to do so to a young person with disabilities is unforgivable. The insult to the dignity of these teens and their parents is egregious. Together with all those who believe that a tolerant and diverse Israeli society is the key to its survival, we are shocked and dismayed by this decision. The Masorti movement has helped to create strong Israelis who are unfettered by the handicaps and challenges they face. Mayor Malul should be ashamed of himself."
The landmark program, now in its 25th year, has established a remarkable track record, said Rabbi Robert Slosberg, the recently installed chair of the Masorti Foundation. "This core Jewish life cycle event for children with disabilities is open to anyone, regardless of ability or wherever they stand on the spectrum of observance or socio-economic need. This traditional, egalitarian program is utterly unique. It is an important part of Adraba, an increasingly comprehensive set of services offered to the children and their families, including participation in Camp Ramah-NOAM."
Hess adds that the cancellation of the ceremony is a cynical maneuver by Mayor Malul. “The mayor is using children as pawns in a game and holding them hostage in his own political playing field, where he controls schools, programs and services provided to children with disabilities in Rehovot,” said Hess. “Ceremonies like this one have been held for 25 years throughout Israel without incident, including last year, in Rehovot."
“Though this is a sad day for Conservative and Masorti Judaism, we support our colleagues in Israel as they find a dignified response to this unfortunate ruling,” said Rabbi Steven C. Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. “We believe that the synagogue is the sacred epicenter of the Jewish community. This strikes a blow into the very heart of our community.”
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly added, “Our communities are open to all and we affirmatively welcome everyone. Holding a bar and bat mitzvah ceremony in a Conservative synagogue in no way excludes anyone from attending. As a people we should be proud to be celebrating these b’nai mitzvah and celebrating Jewish education not furthering prejudice and discrimination.”
Masorti Judaism in Israel has humanized Jewish practice, enabling people with disabilities -- both male and female -- to count in the minyan. This has provided thousands of parents with the first opportunity to celebrate their children's accomplishments as Jews and members of the community. Buoyed by the success of our recent gathering in New York City, galvanized by our belief in the preservation of human dignity, propelled by our passion to work for a religiously diverse and tolerance Israel, we stand united.
"Masorti Judaism offers a way into Jewish life for Israelis who are seeking a Judaism with which they can engage. In the last 10 years, we have grown prodigiously, boasting 74 kehillot (communities) and 20 NOAM youth groups throughout Israel. The demand for Camp Ramah-NOAM increases annually. Israelis want Masorti Judaism; Monday's New York City gala raised much-needed funds to answer that need. What took place today in Rehovot demonstrates how vital and challenging our task is," stated Laura J. Lewis, Executive Director, Masorti Foundation.
ABOUT THE MASORTI FOUNDATION
Based on values of openness, inclusion, and egalitarianism, and imbued with traditional practice and halacha (Jewish Law), the Masorti Movement works towards creating an Israel where all Jews may live Jewish lives unhindered and on their own terms, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or disability. The Masorti Foundation is a US-based, non-profit organization established more than 40 years ago to offer religious choice to Israelis and support the growth of Masorti (Conservative) Judaism. Our partnership with the Masorti Movement in Israel has helped it develop its own resources and grow to 74 kehillot and 20 NOAM chapters throughout Israel. We continue to provide much needed funds to expand the Movement’s outreach efforts.