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Non-Orthodox fume over snub at Shavuot night event

Orthodox group slammed for refusing to allow Reform and Conservative rabbis to participate in Tel Aviv study marathon

Rabbi David Stav, co-founder and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization. (Flash 90, File)
Rabbi David Stav, co-founder and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization. (Flash 90, File)

Reform and Conservative rabbis blasted the Orthodox rabbinical group Tzohar Monday for its decision to veto their participation in an upcoming Shavuot all-night learning program in Tel Aviv.

Taking place for the fifth time in the city’s Tzavta performance center, the annual event of nighttime lectures and Jewish studies sessions attracts a mixed crowd of religious and secular Jews, and was attended last year by over 1,500 people.

It is jointly organized by Tzohar head Rabbi David Stav, former chairman of Tzavta Gavri Bargil and Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie.

Last year, requests by the Reform and Conservative movements to participate in the event had similarly been rejected by Tzohar. The cultural center had expressed hope that in the 2015 event all groups would be allowed to attend, but later signaled that it will take a “long process,” Haaretz reported Saturday.

In an invitation to the holiday gathering, organizers said the evening “has become a tradition that allows an annual dialogue on Jewish-Israeli culture and identity.” It further states that it was born out of a desire to understand the different worlds that make up the mosaic of Jewish-Israeli identity.

But according to Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the head of Israel’s Reform movement, Tzohar is far from fulfilling its stated mission.

“One thing is clear: Discussing tolerance and dialogue, while simultaneously preventing Reform and Conservative rabbis from participating, is at best not serious, and at worst severely hypocritical,” Kariv told Army Radio Monday.

Reform movement head Gilad Kariv (photo credit: Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism/Wikipedia)
Reform movement head Gilad Kariv (Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism/Wikipedia)

“Tzohar rabbis must decide what they want to be — a bridge connecting worlds and representatives of a tolerant Judaism, or a fig leaf of a rabbinical institution spewing hatred and strife,” he added.

According to Tzohar’s stated mission on its website, the group aims to overcome obstacles to practicing Judaism created by the Chief Rabbinate and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, by “leading the revolution for an ethical, inclusive & inspiring Jewish Israel.”

Yizhar Hess, the head of the Conservative movement in Israel who isn’t himself a rabbi, was invited to take part in the event, but refused the offer. “I am not a rabbi and I do not teach Judaism lessons,” he told Haaretz. “That is exactly what Tzohar is attempting to do: delegitimizing rabbis who aren’t them.”

But Tzavta rejects claims that they are excluding alternative Jewish groups. “We created the partnership with Tzohar in an effort to bring the different movements closer,” organizer Gavri Bargil told Haaretz. “A partnership means participants in the event must be agreed upon by both sides.”

Bargil confirmed he had managed to reach an agreement with the rabbinical group according to which Conservative and Reform representatives would be invited — but not rabbis.

Tzohar CEO Moshe Beeri said that in order to bring together religious and nonreligious Jews, “there are borders that need to be respected. We tried to be creative, and invited the head of the Conservative movement. The message can be the same message, so why insist on inviting rabbis?”

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