The moderate Zionist Orthodox Tzohar rabbinic organization vetoed participation of Reform and Conservative rabbis in the all-night Shavuot study session to be held next Saturday at the Tzavta Tel Aviv Theater, but at the same time, it invited the head of the movement, who is not a rabbi, to speak.
Above: The head of Tzohar, Rabbi David Stav
Originally published at 11:35 pm CDT 5-16-2015
Moderate Zionist Orthodox Rabbinic Group Invites Head Of Israel’s Non-Orthodox Masorati Movement To Speak At Shavuot Event
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The moderate Zionist Orthodox Tzohar rabbinic organization vetoed participation of Reform and Conservative rabbis in the all-night Shavuot study session to be held next Saturday at the Tzavta Tel Aviv Theatre, Ha’aretz reported.
That exclusion drew criticism for the theatre from across the political and religious spectrum.
When the same thing happened at last year’s Shavuot event, Tzavta said it accepted the ban on non-Orthodox rabbis because it needed to “build” its “cooperation” with Tzohar. But it also promised the ban would – eventually – be lifted.
As a stopgap measure, the theatre decided to invite non-Orthodox leaders – but not non-Orthodox rabbis – to its future Shavuot events.
But the theatre has not made it clear to the public that the broad spectrum of Jewish thought it claims will be included in the event excludes non-Orthodox rabbis while Tzohar describes the event as touching “the various worlds and text comprising the mosaic of Jewish-Israeli identity.”
And this angers non-Orthodox movements and secular Israelis alike.
“The secular community that plans to attend should know that it is not a pluralistic event that genuinely welcomes all streams of Judaism,” Member of Knesst Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing secular Meretz Party reportedly said.
The head of the Masorati (Conservative) Movement, ” Yizhar Hess – who was invited to speak at the event – nonetheless lashed out the theatre for excluding non-Orthodox rabbis.
“After explicit, unequivocal promises last year that the refusal to have us would not be repeated, this year, too, it was decided to exclude non-Orthodox streams. I’m not a rabbi and I don’t teach Judaism. That’s exactly what Tzohar seeks: the delegitimization of [non-Orthodox] rabbis,” Hess reportedly said.
Tomer Persico, a scholar who studies religion and Sefardic Jewish heritage at Elyachar Center for Studies in Sephardi Heritage at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, said that Tzohar only allows secular Jews to participate because it wants to convert them to Orthodoxy.
“Tzohar is a private organization that has the right to invite whomever it wants to its events. The problem is that although the [event] is defined as studying ‘the mosaic of identity,’ in practice Tzohar is indicating who stays outside — [i.e., the] non-Orthodox movements. According to Tzohar, there is just one way to be Jewish, the Orthodox way. Secular Jews are invited to attend not because the Tzohar rabbis see secularism as a legitimate Jewish option, but because they see secular Jews as ‘babies who were captured,’ [tinok shel nishba],” Persico said, using a Talmudic term for Jews who sin inadvertently because they were captured by non-Jews and raised as non-Jews and don’t realize what they’re doing violates halakha (Orthodox Jewish law). This term is now used by Orthodox and haredi outreach organizations to define most Jews who are not Orthodox.
Persico believes that in coopering with Tzohar’s exclusionary tactics, the theatre is perpetuating the Orthodox stranglehold over Judaism in Israel.
The theatre’s head, Gavri Bargil, rejects this line of criticism.
“[We] created the partnership with Tzohar in order to bring the various denominations closer together. That means all the speakers must be acceptable to all sides. After the participation of the non-Orthodox streams wasn’t supported last year,” Bargil reportedly said, Tzohar and Tzavta agreed that representatives of the non-Orthodox movements who are not rabbis would be invited to speak. Bargil added that he hoped next year rabbis from the non-Orthodox movements would be invited to lead sessions.
Tzohar doesn’t see it that way.
“Introducing social change requires great intelligence and patience. There are many Tikkun Layl Shavuot events for the general public, but the wisdom lies in bringing both religious and nonreligious people to the same place. For that to succeed, there are boundaries that must be respected. That’s why we tried to be creative and invited the head of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement. The message can be the same. Why insist that rabbis must be invited? I understand that it bothers them, but you have to take the long view,” Rabbi Moshe Be’eri, Tzohar’s executive director, told Ha’aretz.