Dear Natan Sharansky,
We the undersigned, communal leaders, activists and Rabbis, who share in our commitment to the wellbeing of the Jewish people and Israel, and moved by grave concern appeal to you to lead the Jewish Agency in working with Israel’s leadership to fully embrace the core values of religious freedom and equality, being inclusive of all religious faiths, streams, and expressions.
Recent pronouncements coming from some leading Governmental Coalition officials, Chief Rabbis, and heads of State funded religious institutions disturb us greatly. They label homosexuals – perverts that should be healed, non-Orthodox Judaism – a stream of Christianity, the Women of the Wall – promiscuous, and the Supreme Court – Judaism’s enemy. They coerce the Government to delegitimize world Jewry’s religious streams; even as Israel’s Rabbinic Courts nullify conversions of modern Orthodox rabbis.
PM Netanyahu’s commitment to “ensure that all Jews - Reform, Conservative and Orthodox - feel at home in Israel” is a welcome declaration. We know that the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews yearn to move beyond the politicization of religion. They, as we, wholeheartedly support the vision of Israel’s founders, rooted in the promise of its Declaration of Independence, of “freedom of religion and conscience for all.”
We appeal to you to lead the Jewish Agency, the organized voice of world Jewry, in urging that Israeli leaders make the Prime Minister’s declaration a reality. The time has come for unequivocal change in policy, and not mere words. Firstly, allowing marriage freedom, a fundamental civil liberty that can no longer be denied to hundreds of thousands of Israelis, including those whom we and you worked together to free from Soviet bondage. Neither should our own next generation find that they will be denied equality and the right to family if they choose to make their lives in Israel.
Just as we would not tolerate being denied the right to marry in our home communities, so too we are not willing to accept this when it is perpetrated by the State of Israel. Full religious freedom and equality in the Jewish and Democratic State is not a luxury but a necessity.
Please don’t fail the Jewish People! Take the lead in bringing Israel toward a new era in its partnership with world Jewry, a home for all, a light of religious freedom and tolerance to the world, and a source of inspiration to the next generation.