Kudos to JCF for answering rabbis call

The S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation deserves credit for answering the call of liberal Jewish leaders in Israel.

Only a year ago, the Reform and Conservative movements charged that the JCF was not funding their Israeli counterparts directly, as many other large federations had started doing.

As a result of that challenge, the JCF has come up with $100,000 in new campaign dollars to fund programs run by those Israeli movements.

All along, our local federations, in San Francisco, the East Bay and San Jose, have been major supporters of religious pluralism in Israel. But Richard Block, a former South Bay rabbi who now heads the Reform movement's World Union of Progressive Judaism in Israel, said the JCF's support was more abstract than concrete, with "a real reluctance to fund programs sponsored by the religious streams."

Over the past year, JCF leaders met with local rabbis who helped determine which programs run by their Israeli counterparts deserve funding.

Kudos go to the JCF for accepting criticism and taking quick action to resolve the issue.

So why should we care about Israel's religious movements?

Basically it is a matter of winning recognition for Reform and Conservative Judaism, in Israel and here at home. Right now Reform and Conservative rabbis in Israel cannot perform weddings or funerals. The fervently Orthodox establishment holds all the power. In denying recognition to Reform and Conservative Judaism in Israel, the Jewish state is in effect denying recognition to all Jews who belong to Reform and Conservative synagogues, regardless of where they live.

However, if the liberal movements can convince more Israelis to join them, then the fervently religious in Israel will begin to lose their stranglehold on ritual practice.

By funding programs run by liberal movements, the JCF is conveying that message both to Israel's fervently religious and to the political parties that allow the present system to continue.

Judaism belongs to us all.