The Other Primary Results

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, February 21, 2020 / 26 Shevat 5780

Summary: This week’s Oasis Songs is focused on getting the vote out for the upcoming world Zionist Elections.

On Wednesday night, nearly 150 people gathered to hear Israeli historian, Benny Morris. A good argument can be made that no one knows more about the events leading up to 1948. Indeed, we were regaled by Mr. Morris’s erudition, and his near-instant recall of facts, figures and the primary documents which remain the most authoritative source for any historian, and therefore to an objective reading of history.

World Zionist Congress

While this Israel360 lecture was going on, a great many other people were at home, glued to their television sets for the ninth Democratic primary debate, held in Nevada. But there’s another election going on, which I’ve previously talked about here, and that is the World Zionist Congress Elections (See the January 10th Oasis Song column for more details).

Early data seem to indicate that the more fundamentalist slates in that election are pulling ahead, and so we need to redouble our efforts to get the vote out. Much is at stake. In the early days of the state, Ben Gurion made a deal in 1948 with the Orthodox leaders of the time. After the Holocaust, Orthodoxy was practically wiped out, and Ben Gurion extended them a life line by allowing them some control over religious life in Israel. Over the decades, that good will gesture turned sour.

Placed in positions of power, the Haredi establishment delegitimized and actively denigrated the sorts of Judaism that we practice. A Conservative rabbi, for instance, can be arrested for marrying a couple in Israel. See an example of that here.

Women are not permitted to freely pray at the Western Wall in a manner that speaks to their convictions. There are countless examples in print where Haredi leadership has referred to us as a cult. Or charged that we will destroy Judaism. Or worse, that in a few generations, no non-Orthodox Jews will be left in America, and thus the Israeli government doesn’t need to recognize our concerns that Israel be a land for all types of Jews. I mention only Jews here, because ironically, other religious groups sometimes have greater freedom and power to practice their religions. For example, Muslim and Christian leaders of all sects can perform legally-recognized weddings.

Moreover, the Haredi establishment gained a monopolistic hold on religious life that was exacerbated by the fact that the government of Israel funded their ‘brand’ of Judaism, while Conservative, Traditional and Reform Jews were left without resources. In effect, we are left to compete in the religious marketplace, but with the deck stacked against us.

This is hardly a problem for Conservative or Reform Jews alone. By leaving control of religion in the hands of one group of Jews who hold an often unjustifiably strict interpretation of Judaism, the Israeli government has stolen the birthright of most of its citizens. What I mean is that most Israelis are secular, because the form of Judaism they see practiced feels repressive and unfit to meet the demands of contemporary life. They don’t believe Judaism is relevant or can enrich their lives with meaning. That is criminal.

Additionally, countries that provide greater religious protections and rights to all of their citizens tend to be more democratic. We can each have a role in making that a reality.

So here is the good news and the ask. Based on the data we have at Neveh Shalom, over 140 congregants clicked to the voting page of the World Zionist Congress. While we can’t be sure if all 140 voted, it’s a positive start. Initially, I asked, hoped for, and believed that our community could get 180 votes for Slate 6, our Masorti/Conservative movement slate. I believe we still can, but with the results pulling away, we can do better. Let’s aim to reach 360 votes. As a reminder, each Jewish adult member of a household—18 years or older—can vote.

Early today, I reached out to a leader with a question. Can we provide a laptop or two on Sundays or Wednesdays during Aliyah hours for people to use to vote? Assuming the answer is a positive, we will begin to do that until the March 11th deadline. But it’s important that we are completely above board in our process—that’s an important value for our community.

Meanwhile, some congregants had reached out complaining that the digital process of voting was cumbersome, as it required multiple steps. That was designed to prevent fraudulent votes, but it also discouraged some from voting. This morning we printed up paper copies of the ballot. They will be available on Saturday morning, and will be in the administrative wing of the building beginning next week. If that is a better way for you to vote, we want to make it easier for you to do so.

Please vote.

Shabbat shalom,

Rav D

Shabbat Table Talk

  • Is religious tolerance and freedom an essential requirement? Should all countries be required to extend those freedoms to their citizens? Why or why not?
  • In America, separation of church and state means the government is not supposed to provide funding.We are indoctrinated to believe that. But not all democracies believe that. In Canada, half of the provinces provide funding to religious schools, but do so equally for all religions. Putting aside your upbringing and associations, which model is better? Why?

If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.