ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 140

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Egalitarian worshipers told Knesset synagogue off-limits

Students barred from holding prayer services in parliament venue; reserved for Orthodox only

A bird's eye view of the Knesset in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
A bird's eye view of the Knesset in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

American rabbinical students from the Conservative movement studying in Israel were prevented from holding afternoon prayers in the Knesset synagogue.

The students, who on Tuesday wished to hold an egalitarian service in the Knesset synagogue, were told that the synagogue is to be used exclusively for Orthodox prayer services, the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel said in a Facebook post.

The students were hosted at the Knesset by Masorti’s Jewish Pluralism Watch, joining journalists, scholars and Knesset members for a discussion of personal status issues such as the right to non-Orthodox, egalitarian weddings, divorce, conversion and burial rights, and how the absence of religious pluralism in Israel directly undermines the country’s democracy and security.

The students were offered an alternative venue at the Knesset for their services, Haaretz reported. It was Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein who told the group egalitarian prayer is not allowed in the Knesset synagogue, the paper said.

Also participating in the program were rabbinical students from the Abraham Geiger College run by the Reform movement in Berlin, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, and Hebrew College, a pluralistic training center for Jewish educators in Boston.

“A lot of the students were very upset and shocked,” said Rabbi Joel Levy, director of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, who submitted the request on behalf of the students, told Haaretz. “You’d think that the Knesset would be a place of ingathering of the Jewish people, but actually we learned that it has boundaries that don’t include liberal Jews. Paradoxically, this decision served as an appropriate end to our conversation about religion and state in Israel.”

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