But Reform Judaism has not failed in Israel; in the ideological realm, it is a spectacular success. Institutional growth will come with time, but for now, Reform Judaism in Israel has dared to offer an audacious and radical challenge to the principles of mainstream Zionism.
But should the pluralism push there make inroads, what would result – even from a disinterested, strictly sociological perspective –would be nothing short of Jewish societal disaster.
The Israel Democracy Institute in Jerusalem has been following shifting trends in religious affiliation in Israel for more than 20 years now, and its findings would seem to bear out what is happening on the ground in Modi’in – that a small but growing percentage of native-born Israelis, overwhelmingly from secular backgrounds, are embracing either Conservative or Reform Judaism.
Its most recent survey, published in June of this year, found that 3.2 percent of Israelis see themselves as affiliated with the Conservative movement, and 3.9 percent with the Reform movement (more than 7 percent combined).
It’s an almost unthinkable hypothesis, but what if Ben-Gurion and his colleagues had embraced progressive Judaism as an alternative to the clerical orthodoxy early on and if Begin had not made his pact with the religious parties?
The struggle to succeed President Shimon Peres is so far being waged far from the media. A week ago, this column reported that leaders of the American Jewish community who were in Israel for the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations, contacted the Prime Minister’s Bureau to ask for Netanyahu’s backing for Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.
This week, it turned out that Sharansky has another supporter: Habayit Hayehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who is economy minister as well as minister for Diaspora affairs, Jerusalem and religious services.
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